You asked for it, Rex. You asked for it, and you got it.
Rex Ryan has made a career out of talking smack without backing it up, and Saturday afternoon in a “home” game against the team that shares his stadium, the Jets coach added another chapter to his long legacy of not getting the job done.
Ryan’s team failed to deliver on its coach’s empty promises once again, and once again, it was all his fault.
As he is wont to do, Ryan ran his mouth ad nauseum in the days leading up to the Jets’ first showdown with the New York Giants since 2007 — guaranteeing a victory and declaring to the world that his team was the best in the city — but when the bitter rivals finally took the field, the Giants punched Ryan’s loud mouth in.
Not literally — but almost.
The Giants stormed into MetLife Stadium as the visitors for a cold Christmas Eve showdown and pounded the Jets 29-14 in a game that wasn’t really as close as it looked. A number of costly mistakes by the Giants kept the Jets in it down to the very end, but for most of the afternoon, it was clear which sideline had the better team.
After the loss, Ryan made it a point to seek out Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, a man with plenty to say and absolutely no filter to stop him from saying it. And what happened next was something you’d only find in a rivalry of this magnitude — and with this level of bitterness.
“He told me shut the ‘F’ up and wait until (they) win the Super Bowl, and I told him I’d punch him in his face,” an emboldened Jacobs said after the game. “I told him (that) out of all of these Giants on this football team, you’re talking to the wrong one.”
The confrontation wasn’t necessarily a surprise. After all, Jacobs is one of the most outspoken players in the NFL and Ryan is by far the league’s most boisterous coach.
But the difference between Ryan and Jacobs is that Jacobs, whose Giants kept their playoff hopes alive with the win, waited until the clock struck zero to do his talking, while Ryan, whose Jets were all but eliminated from playoff contention in the loss, did his talking before he ever took the field and kept it going even after his team came up short.
And it’s that very talking — that baseless arrogance for which Ryan has become known — that cost Ryan and his team this game and may someday cost him his job.
"I want to be the better team in our city," Ryan said earlier in the week, telling reporters that if the Jets lose, he’ll be the one to blame. “It’s going to fall on one person, and that’s the way it should be. It’s coming right on top of me, and that’s fine. And when we win, it’ll be about the Jets."
Ryan’s bravado turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and whatever his remarks did to light a fire under his own team, it did even more to motivate the Giants.
Ryan’s tired act isn’t fooling anyone, and there’s not a player in the league who’s scared of Ryan, and as a result, there’s not a player in the league who fears the Jets, a sentiment that Giants wideout Victor Cruz — who hauled in a 99-yard touchdown catch that changed the complexion of the entire game — expressed after the game.
“In between the lines you’ve got to be angry,” Cruz said. “And you’ve got to show your opponent that you’re the best team on the field.”
Ryan’s loud mouth does nothing but fuel every team the Jets play, and the Jets simply aren’t talented enough to back up what their coach is saying. And as long as Ryan keeps talking, his team is going to stay stuck in neutral.
“I’m glad we had the Jets after that game we had against Washington,” Jacobs said during his prolonged attack on Ryan and the Jets. “I knew that they were going to fold, to be honest with you. … I knew that they were going to be the ones to crack, and I knew they didn’t have what it takes to beat us.
“…(Ryan) woke up the morning after their game last week knowing (he would lose this week), but he felt that he needed to give himself and his team some confidence,” Jacobs continued. “…We knew that’s what we were going to get as soon as he had an opportunity to run his big, fat mouth.
“But it was a great win for us, and I don’t want to harp on (Ryan). We’re going to celebrate this win, and I’m going to let (Ryan) have the worst Christmas he can have.”
Ryan could probably use a lesson from Giants coach Tom Coughlin, a man who keeps his mouth shut and has a Super Bowl ring to show for it. After the game, Coughlin handled the win just like you would expect him to — and just like Ryan should learn to.
When asked about claiming bragging rights, Coughlin said he wasn’t going to “get into that.”
When asked if his team made a statement with the win, he told reporters, “We won the game.”
When asked what the win meant for his team, he looked at it the only way he knows how and the only way he should.
“We won the game, and it keeps us in the playoffs,” Coughlin said. “It keeps us in the hunt with destiny in our hands. That’s the only way to look at it.”
And when he was asked about next week, Coughlin didn’t puff his chest. He didn’t guarantee victory. He simply said what had to be said.
“We need to put this one aside as fast as we can and go to work on Dallas with the same attitude we had last week,” Coughlin said.
Meanwhile, just down the hallway, Ryan was eating crow and reluctantly giving credit where credit was due. But even in defeat, he was hardly gracious.
“They were definitely the better team today and the better team this year,” Ryan said. “… We’re trying to fight for our playoff lives, and so are the Giants, and they did a better job. They were the best team in New York — at least this year.”
Sure, he stayed true to his word and blamed himself for the loss, but don’t expect Ryan to tone down the arrogance any time soon.
“I don’t want to be the second best team in the city,” Ryan said. “No chance, I’m not signing up for that. I’d go play them again. I’d be more than happy to play them again right now.
“…I’m never going to concede anything. I will concede that they were the better team today, no question about it. They did a better job coaching and all that stuff, and that’s where it starts.”
That is where it starts, and that’s why Rex Ryan should stop. He should stop talking and start coaching. He should stop egging on the opposition. He should stop digging holes that his team can’t crawl out of.
Ryan’s mouth is costing his team games — it cost them one on Saturday — and if the losses keep piling up while Ryan keeps flapping his gums, he’s going to talk his way right out of New York.