New Jets head coach Rex Ryan has fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming an NFL head coach today, over 40 years since his father, Buddy Ryan, won a Super Bowl as the defensive line coach of the New York Jets.
"The numbers say I've done a decent job," Ryan said recently. "If a team wants to stop somebody, all you have to do is look at my track record. If we don't get them stopped in the first year, it will probably be the first time we don't get them stopped in my career, going back through college, whatever.
"I'll get my time, and whoever gets me will get a guy who is a real football coach and not a pretender."
Spoken with the confidence of one who has been successful throughout his coaching career.
Ryan followed in the footsteps of his father, who was also the father of the famed "46" defense that roared to life with the Chicago Bears of the mid-Eighties.
Rex and his twin brother, Rob, who recently joined former Jets head coach Eric Mangini as the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns, were initially urged by their father to stay out of football and go into the food business.
But the brothers persisted and, following their college graduations, were shown the ins and outs of Buddy's defensive philosophy by Dad himself.
Rex Ryan launched his collegiate coaching career in 1987, spending time as a DE coach, a defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
He saw success coaching in the college ranks before breaking onto the NFL scene in 1994 with the Arizona Cardinals, who were then being coached by his father.
Ryan spent his first NFL season as the Cardinals' D-Line coach – a season when the Cardinals ranked in the NFL's top five in every major defensive statistical category, including third in overall defense.
He spent the following season as the Cardinals' LB coach before another three-year stint at the college level, where he continued to coach teams with standout defenses.
Ryan returned to the NFL in 1999, joining Brian Billick's Baltimore Ravens staff as a defensive assistant. He coached the Ravens' D-line for six seasons, including the impressive 2000 unit, which finished first in the league against the run, second in total defense, and led the way for the Ravens to rout the Giants and win Super Bowl XXXV.
Ryan took over the reins as the Ravens' defensive coordinator in 2005. After a strong first season as coordinator, he coached the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense in 2006.
Ryan's groups have all been near the top of the NFL and noted for steady improvement. And he's expected to add a ravenous flair to the Jets defense, which ranked seventh against the run in 2008.