Today is Sincerity Wednesday, and we mean that sincerely. Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez spoke in glowing terms about the challenges ahead when Ryan matches wits with Bill Belichick and Sanchez matches passes with Tom Brady.
Belichick returned the praise during his conference call with Jets beat reporters, and Brady is expected to do the same when he talks with those same reporters later this afternoon.
"Historically, is this guy a better coach?" Ryan said at his news conference in response to a question on Belichick. "I've got news for you: He's a better coach than the rest of 'em in this league, too. Is their quarterback better than the rest of 'em in this league? Yeah, probably. Peyton Manning? I don't know."
Sanchez, succeeding his boss to the outside podium at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center after practice, followed suit, saying Belichick ". "He's shown that with his wins over the years. I heard that since he became head coach, In our division he's something like 40-11 — that's unbelievable. That comes from the scheme, the players he drafts with the right kind of attitude.
"Tom Brady, coming back this year, he's a stud. He can check it down, beat you down the field. He's won a million games, it seems, down the stretch. He's got Super Bowl wins. We definitely understand how great a tandem they are."
Belichick had equally complimentary remarks about the Jets, Rex and Mark, as Eric Allen reported in his midday Radar entry.
But some people — mostly reporters but even some Jets fans who misunderstood Ryan when he originally said Belichick is the better coach in this matchup — want to jump on the "Rex disrespect" angle. It's not about disrespect. It's about Ryan respecting his opponents sincerely (there's that word again) but reminding folks that he, his quarterback, his defense and his team deserve respect as well.
Belichick, Ryan said, "has won a lot of Super Bowls and he's a hell of a coach. And I've only got one win. I thought of retiring because I'd be ahead of him in the percentages, but my wife said, 'No, you're going to work.'
"But for me, I'm not here to kiss the ring. We're here to play. We're not conceding anything from a team standpoint. ... They've won eight in a row at the Meadowlands, you've got all that history, but I'm not conceding anything. I promise you we're going to give everything we have, and I'm sure New England is going to give everything they have. If they don't, that's fine with me. But at the end of the day we'll see who the better team is."
Sanchez seemed to take a little bit of his boss' swagger last week when he termed the Houston opener as "a must win," but when he was reminded of that today by a reporter, he looked at media relations director Bruce Speight and said, "Did I say that?" When told he did, he said, "Good. Good thing we won."
But he had no such declaration of this Patriots game.
"This is our first divisional opponent, our first home game. This is huge for us, for our fans and personally. At the same time, we don't want to blow this game up and make it more important than it is. But it's important," he said. "
"They know how to win games at the end of the game. They won't just fall off and quit early. This team will play until the end. They're tough, physical and smart. It's important for us to play the same way and gut one out."
Ryan even mentioned a few edges that he either has or seeks to have on the Green & White side come Sunday. One of them is the homefield advantage and he is courting that openly with comments to reporters and an audio and video message to season ticket holders that went out this morning. More on Ryan's fan appeal on Thursday.
Then there is his source from the Patriots camp, which he "revealed" when he was asked about the Pats perhaps overlooking this opponent they last lost to in North Jersey in 2000.
"I know they weren't worried about us," Ryan replied with a smile. "That's why they were running our defenses in March. I'm no dummy. I talk to the quarterback. He's our quarterback, he's not New England's quarterback."
That QB is, needless to say, Kevin O'Connell, cut by the Patriots, signed by Detroit, then traded for by the Jets in the week before the opener.
"I told you before that we didn't bring Kevin in here to be an assistant coach," Ryan said. "But do you really think I wasn't going to have him come in when we're going over our game plan?"
Of course, he did. Just as Belichick would do. This game is shaping up as a fine battle. And as Ryan said once more:
"I think New England's a good football team, I think we're a good football team. And we'll find out who the better team is on that particular day."