Rex Ryan was in his new office this morning, head tilted down, focused on paperwork, working away in the minutes before his official schedule began with interviews, TV and still cameras, microphones.
"There's really never been a day of work for me," Ryan said of his big day of being introduced to the Jets, their fans and the NFL as the franchise's 17th head coach today. "Actually, if there was, it's probably today for me ... nah, just kidding.
"But really, this is more of something that you do, something that isn't work. It's just love, it's a passion you have. This is my hobby and my profession, so that's a good combination."
That combination led Jets chairman and CEO Woody Johnson to tell his staff at a morning breakfast at the Atlantic Health Training Center: "It's not business as usual around here."
And for anyone with doubts about the confidence, positivity — even swagger — that Ryan brings to this job, this hobby, this passion of his, Ryan dispelled them in a telling remark about the Jets' talent level that he's inherited during his exclusive interview with newyorkjets.com before his big media introduction a few hours later.
"That's a big reason I came here," he said. "I see a quick fix — not even a fix. This team is right there. That's exciting. Most teams you come into, you're taking over a team that won two, three, four football games. This is a team that was right there at the end, won nine games. I think the expectations are going to be huge. And they should be. I expect to win and win early."
As if to back it all up, Ryan arrived for his first of many interviews of the day wearing a dark suit, a Jets button in his left lapel and an outcropping of diamonds on his right ring finger. The Super bling stems from the early years of his development, mastery and teaching of his attacking defense to the Ravens, for six years as their defensive line coach — during which he earned that ring for the Super Bowl XXXV pounding of the Giants — and the last four as their D-coordinator.
We've mentioned the many distinctions and high rankings those defenses attained, and will again for a while, but one of the important messages that Ryan has today for Jets Nation is that he's brought one of his fellow architects of that defense along with him to the Green & White in Mike Pettine, Baltimore's outside linebackers coach since 2002, who is the Jets' new defensive coordinator.
"Mike's a rising star in the game. He's destined to be a head coach himself. His dad was a legendary coach in Pennsylvania. It was obvious to me early that he had what it took, he was going to be special. He's a guy I really leaned on. He became really my right-hand man in Baltimore. We're very fortunate to have him as our coordinator. He could've gone many places or stayed, I'm sure."
One of Ryan's catchphrases will be talking about guys he's leaned on. He made the same point when talking about two more coaches from the Jets' staff that he said are being retained — assistant head coach/offensive line coach Bill Callahan and special teams coach Mike Westhoff.
On Callahan: "Everyone knows the kind of coach Bill is. He led a team to a Super Bowl. As a head coach, he's got all that experience. I'm very aware of the kind of job he does, so we're fortunate to be able to keep him."
And Westhoff's name came up when Ryan and John Harbaugh, Baltimore's first-year head coach, were talking recently about teams play.
Harbaugh: "If you get the Jets job, Mike Westhoff's there.'
Ryan: "He is?"
"Obviously the respect John had, of being a special teams coach for 10 years — this is The Guy in the league," Ryan said. "I'm going to lean on him, on Bill Callahan, and on several coaches. It's definitely not a me thing, it's a we thing."
When you talk about first person plural with Ryan, you soon want to ask about his dad. Buddy Ryan was the legendary, fiery coach of the Eagles and Cardinals from the mid-Eighties to the mid-Nineties whose very first pro coaching gig was as the DL coach on the 1968 Jets.
"I was like 6 years old when the Jets won Super Bowl III," Ryan reminisced. "I remember Matt Snell running over Rick Volk. Don Maynard was the guy everybody knew but I remember George Sauer had a huge game. Pete Lammons, Joe Namath of course. ... It's funny how I can remember football plays but I don't remember anything about classes."
Ryan also remembers in English class in the Oklahoma public school system, cocking his head over his notebook and studiously diagramming not sentences but defensive plays — with the ball at the top of the diagram, "not flipped the other way" as the offensive-minded future football coaches of America might diagram plays.
It all stemmed from Buddy, known for his brisk, brawny, brawling defenses, indeed for the "46" defense of Chicago Bears fame. Ryan in fact laughed that he and his twin brother, Rob, now the Browns' defensive coordinator, always say they were the ones to invent the 46 and gave it to Dad. Asked if that's true, he chuckled again and didn't change his story.
But Ryan clearly inherited a few things from Buddy. One is that work ethic, or perhaps more accurately that work ethos, he talked about earlier.
"The thing I remember most about my dad from the early days of his coaching career," he said, "was that he was excited about going to work every day. That's something I remember when I decided I wanted to inherit the family business."
The other trait that came through, among many that will be presented in the coming days, weeks and months to the Jets players and their fans, is the Ryan rapport with his players. The term "players' coach" can be taken different ways, but Rex pleaded guilty as charged.
"I think it's a positive thing to be known as a players' coach. The players are playing for you. It's not necessarily that they like you but that they respect you. I'm going to do what's in the best interests of that player. I want him to be successful. We'll try to put our players in position to be successful. I'm going to teach you the fundamentals of the game to make you better.
"I think they understand that I care about them as men, I care about them as players. I want what's best for them. I'm myself. They know I'm legitimate. I'm not a wishy-washy type of guy. They know where I stand."
And just in case anyone still doesn't know where Rex Ryan stands regarding the Jets' chances and opportunities moving forward, he opened today's main news conference with reporters this morning with a quip.
"I heard the applause and I was looking behind me for the new president," he said, a fellow with the last name of Obama, not Johnson. "I think we'll get to meet him in the next couple of years anyway."
And for anyone who still needed reinforcement, Ryan offered another sentiment for his Jets, in two words: