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Mouth of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan is focus of today's playoff game against the New England Patriots

Odds are, the New England Patriots will hear him long before they will see him.

Rex Ryan will enter talking, the way he always does. He will smack, and he will trash, and he will yap, and he will jabber. Before the day is over, he might howl like a wolf or bark like a dog or bray like a donkey or cry like a freight train.

With Ryan, the Jets' coach and microphone coordinator, it is always noisy, and it is often annoying. He is full of bluster, full of blather and, yes, full of Buddy. One of these days, the NFL might get a call from a construction crew asking if Ryan can quiet down so the workers can hear their jackhammers.

From time to time, another team can beat him down, but it cannot shut him up. Ryan leads the NFL in volume, and with every opportunity, he seems dead set on invigorating his team and infuriating the opposition. Lately, the infuriation is ahead by 14 points.

For all that is said about all Ryan has said, however, here is something to keep in mind when the Jets play the Patriots today:

It doesn't matter. Not a sentence, not a word, not a syllable. Ryan can chatter from now until the final whistle — and he probably will — and the scoreboard will not listen.

In the emotion of the moment, people tend to forget this. They assume Ryan will talk so much, he will convince the Jets they can win, or he will talk so much, he will anger the Patriots to the point he motivates them.

This, of course, is hooey. It doesn't matter if you think Ryan is comical or classless; there isn't a player on the field who needs words to get fired up for a playoff game. For crying out loud, this is for a spot in the AFC Championship Game. Don't you think Tom Brady cares as much about winning as humanly possible? Do you think he's going to care more because Ryan has a big mouth?

Over the years, we've heard so much about bulletin-board material that we seem to think it makes a difference. It doesn't. Not on third and 3. Not with the score tied. Not with these kinds of stakes.

You know when trash talk matters? Before the game, a little. After the game, a lot. It's fun to remind the losers of something stupid they might have said. And if what you say comes true, it's grand to act bold and wise and filled with belief.

If the Jets win today, I assume 4,000 stories or so will be written on how Ryan's cockiness carried over to his team and allowed victory. If they lose, I assume another 4,000 or so will suggest Ryan's mouth wrote a check his team couldn't cash.

That's what happens when a coach calls this much attention to himself. People can't wait to suggest that Hulk Hogan wants his act back.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still trying hard to like Ryan. Most writers are. Most coaches are purposefully dull, speaking in cliches and niceties they don't really believe. Going to a Bill Belichick news conference is like doing homework for an early class in a boring subject.

By comparison, a Ryan news conference is a trip to the circus. He can be funny and friendly and outrageous, and he can stuff a tape recorder the way a chef stuffs a turkey. That's why I don't believe all the talk about a foot fetish. Everyone knows Ryan is into larynxes.

So does it matter what Ryan says? Sure it does. Just not when it comes to the score.

It matters because the talk will come to define Ryan. It matters because it means losing will wear thin faster. It matters because this kind of act never lasts for long.

Consider this: The Jets are supposed to lose today. The analysts say so, the bookmakers say so, the most recent result (a 45-3 victory by the Patriots last month) says so. But after all his talk, this would be Ryan's loss, not his team's. And it would be up to him to explain it.

Remember, last week Ryan said the last loss was his fault, that Belichick outcoached him by 42 points. In the NFL, the more often a coach says losing was his fault, the more likely people are to believe him.

That's the way it works. After all, the NFL has seen — and heard — outlandish coaches before. There was Buddy, Rex's dad. There was Jerry Glanville. And Sam Wyche. And Mike Ditka. The league was definitely more fun with those guys in it, but either you win or the audience stops listening.

A year ago, when Ryan's rap was fresh, it was easy to chuckle as the season went along. This year, with Ryan bleating about Peyton Manning, about Brady, about Belichick, it isn't quite as much fun.

A year ago, when the Jets went to the AFC title game, most of Ryan's reviews were over the top. He looked like the best coaching hire of his class. But looking at it now, do you think Ryan will outlast the Bucs' Raheem Morris or the Chiefs' Todd Haley? Or do you think that very soon the Jets' front office will have heard enough?

In that way, Ryan might have more at risk than anyone involved in this game. It doesn't matter what Antonio Cromartie called Brady, or whether Brady has ever pointed at an opposing bench. Today's game is all about a coach who has talked himself into the spotlight.

Today, either his team has something to say for itself.

Or Ryan will have some explaining to do.

Mouth of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan is focus of today's playoff game against the New England Patriots 01/15/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 15, 2011 8:47pm]
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