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Rex's Monday News Conference

Posted Jan 17, 2011

Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's news conference Monday afternoon at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center:

Watching the tape, it’s really what we thought it was. It was just a great effort by our guys. That’s what it came down to. We had to change it up a little, but the effort and execution by our players was the difference in that game. There’s no doubt about it. When you watch it on tape, it’s evident. Our guys just played hard. I’m not saying New England never played hard — they did. It was a hard-fought game. I was really proud of the effort, I was proud of the intensity, which you expect in that kind of game, the execution and commitment to staying with the game plan, I think the guys did a tremendous job. It was a great team effort.

The only thing I was disappointed in was the special teams. We really pride ourselves in having great special teams. That wasn’t a good effort. Obviously, it starts with Steve [Weatherford] punting the ball better. He’s had six touchbacks in the playoffs and he had four all season. If we get that going back to where he’s punting like we know he can, that should be a huge plus for us. Our special teams are always a big plus for us. Other than that, it just came down to great execution by our guys and a great job by our assistant coaches in getting our guys ready to go that week.

On what they learned from being in the AFC Championship Game last season…

I think we learned a great deal from being in the playoffs last year, traveling on the road for three games. I think that really helped us. I think that helped our confidence and gave our guys experience. As far as specifically getting beat, I don’t know if it tightens your focus more. We want to be AFC champs to start with. That’s the thing we want to accomplish this week. Becoming the AFC champions would be a great step for us. Then you worry about the next week, but we have a long road to go before we get there.

Obviously, playing against Pittsburgh, which has been there and done it at their place with [Ben] Roethlisberger and company, it’s going to be a huge challenge. You look at that defense that they have, every year when I was coaching, you knew who was first and second in defense, you just never knew how that order was going to shake out. Was it going to us on top or was it going to be on Pittsburgh on top? This year, they were ahead of us. They do a tremendous job defensively.

Both teams are built the same way, teams that pride themselves on having great defense and have an all-weather offense. That’s what both teams are. When you look at it, all the teams left are built the same way, built on defense and built on being able to move the football in any condition, home, away. I think we know the formula that it takes to win. Now we just have to go out and do it, albeit in an incredibly tough environment.

On if the New England game was the second biggest win in franchise history…

I think that’s what I was trying to get at, but I left the word out [laughter]. Obviously, if we win it, it’s the second-biggest win because it sets up the obvious opportunity to win a conference championship and move forward. That’s what I was trying to get at. I always said I wasn’t born with a silver tongue and I don’t articulate things very well. I was hoping somebody would have picked up on that with the win comment.

It was huge. It was absolutely huge because you’re going against a great football team, the best coach in the league and against a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback. they're a team that’s accomplished a ton, had a lot of success, especially playing at home. It was a huge win. We look forward to hopefully be successful in an even bigger game. We’ll see.

On how much different of a challenge it is to face Ben Roethlisberger…

He keeps plays alive. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are huge men, but they approach things a little different. Brady will sit in there and then throw the ball at the last second and then you hit him. Peyton, if you have a free run and he doesn’t like what he sees, even though he’s the hardest guy in the league to sack, eventually he’ll get down with the ball. He won’t take the hit. Whereas, I mentioned it before, Roethlisberger will beat you up. He’ll hold the ball and then when you come in there, it’s like "I only have a free runner or one or two guys, let’s knock this guy down." He’ll just stand there and then make plays down the field.

I’ve never seen a guy take the hits he can take and also make people miss the way he does and be as accurate on the run. The kid from Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers, can really throw it on the run as well, but Roethlisberger does it differently. He’s a lot faster athlete than you think. He can move as well. He’s there to buy time and throw it down the field. That’s where you have to do a great job of plastering your coverage, staying on your man. [His receiver] might be 60, 70 yards down the field and Roethlisberger can still get him the football.

On if they have to significantly alter their game plan from the first game against Pittsburgh…

I’m not going to say a word because I don’t know yet to be honest with you. We’ll look at the plan like we do each week and I’m sure tweak it one way or another.

On whether Ben Roethlisberger is his type of guy…

No question. I would’ve made him a defensive end when he came out, but obviously, he has the heart. He’s tough, everything you look for, a competitor. He’s anybody’s kind of quarterback. Anybody would love to have that, and quite honestly, I like our guy [Mark Sanchez]. Our guy is tough. He’s like that. Sanchez is not a giant. He’s only like 6’2” or something and 220. This guy [Roethlisberger] is a giant, 6’6”, probably 240, 250 pounds or something. Drew Coleman, I think, did it best last time. He did sack him twice because he knocked the ball out. There was no way Drew was going to get him down. It’s like, “Hey, I think it’s a lot easier just to get the ball out.” Maybe that’s a strategy we all need to take.

On the playoff gauntlet they are going through on the road…

You definitely would’ve taken a different route. Number one, you would’ve loved the teams to have to come in and have to play us in our brand new stadium, with our fans behind us. Then, when you look at the thing. OK, I’ll be honest. I wasn’t wanting Indy to be in there. I was like, "Oh, great, now we’re playing Indy. All right, we’ll go face him and see what happens." The same thing in New England. Now, you have Roethlisberger. I don’t know how many Super Bowls, but it’s a bunch of them.

On the players having his back…

This organization, from top to bottom, has each other’s back. We stick together and that’s all it is.

On what it would mean to him to get the Jets to the Super Bowl…

It would be huge. That’s it. That’s why this week is about winning the AFC Championship game. It’s not about winning the Super Bowl or going to the Super Bowl. This would be a huge accomplishment. Then, we’ll worry about that the week after, but this is where our focus is. For myself, I’ve been there three years in a row, I don’t know if I can handle not winning it. I need to win this game.

On whether the team will continue to talk before the game this week…

That game was different. Every game is different and I don’t have a plan on what to say or whatever. I just talk the way it is. If you can’t get motivated to win an AFC Championship game, I don’t know what else you need.

On what Troy Polamalu does to the Steelers defense…

The guy is an amazing player. Him and Ed Reed are the two best safeties I have ever seen. When they always say he plays with his hair on fire, I think it’s an accurate thing and his hair is ridiculous [laughter]. The guy is amazing. How do you not love watching the guy play? I hate watching him play if he is against us. He should probably rest up and not play this week [smiling].

On Mark Sanchez playing better during the postseason…

He’s been terrific. Everyone talks about those two. They're two great offenses we faced, but those two teams know how to track you and get interceptions. You have a Bill Belichick defense and Indianapolis who has been there and done that on defense. They harass you and create turnovers. I think we’ve done a great job, Mark especially, in protecting the football and also making plays.

On Pittsburgh preparing for Brad Smith

He never played this game so I don’t think they should plan on him playing [smiling].

On if he feels he outcoached Belichick…

I was just telling the truth like I always try to do. I never outcoached Belichick. There’s no way. Our players out-played their players. That’s really what it came down to. There is nothing schematically I did to win that game. Our guys were prepared to play and that’s my job and all that. To say I outcoached Belichick? I would not agree with that. I think it’s almost a joke. I don’t think anybody outcoaches Belichick.

On why the team believes in itself…

Because we have everything here and it starts with trust in each other. It starts with laying it on the line for the guy next to you and that kind of commitment that we have. You’re not just facing a bunch of individuals. You’re facing a team. I think we gain strength from the team. It’s not just about us having some great individual players, it’s how they play collectively which is what sets us apart from a lot of teams.

On the team believing in him as a coach…

All I can do is coach football. I’m not an expert on anything other than this game of football. I know the type of men it takes to play this game. I know what you look for in a guy. I’m a big believer in guys that build you up, guys that believe in each other, guys that put the team goals ahead of the individual accomplishments. We have a whole group of them.

Mike Tannenbaum has done a tremendous job. There were a lot of excellent players here when I got here, but I think half the roster has turned over since I got here or close to it. That tells you a lot about the kind of people we’re bringing in. They fit in to what we feel is important. It’s a guy that is playing his tail off, loves to play the game and is a great teammate. That’s what we try to surround ourselves with, great competitors.

On what his reaction was when he found out Santonio Holmes could become a Jet…

I forgot exactly what I was doing, but they said, “Give a thumbs up if you want him and a thumbs down if you don’t.” I was like, “What? Santonio Holmes?” I went running up the stairs and was sorry to whoever I was talking to. I went running up the stairs saying, “Absolutely.” I was burned several times by him in the past. I always take it personally and I know everyone says, “Well you never played or made a tackle.” But, I never missed a tackle, either [laughter]. He beat us three times in one year and we had a great, prideful defense. That guy single-handedly, with Roethlisberger, beat us.

On if Pittsburgh giving up on Holmes sent up any red flags…

No. I think Mike did his due diligence, all the background stuff. We just thought it was a great opportunity to add a football player and a competitor. I think any of us that watched the Super Bowl tape and saw him in there like, “Hey, just give me the ball.” He’s a great teammate when you see how he builds guys up. He’s constantly harassing me on the sideline when the defense is out there. He’s like, “Let me just call the game. I got you. We need more guys cheering on the defense. I got you. Please let me just call the defense [laughter].” He’s that way. He is a great teammate. I’ve always said there is no one that is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, but he’s been tremendous here.

On what element has Holmes brought to the team…

He’s one of the best playmakers in this game. He’s just a big-time playmaker. I remember when my dad met him, he'd only been active for six games and my dad goes, “Son, you’ve already won four games for this team.” That’s right. He had. Denver, Detroit, Cleveland and Houston. Yeah, that’s what he’s here for. We brought him in because he’s a great talent.

Did I know he was going to be this good of a teammate? No, I’m not going to say that. I knew he was a competitor. When you put him around a bunch of guys that are like-minded as far as their competitiveness, there is nobody alike, everybody is different, but that’s the beauty of a locker room is when you can respect everybody. Everybody is different. Every single person, different religious beliefs, the way they look, fat guys, good looking guys or ugly guys. Everybody comes together and they have one goal. Santonio bought in immediately.

On what gave you confidence in Holmes and Antonio Cromartie

I just think watching them play and knowing the type of competitors they are, that that was it. Could I tell what kind of teammate they would be? Maybe not, but the fact that they played the game a certain way with a certain passion, I thought you could mix them in with what we already had in that they would become a New York Jet. That’s exactly what all those guys have become.

When you look at it, you have to give so much credit to Mike Tannenbaum and his staff. We went out with a purpose this year. We wanted to get better and we challenged everyone to get better. That’s what they did. They came out and asked, “Rex, how can we get better?” I thought we needed another big-time corner and we added Cromartie through a trade. Santonio Holmes, gave us a great playmaker. LaDainian Tomlinson gave us a great back and a guy who can also get it done on third-down, which I thought was missing. Just the moves we made like Jason Taylor is a finisher. We had a chance to pick up Trevor Pryce.

These were great moves along with that draft. These young guys, maybe it doesn’t look like it right now, but just wait. All of these young guys we drafted are going to be huge contributors to this franchise going forward.

On why not draw on his past against Pittsburgh and call the game this week “personal” as well…

Give me someone you want me to call out. I guess Hines Ward and Casey Hampton [laughter]. Those would be the two early targets. It’s a different feel. Like I felt last week, that Bill Belichick had dominated me the time before. He did. I was just like, "Man, that’s not going to happen. No way is that going to happen to me again." I’m not in his class, not even close, but I knew one thing. He was going to get my best shot. There was no question, and at the end of the day, it never mattered because of our players. It came down to our players. That’s why we ended up winning.

Mike Tomlin, I have a great deal of respect for. He’s one of my favorite coaches, and there are some stories. The example I always give about Mike Tomlin, about what kind of guy he is. One year we couldn’t stop a nosebleed. We were getting crushed like 30-something to nothing. I think we had my son out there playing corner. Really, it was ridiculous and they were up like 30-something to nothing at halftime. They ran the ball every snap in the second half. The one thing was, we can stop the run. They got like a yard a carry. It was just like batting practice, but he wasn’t trying to rub our nose in it. He said, “We’re just going to try to run the ball every snap.” I think he had respect for us. He knew that wasn’t what we were going to be next time we played.

My favorite story is when the fullback was telling Bart [Scott] to look at the scoreboard and he was talking on the sideline to Bart and there was a timeout. Bart came over and said, “Come on back in because we don’t play to the scoreboard. We are going to play as hard as we can, anyway.” Tomlin looks over and goes, “Bart, you want him? You want a piece of him?” he goes. “Yeah, I want a piece of him.” [Tomlin] sends the kid back in there. They run isolation and Bart separated the kid’s shoulder. That’s one of my favorite stories, and it told me a lot about Mike Tomlin. He said, “Hey, all right, you’re running your mouth. Go get him then. Let’s see what happens.” Then he was like, “Oh, I probably shouldn’t have done that.” He’s that kind of guy. He’s a man’s man and his team plays like that.

On the bond he has with Tomlin and whom he would trade barbs with this week…

We’re similar. You look at our backgrounds, we’re similar. We’re defensive guys. We both have incredible opportunities. We know that. I just want to win a Super Bowl like he has. Talk about respect, I have a huge amount of respect for Mike Tomlin. [I don’t have more respect for Tomlin] than I have for Bill Belichick. I think Belichick is the guy I probably respect more in this game than anybody. [As far as trading barbs with someone,] don’t know. I probably will choose Hines Ward, though. I don’t think there is any doubt about that, and maybe big Casey as well.

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