As if facing both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in a five-day span isn't tough enough, Rex Ryan had to answer questions Tuesday about his job security after a seemingly innocent remark he made to Manning following Denver's victory over the Jets on Sunday.
According to NFL.com, Ryan shook Manning's hand on the field and said, "It's been an honor."
Did expressing that sentiment mean Ryan thinks his head coaching days are numbered?
"Well, maybe you know something that I don't," Ryan said Tuesday. "But that is certainly not my plan. I will say things to guys and not even realize I said it or whatever. But it is a great challenge and obviously [the Broncos] are not in your division so you don't get to play them very often. I enjoy the chess match and I appreciate going against the best."
Asked if he could see how someone could infer he was thinking about the end of his Jets tenure, Ryan said: "I guess so -- now. That is clearly not it. What am I, not going to coach the rest of my life? I think if you take it that way, I don't know what else I would do. Drive a truck or something. I think that might be kind of blown out of proportion a little bit."
It doesn't really matter if Ryan's remark to Manning was dripping with context or just an offhand comment. With a 1-5 record and with the Patriots (4-2) next at Gillette Stadium tomorrow night, Ryan's status is fodder for even the most tortured tea-leaf reading.
It's doubtful his focus is on saving his job in this short week. Ryan has to figure out how to stop Brady less than a week after devising an innovative defensive plan that slowed Manning, who threw for three touchdown passes in Denver's 31-17 victory.
"I can say I don't like , but I respect them," Ryan said. "There are two guys in this league that I have the most respect for . . . I am not trying to hurt them, but I am trying to kill them. I want to win."
On facing Brady, who has thrown for 10 touchdowns and two interceptions this season, Ryan said: "Facing him? Back-to-back Hall of Fame guys. How many Hall of Famers are there playing a position in the league? I don't know. But we have two in a row, first-ballot guys, obviously. So there is a huge challenge there. You have to put some kind of hesitation or some kind of doubt in him to maybe disrupt his rhythm a little bit."
Brady has been slowed in practice this week by a sprained ankle but said he expects to play. On a conference call with New York reporters, Brady said going up against Ryan's defense "is a big challenge for us" and added, "They're well-coached."
How much longer will Ryan be doing the coaching? Maybe his postgame handshake with Brady on Thursday will let us know. Set your DVRs.