ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — From blitz packages to witty one-liners, Broncos defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale borrows heavily from his mentor Rex Ryan.
Not that the brash and charismatic New York Jets coach minds.
Anything for a friend, even Ryan’s recycled anecdotes.
“I read a quote the other day, when he said, ‘The quarterback can throw a strawberry through a battleship,’” Ryan said, laughing. “One of my quotes! So, I was proud of him there.”
The paths of the two defensive-minded coaches crossed at the University of Cincinnati in the mid-1990s when Ryan served as Bearcats coordinator and Martindale worked with the pass-rushers.
They went their separate ways after just two years together but a lifetime bond was forged.
“He’s one of the best coaches that I’ve ever had the joy of coaching with, the pleasure of coaching with,” Ryan said. “He’s almost like a brother.”
And, like his twin brother, Rob, the defensive coordinator in Cleveland, Rex Ryan won’t hold anything back when the Jets (4-1) visit the Denver Broncos (2-3) on Sunday.
“When I play (my brother) I try to kick his butt,” Ryan said. “I’m going to do the same thing to Wink.”
That attitude doesn’t surprise Broncos defensive lineman Justin Bannan, a former Ryan disciple who was brought to Denver this season to beef up the line.
“I think Wink’s the third brother of that group,” said Bannan, who spent three seasons with Ryan in Baltimore. “They’re very similar.”
In coaching style and personality.
Only Ryan is way more comfortable in the spotlight, way more verbose in public.
“That’s one of his greatest strengths,” Martindale said. “He’s a great person. I think that comes off whenever he’s interviewed, whenever he talks to people. He’s honest and he says what he feels.”
Even if Ryan’s mouth sometimes lands him in hot water. On “Hard Knocks,” the HBO show giving an inside look at the Jets training camp this summer, Ryan unleashed a few curse words in the premiere episode, drawing public criticism and even a rebuke from his mom.
“I got here by being myself and the players that I coached helped get me here and put me in this position,” Ryan said. “And I’m not going to change one bit. Whether I’m a coach for 20 years in this league or whether it ends tomorrow for some reason, I’m going to be true to myself and not have any regrets.”
That’s pretty much Martindale’s motto as well. While he aspires to follow in Ryan’s footsteps, he doesn’t want to be his clone.
“You can’t just try to be them,” Martindale said. “It has to be out of your own personality.”
The members of the Broncos defense walk around wearing blue T-shirts with the slogan “Go hard or go home” adorning the front. Plastered on the back was a quote from Martindale that said, “What is hard for everyone else is just right for us.”
That’s almost apropos this week, especially in light of all the injuries.
Martindale and his crew will try to slow down a high-flying Jets offense that boasts the top running game in the league and has a quarterback in Mark Sanchez who’s yet to throw an interception.
Not only that, but Martindale will be piecing together a patchwork defense with five players ruled out, including perennial Pro Bowler Brian Dawkins (knee) and his backup, Darcel McBath (ankle), along with pass-rushing linebacker Robert Ayers (foot).
“I told the players this: I think in the NFL and life itself, if you have problems, if you have injuries, 90 percent of the people in the world don’t care about them and the other 10 percent are glad you have them,” said Martindale, who’s the fifth different Broncos defensive coordinator in as many seasons. “They’re not going to stop the season, just like they didn’t stop the season when (Kris) Jenkins got hurt for Rex in New York.”
Or when the Broncos lost reigning sack leader Elvis Dumervil for the year to a chest injury in training camp.
With a dinged-up unit, the Broncos have allowed 23 points and 341 yards a game.
“Don’t worry about where they’re at right now statistically,” Ryan said. “He’s got a special gift. He can get guys to believe in themselves and play.”
Confidence-boosting speeches — that’s what pals are for.
“He’s a heck of a guy, a heck of a coach, and he doesn’t want to give up a yard, trust me,” Ryan said. “Hopefully, he’s going to struggle and we won’t be friends after this game.”
AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. in New York contributed to this story.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.