Rex Ryan’s comments? Typical…and not a big deal.

August 18, 2009 | Drew Forrester

So, Rex Ryan disrespected the Ravens?  And Paul Kruger?  

Really?

And people in Baltimore are offended.  Some – if my e-mail inbox is a good judge – are greatly offended, in fact.

Really?

I don’t get it.

It’s not a big deal on any or all accounts.  That is, if you ask me.

Rex bristled at the fact that the Ravens have put Paul Kruger in a #99 jersey.  No one in purple has worn #99 since Michael McCrary retired five years ago.  

Does Rex Ryan REALLY consider it that much of an injustice that someone’s wearing McCrary’s number?  Honestly?

McCrary was a good player.  Some would say very good.  I’d lean to something right in the middle of good-to-very good.  Point being:  he wasn’t a Hall of Fame caliber player.  It’s not like the Ravens gave John Beck #19.  They gave a 2nd round rookie defensive end the same number as a Ring of Honor player from the early part of this decade.  Big deal.  He – McCrary – wasn’t even a draft pick of the Ravens.  I could see if someone came out sporting #58 on Thursday night in the pre-season opener and everyone said, “Wait, wasn’t that Peter Boulware’s number?”  Boulware was a lifetime Raven.  I’d get that measure of angst from Ryan if he blew up about that.  But, it wasn’t Boulware.  It was McCrary.  Big deal.

There are only two players worthy of having NO ONE ever wear their number for the Ravens again.  Ray Lewis.  And Jon Ogden.  I’d listen to an argument about Matt Stover but ONLY because he came with the team from Cleveland.  Other than that, someone SHOULD wear McCrary’s number and someone SHOULD wear Boulware’s someday.  It’s a number.  Move on.

More than anything else, I think Rex just wanted to get a jab in, that’s all.  This was easy for him.  

I’m not sure why the Baltimore football fans are offended. He coaches another team in the league now.  He’s paid by the Jets.  

And honestly, is anyone surprised that Rex Ryan would say something that folks might consider inflammatory?  I had him on the radio every Monday for three years and I can’t remember how many times he’d say something during that 15 minutes that would make me mute the mic in the studio and say, “Holy s**t, did he just say that?”

Rex speaks his mind.  He always did and always will.

That’s one of the reasons why he never got the top job in Baltimore. 

When Brian Billick got fired, Rex openly campaigned for the job.  Nothing wrong with that, right?  Of course not.  But when the team asked him to “interview” for the vacant head coach position, Rex didn’t see the merit in that.  ”Well, just interview all the guys you don’t know and if you find one you like, why don’t you measure the two of us and make your choice?” he said back in January of 2008.  The club, of course, told Rex he’d have to interview for the job like everyone else.  And it was in that interview where Rex stunned the group of employees assembled on the hiring committee by spewing some not-so-nice stuff about Brian Billick.  Rather than take the high road and compliment Billick for his work in Baltimore, Rex tried to justify his value by pointing out all the things the former coach did wrong.  That didn’t sit well at all with the committee.  As one member of that committee told me, “Rex talked himself out of the job.”

Rex, remember, had head coach interviews in San Diego, Miami and Atlanta before finally securing his dream gig with the Jets.  His brash, open approach will work fine in The Big Apple as long as the football team he coaches is also a winning a football team.  Just ask Tom Coughlin.  

This throw-away comment Ryan made about Paul Kruger really isn’t a big deal, but it’s a small example of why the Ravens never turned their football team over to him.   They always thought there was a chance Rex would say “That Hines Ward, he can’t play a lick…” three days before a big game in Pittsburgh with a playoff berth on the line.  In other words, the club operated like this:  ”We’re never quite sure what Rex might say, but there’s a good bet we might not like it.”

Rex was also VERY cordial to me in the time I spent covering the team while he was involved.  On several occasions, I sat in his office and watched him break down game film, along with then linebackers coach Mike Pettine.  Those two talked football in a foreign language and looked at plays in rapid-fire fashion, talking like a 78rpm record most of the time.  But they afforded me the chance to sit in the war room and listen and observe as REAL football experts tore apart the other team’s offense and sniffed out their strengths and weaknesses.  It was like auditing a Master’s philosophy class at Brown University.  And not having to pay the tuition.

Rex is a football man.  He’s not a wordsmith.  He knows football.  The nuances of saying the right thing?  He’s still learning that stuff.  In his mind, I think, what he says or doesn’t say between Monday and Saturday isn’t nearly as important as what happens on Sunday at 1pm.  

And make no mistake about this:  Rex Ryan is still not pleased about being passed over for the head coaching gig in Baltimore in favor of John Harbaugh.  He’s never going to get over that.  He’s just not.  

As for the fans in Baltimore, it’s pre-season football.  Frankly, I’d rather talk about Rex Ryan disrespecting the Ravens than Demetrius Williams missing practice again with (insert injury here).  

At least with Rex, I know he’ll be on the sideline Monday in Baltimore and I know he’ll put up a fight.

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