Jets vs Rams Preseason 2009
Rex Ryan has talked about "the stage" when "the lights come," and how it's not too big for some players and too big for others.
The stage is not too big for Rex.
Ryan took the podium Friday night after his first game as an NFL head coach, the Jets' preseason-opening 23-20 loss to the St. Louis Rams, and he was a lot like he's been publicly since taking over the Green & White in January.
There was humor.
Asked about the play call to open Mark Sanchez's pro game career, the 48-yard completion to David Clowney, he said, "I have no idea. You've got to ask Schotty. I was shocked by it myself. 'Let the guy warm up a little bit.' "
And about Baltimore's 23-0 shutout of Washington the night before, he said: "They really missed me."
There was sticking to the talking points. Pressed on whether Mark Sanchez would get the start in Preseason Game 2 under the Monday night lights at Baltimore, Rex wouldn't budge.
"I haven't made the decision yet. We'll talk about it," he said. "He'll definitely play more."
But there was also an edge that Rex revealed, one that his players have heard before but that the public might have missed. He doesn't want to get embarrassed. Ever.
"I hate losing," he said at the top of his first Jets postgame news conference. "I don't care if it's preseason or not. Whatever the case, it stinks."
He credited the Rams for a job well done, especially on Samkon Gado's 77-yard touchdown run to open the second half, but made a point for his team as well: "One running back was so quick, I never saw his number. That was embarrassing."
"We're going to have to practice harder with the third group. We've got 'an opportunity,' they call it around here, some scrimmage-type things at the end of our practices. We have to get better. We have to tackle better."
That's the tough-love part of Ryan's quest of "looking for Jets." And the Green & White players, even though the first units had a good first half in building their 10-9 lead, shared their coach's friendly fire in the buildup to this first game, and his disappointment in their loss when it was over.
"It's the same side of Rex for us," linebacker Bart Scott said of the Ravens' defensive players who are now wearing the green, "with the new element that he has to deal with the offense, too, so he can't spent the whole time chumming it up with us. I think he did a great job of facilitating, keeping his cool."
"Rex has a lot of enthusiasm," said TE Dustin Keller. "He was staying in guys' ears. I think he was staying more on the defensive side of the ball so I didn't really hear too much from him, but in the locker room, he's definitely emotional and whatever's on his mind, he's going to tell you good or bad. We love that."
It's no different for the special teams, before or after the game, said kicker Jay Feely.
"Definitely he had a lot of enthusiasm last night," Feely said of the Thursday night meeting. "I think everybody was ready to when he spoke to the team — it was awesome. He's just a guy who's going to be honest. Afterwards there were things we weren't happy about and he was very honest about that.
"And yet he's a guy that you immediately respect and like. From day one he hasn't changed, he didn't change when we got ready for the game. He wants you to play with passion but he wants you to play with discipline as well."
But Ryan didn't see the entire effort as embarrassing. He liked his first defense's 0-for-5 shutout of the Rams' third-down offense in the first half. He liked all three of his quarterbacks — including Erik Ainge, who came in midway through the second quarter and piloted the offense the rest of the way.
"I'm disappointed I couldn't get 'Harvard' in," he said of not playing fourth QB Chris Pizzotti, "but I'd rather win instead."
He liked David Clowney's three catches for 102 yards and a TD. (Clowney now has 11 pro catches in preseason and regular season combined for a 31.5-yard per-catch average.) "We saw that speed," said Rex. "I guess they should've read the bio."
"I feel strongly about this team, I really do," he summed up for his first mass of pads, tape recorders, microphones and TV cameras in the Jets' postgame interview room. "There's not too many times you're able to go without three of your offensive linemen and three different quarterbacks and move the ball like that. I liked the attitude we took the field with. The Jets decal on the helmet has got to mean something."
And Scott knew what this first game meant to Rex.
"I think this game was a lot of learning," the inside 'backer said. "I think he'll be a better coach next week, and we'll be a better team."