NEW YORK (AP) — Rex Ryan got on the phone, paused for a second and then offered the one positive thought he could come up with.
“Well, I got up this morning,” the New York Jets coach deadpanned, “so that’s a good thing.”
But Ryan was just getting started on setting the tone Monday for a wild week leading up to a huge showdown with the rival Giants. For anyone who wondered whether the bold and brash coach would be muffled by what he called a “horrible performance” against the Philadelphia Eagles, not a chance.
“Quite honestly, I never came here to be little brother to anybody,” Ryan said on a conference call. “So, it’s on.”
Ryan obviously was not happy about the Jets’ 45-19 drubbing Sunday, a game some players called “embarrassing.” There were turnovers, breakdowns and missed opportunities. Mark Sanchez got knocked around again, and the Jets’ pride — and playoff standing — took a hit.
But, in typical Ryan fashion, the coach used his mouth to shove all that aside. Not that this Giants-Jets game on Saturday needed more hype. In his book that came out in the offseason, Ryan boasted that the Jets were the “big brother” of New York-area football.
“Certainly, we were the better team the first two years,” Ryan said. “We made the playoffs and went to the (AFC) championship game. To say a team’s better than you that never made the playoffs is ridiculous. Clearly, we were the better team my first two years. We get to prove it Saturday who the best team is this year.”
Ryan did acknowledge that both the Jets (8-6) and Giants (7-7) are having “disappointing” seasons, but they’re still in position to make the playoffs. The Jets hold the last AFC wild-card spot with a tiebreaker edge over the Bengals — for now. The tiebreaker advantage they hold over Cincinnati could change, however, could change by the end of the season.
Meanwhile, the Giants can still win the NFC East with victories over the Jets and the Dallas Cowboys.
Neither team would be completely out of it with a loss Saturday, but Ryan certainly doesn’t want to even think about that scenario.
“There’s a lot of talk going back and forth, most of it driven by me,” Ryan said. “But I’ll stand by anything I’ve ever said. I didn’t come here to be anybody’s little brother. I came here to win, to be looked at that way and to take over not just this city, even though it’s the city to take over, but also this league. I haven’t accomplished that yet. Saturday, I think, will go a long way to doing that.
“We have to win this game, we have to get in the playoffs, and the Giants have to do the same. So it’s going to be huge.”
Ryan spoke highly of the Giants, saying they’re an “excellent” team, adding that he respects Tom Coughlin “immensely,” and calling him “one of the great coaches in the history of the sport.” He also praised Giants defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul for having an outstanding season.
But the pleasantries ended there. The Jets are desperate for a win now, and Ryan made it clear he’s not here to make friends. Not with bragging rights and playoff lives on the line.
“There’s no way I’m going to be second fiddle,” he said. “If we were playing the New York Yankees, I don’t want to be second fiddle to them.”
The Jets appeared overmatched by an Eagles team that many had written off weeks ago. But Philadelphia played with a sense of urgency that was surprisingly lacking in Ryan’s team, and the coach thought it was one of the worst performances in his nearly three years in New York.
It was an ugly loss, and got that way early.
Santonio Holmes fumbled on his first catch and Juqua Parker returned it 47 yards for a touchdown. He also dropped a pass that was picked off by Asante Samuel and led to the Eagles’ second touchdown. Holmes’ day only got worse when he celebrated a touchdown before halftime by standing on the football and waving his arms like an eagle.
He was hit with a taunting penalty and later apologized to Ryan.
“None of us are perfect, but I’m just saying that you wish that thing never happened,” Ryan said. “I don’t think it will happen again, but again, I have his back, he has mine and this whole team is that way. We just have to come out and fight for each other. We know it was a mistake and we’ll learn from it.”
After solid performances during the Jets’ three-game winning streak, Sanchez was barely mediocre — but it didn’t help that he was pounded half the time. He was checked out on the sideline after taking a hard pop from Jason Babin in the neck and shoulder in the third quarter.
“I think he’s going to be just fine,” Ryan said, adding that he hadn’t yet checked with the trainers. “It would be news to me if he had any tests done.”
Ryan’s defense — his pride and joy — was also run through like a sieve by Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy. New York allowed 420 total yards, including 102 rushing from McCoy and a career-best 156 yards receiving from tight end Brent Celek. Safety Eric Smith said after the game that the Eagles were constantly calling out the Jets’ coverages.
“Well, it tells me that we’ve got to do a better job,” Ryan said. “When you look at the way the league is, there’s a lot of ‘tells’ on most teams. Quite honestly, we knew what they were doing on third down, but it never mattered.”
Now, the Jets are working to quickly put that loss behind them and focus on the Giants. If they don’t, they know there will be plenty more questions and playoff doubts ahead.
“If we handle our business, we win these next two games, we’ll be in the playoffs,” Ryan said. “And that’s all that matters.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.