Lots of people would like to tell Rex Ryan and the Jets to shut
up. Not his daddy. The patriarch of the trash-talking coaching clan
says there are worse things than speaking your mind, no matter how
much bulletin board material gets spewed.
”Guys get themselves ready to play all kinds of different
ways,” Buddy Ryan chuckled over the phone Thursday from his horse
farm in Kentucky. ”And the way I see it, talking is a hell of a
lot better than puking.”
Buddy has been out of the business for 15 years. He hasn’t
tasted crow in a long time.
”The only drawback,” Ryan recalled ruefully a moment later,
”is you better be able to back it up.”
No word yet on whether the floor-cleaning crew at the Jets
practice facility has been unusually busy ahead of this weekend’s
playoff matchup against the AFC rival Patriots at New England. But
the occupants of the locker room certainly have done plenty of
talking, beginning with Buddy’s boy himself.
”This is about Bill Belichick vs. Rex Ryan,” New York’s brash
coach said Monday, to the surprise of exactly no one. ”There’s no
question. It’s personal.”
Maybe so, but nowhere near as personal as the expletive Jets
cornerback Antonio Cromartie threw Tom Brady’s way soon after.
Cromartie explained he’s long been unhappy about the way Brady
punctuates his touchdown passes on occasions – by pointing at the
opposing sideline – and said further that he wasn’t the only
defender in the NFL who felt that way.
Then he doubled down by daring New England’s all-world
quarterback to throw in his direction.
”I hope so, I really do,” Cromartie said. ”I hope he throws
the ball 10 times my way. Make him pay.”
Brady’s comeback to the original insult wasn’t bad. ”I’ve been
called worse,” he said. Nor is it likely to be his final word on
Cromartie in particular and the Jets in-your-face motivational
ploys in general.
”We’ll see on Sunday night at 7:30,” Brady said. ”That’s when
everybody will be able to tell whether it played a role or
It’s worth noting here that Rex Ryan comes by his chutzpah
honestly. He and twin brother, Rob, the defensive coordinator for
the Cleveland Browns, trailed along in Buddy’s wake while he worked
as an assistant or head coach in a half-dozen NFL towns. The old
man defined swagger. They rarely saw him hold his tongue.
”Here’s the funny thing on that,” Buddy said. ”Everybody
thinks I had something to do with it when the ’85 Bears made that
‘Super Bowl Shuffle’ thing. It was ‘Buddy told ’em this, Buddy told
’em that.’ But I didn’t even know they were making it.”
So he would have stopped them?
”Hell, no,” Buddy replied. ”Wouldn’t have made a difference
anyway. … But if you want a bunch that could talk the talk AND
walk the walk, it was that one.”
Therein lies the problem. Few teams can back up their bravado
that way. Talk first, lose later and you’ve practically engraved
the invitation for a snappy comeback. Former receiver and current
TV analyst Shannon Sharpe had several, though his best might have
come at the expense of the Colts defense.
”Home Depot doesn’t sell enough nails and plywood to fix what’s
wrong with that,” is how he put it.
Just as original and classier still was the one authored by Hall
of Fame hockey goalie Patrick Roy. He said he never even heard
trash-talking because every time he cupped his hands behind his
ears to listen, all those Stanley Cup rings on his fingers made it
impossible to hear.
Even better, though, might be the one authored by flamboyant
former cornerback and current NFL Network analyst ”Neon” Deion
Sanders. The man who spent as much time giving smack as he did
receiving it intercepted a pass and then found himself at the
bottom of the pile as his San Francisco 49ers were close to
wrapping up their 1995 Super Bowl win over the Chargers.
Yelling in his ear was San Diego’s Ronnie Harmon, hurling
insults and challenging him to a fight. Instead of responding with
his usual flair, Sanders stood up, dusted himself off and simply
pointed at the horizon.
”Man,” he whispered to Harmon, ”you need to look up at that
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated
Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org