By Jason Keidel
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As we hear Rex Ryan’s hubristic crescendo, dropping bait on a team formerly coached by a man nicknamed Tuna, the Giants aren’t nibbling. Ryan, as usual, oils his missives with half-truths – like the one where a team that doesn’t win the Super Bowl is better than another that doesn’t. Even without the redundant rhetoric, there is importance aplenty glued to the Jets-Giants contest this Sunday, played in America’s media vortex.
Last Sunday, Ryan’s Jets played like the team bus stopped at Sam Hurd’s house on the way to Philadelphia. Yet The Quotable Rex Ryan is still swelling by the moment.
The Jets (8-6) are better than the Giants (7-7), so say Rex, because his team reached the AFC title game the last two years while the Giants missed the playoffs. It would be an appropriate assertion from Jets fans, but not from the coach who claims every year that his team is bagging its first Lombardi Trophy since John Dockery was on the roster.
Since this is a de facto playoff game for both teams – a loss leaving either to lean on luck, math, and the gods to make the postseason – we don’t need Rex to get all relative on us to realize this game counts far beyond the provincial bond of bragging rights.
Should the Jets win, Ryan will remain New York’s chubby, cherubic darling whose bombast will remain refreshing for another week. Should the Giants, who’ve actually won Super Bowls since Grace Slick sang White Rabbit at Woodstock, win the game, Ryan will find himself perilously close to losing his grip on yet another guarantee, descending into a hole his tongue dug.
Ryan has walked a toxic, semantic tightrope since he swam up the Hudson and commandeered the Jets. New Yorkers don’t mind braggarts; we do mind idiots. If Ryan wants to be Joe Namath, then go be Joe Namath and win the darn thing. But don’t be Patrick Ewing, with verbal assurances on eternal loop.
Some coaches are linked to their legendary visages, a profile or silhouette, from a lean Tom Landry’s and his Fedora to Bear Bryant brooding under his houndstooth to Don Shula’s jutting jaw. Ryan is a little rotund for such an avatar to be aesthetically agreeable. Perhaps he knows this and compensates by adding calories to his lexicon.
I’ve never made references to Ryan’s weight because, frankly, it has little to do with his ability to coach unless his cholesterol kicks in. But Ryan’s declarations have become comical, and each make him more of a caricature than character – a comic book creature, perhaps, in the Kingpin vein. But, in that Gotham, Spider-Man generally foils the evil, corpulent criminal.
So it is with the Giants: Big Blue playing the Big Brother that Ryan allegedly loathes. Whether teams switch costumes depends on more than just Sunday’s game. But it’s a good place to start. Especially for the quotable Rex Ryan.