Since leaving the Baltimore Ravens more than two years ago to become the head coach of the New York Jets, Rex Ryan has had nothing but success as coach of Gang Green up in New York.
During that time as coach, Rex Ryan has taken the Jets to consecutive playoff appearances going as far as the AFC Title game in each trip.
His career record as the Jets coach is 20-12, and is 4-2 overall in the playoffs.
This after building up an impressive resume in Baltimore as defensive coordinator for the Ravens from 2005-2008 in which his defenses-anchored by Ray Lewis-never finished less than sixth-overall in total defense.
Ryan spent 10 years on the Baltimore sidelines for both Brian Billick and John Harbaugh, but when a head coaching job for the Ravens wasn’t put in front of him, he couldn’t wait any longer for that opportunity to come his way, and he took advantage of another one.
But the one thing he has learned-and he details it in his new book, “Play Like You Mean It” which he introduced to Rex Snider last week on “The Afternoon Drive”, that it’s the people he’s been around who he has to thank for where he is today.
And a lot of them are still in the Baltimore organization, and despite knowing the organization holds John Harbaugh in high regard and that they chose him over Ryan, Ryan said he will always hold a place in his heart for the Ravens.
“I had ten great years in Baltimore that I am really proud,” Ryan told Snider. “And I still have a home in Baltimore. It was ten great years and met a lot of great people.”
One of the great people Ryan interacted with and had a great relationship with while in Baltimore was linebacker Ray Lewis.
“I was with Ray for all ten years and I talk about that he is one of the rare guys, a player that actually motivated me,” Ryan said. “That usually doesn’t happen. Usually it’s the coach motivating the player.”
Ryan said that Ray Lewis was probably the most special person he’s been around in his 24-year coaching career.
“Ray was such a passionate leader and everything that we would motivate me as well as his teammates and things. He is a once in a lifetime player, an amazing talent and he is still going strong even today.”
Ryan became the Jets coach in 2009-ironically the same year that both Ravens linebackers Bart Scott and Ray Lewis were free agents on the market.
Ryan admitted that getting #52 to follow him to New York was definitely on his agenda.
He said he would be lying if he didn’t.
“It’s funny because when I went to New York the first thing right off the bat I wanted to get Ray Lewis to come and coach here and all that kind of jazz and let him play here,” Coach Ryan said.
Ryan took a lot from Baltimore up I-95 including several coaches, players, personnel, support staff and philosophy, but he admitted to Snider that there was nothing he could do to get Ray Lewis away from the city of Baltimore.
“Ray was not going to leave Baltimore anyway but it was not the right decision,” he said. “Ray’s team is the Baltimore Ravens, more so than Ozzie Newsome, or Steve Bisciotti, or anybody else.”
“But when you think of the Baltimore Ravens you think of Ray Lewis that is why there was no way I could take him away from Baltimore even if I wanted to, and was able to.”
Another player that Ryan didn’t have the longest amount of time to interact with but has high hopes for is a man on the other side of the ball than Ryan’s defense-that being quarterback Joe Flacco.
He remembers taking a look at Flacco just days into the first round of practices at Owings Mills and training camp and noticing that he was going to be something special despite the fact he came in projected to be the third quarterback on the depth chart behind Kyle Boller and Troy Smith.
“Joe Flacco was without a doubt is our best quarterback, and I remember mentioning that to Steve Bisciotti that in my opinion is wasn’t even close and that he ought to be our starting quarterback,” Ryan said.
“Joe Flacco is an outstanding talent, he’ got great arm strength, he’s got poise, and he is a better athlete than you think. I think he has all the tools to be a great quarterback in this league.”
But Rex was still the guy we have got used to in New York calling out the likes of Bill Belichick when he did admit that he’s biased when it comes to Joe Flacco winning championships.
Like Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley, he hopes Flacco wins none-at least at the expense of his teams.
“Well I hope he doesn’t win one, because I want to win them,” Ryan laughed. “And I am no different then those other guys; I mean I guaranteed a Super Bowl this year. But the funny thing is, that is how you have to think. It’s our team, I don’t care about anybody else’s team.”
One of those teams in particular that he doesn’t care about, but one that he has to keep his focus on at all times?
Why, that would be none other than Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots, who despite Rex Ryan’s previous statements about the Coach may have been construed as disrespect, Ryan would tell you otherwise.
He would do so because he had that same level of respect for the Pittsburgh Steelers as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.
“There is a huge amount of respect with the Steelers and the Ravens, I can promise you. But you also want to beat that team worse than anybody.”
He knows Ravens fans still take that statement to heart.
And now that he’s the enemy, he knows that he’s probably included in that as well.
“I know the Ravens want to beat the Steelers worse than anything, probably right there with the Jets for some reason.”
We’ll find out this year Week 4 of the regular season at M&T in prime time.
WNST thanks Coach Rex Ryan for joining us! Be sure to check out a copy of his new book, “Play Like You Mean It”, for a great in-depth look inside the mind of one of the NFL’s biggest personalities!