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Bill is a Pill, Rex’s in Effect

Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan shake hands after a game (Photo David Butler II/US Presswire).

Exhibit A is short, truculent, crabby and comports himself with the miffed, detached air of someone running late for a colonoscopy. Exhibit B is large, boisterous, expressive, sometimes downright jolly, possessing an everyman wit you could easily see coming from a barber or short-order cook.

They are as different and as similar as the Grinch and Santa Claus. The Dr. Seuess characters are polar opposites but both are pure Christmas, the same way as the aforementioned Exhibits A & B are both pure football.

One is as restrictive and reticent as a double agent during wartime while the other a candid and welcome celebrator who kicks the door open, sits on the couch and puts both feet up.

Exhibit A is Bill Belichick. Exhibit B is Rex Ryan. Shadowy reflections of one another, both would perish and cease to exist without football.

Same but Different

They are two roads diverged in a yellow wood. One is a smooth, paved thoroughfare strew with microphones, supporters handing out eggnog and beer and Rueben sandwiches, while the other is a rocky path replete with landmines, barbed wire, and foraging, savage, lean and hungry dogs.

Belichick represents the new age coach – cold, sharply calculating, and coolly corporate. Ryan is of the classic, old-school, smash-mouth, send-the-other-coach-the-playbook, fiery motivational speech ilk.

Lately, make that throughout his whole career, Ryan has been a quote machine concerning Belichick and the Patriots. The advantage of these two coaching in the same division, besides the obvious their teams playing each other twice a year, is that they will always be on each other’s mind. Or at least in their sphere of worry. Ryan’s proven track record of unleashing spontaneous rants means Belichick will always be asked to respond.

Ryan has offered that he’s “not here to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings”, which should be a relief for Belichick and his rings, and his family for that matter. Ryan will talk trash to anybody with a recording device. He rips out unprovoked monologues about kicking Belichick’s ass and winning Super Bowls. He’s like a cartoon character.

A top-rate coach, if a bit of a clown, he realizes that three Super Bowl rings means he is the mountain climber and Belichick is the cold, smug, peak that must be conquered. You’re never going to subdue Everest if you stand at the base and pee your pants. You mock it. You diminish it. You make it aware of the will inside of you.

Belichick and Ryan are perfect foils for each other, and the match-up has something for everybody. The erudite, bitter, yet sour-tongued cranky evil genius Belichick versus the sometimes tasteless yet always flavorful, unvarnished, frank Ryan.

(I prefer my franks unvarnished, unlike Fenway Franks that come dripping in that translucent lacquer. All hot dogs are gross now that I think about it.)

Both styles are genius in this frenetic media atmosphere. Appearing to have opposite philosophies and personalities the end game is the same for these two alliterative coaches. They both shift the media focus. They deflect attention away from their players and put the target squarely on themselves.

Belichick does this so there is a singular voice grumbling  “no comment,” which also provides players with an out. How many times during his regime has a player mumbled some variation of “Coach Belichick doesn’t want us talking about that”? Belichick verbally castrates his players. I could say he removes their vocal chords but it’s more fun to say he verbally castrates his players.

Ryan puts the spotlight on himself because, truthfully, nobody else could fit in there with him. Sometimes when he makes a joke at the podium, I dream about Mark Sanchez jumping into frame, putting his hands on Ryan’s love handles and saying “and Leon’s getting larger.” Maybe he’ll do it in honor of Leslie Neilsen because, you know, he was in that movie too.

Take the Danny Woodhead situation. Ryan openly admits he now regrets releasing Woodhead, saying, “Do I regret cutting him? Absolutely, right now I do.” (How do you think that makes LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene feel?) In the same situation, Belichick would have muttered, “we made a decision,” or something equally innocuous.

Both of their strategies are brilliant, if coming from opposite ends of the spectrum. Much like how we can parse out the two factions in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations based on how they felt about Vietnam, when it comes to giving the media material, Belichick is a dove – using a soft, terse touch to deflect pretty much everything while offering nothing substantive. Ryan is a hawk – he’ll swoop down, steal your laptop, and write the damn article himself because he doesn’t want you messing up his quote comparing his wife to Gisele Bundchen.

And Ryan is not that far off. Both his wife and Gisele have ugly man faces, appear in vapid, banal magazines and have ultra-competitive husbands who are probably insufferable after a loss. (Adriana Lima doesn’t have this problem because, as we saw during his lackluster NBA career, Marko Jaric doesn’t give a crap about winning.) Rex probably stinks up the bathroom something horrible with his defeatist defecations too.

(What was life like for Mrs. Ryan when she and Buddy were raising two growing behemoths in Rex and Rob? When she went shopping was she like Uncle Rico? Buying nothing by toilet paper and plungers?)

I’m surprised Ryan stopped at Brady’s wife. How could he stay away from the comedy pay dirt that is Belichick’s wife or MILF or cougar or whatever you want to call her? She is in a class of her own. I have no idea if that’s a compliment or a put-down but she is in a class all by herself. That’s all I can say.

Why didn’t he riff on Brady as well? Maybe he didn’t want to open the Pandora’s Box of physical appearance. Smart decision, that. Brady is like metrosexual Ken next to his Bling Barbie while Sexy Rexy looks like a sloth that just secured his next meal. Like the black widow or the praying mantis, he probably eats his partner’s head after he mates with her, or for a midday snack.

(By the way, I’m so sick of the moniker Sexy Rexy. It’s too easy, too platitudinous. Yeah, yeah I know it works as one of those opposite nicknames, like calling a big guy Tiny, but it has never worked for me. Maybe Rex Chapman and his white spandex careening out of his teal Charlotte Hornets shorts during the 1990 dunk ruined the name for me.

Ryan is a straight shooter, and, as much of his comedy is honesty based, he should have a more fitting nickname. We should keep the rhyming thing, but it needs to tweak his weight or looks. I submit Soloflex Rex. It could spark a whole new career for him post-football. Forget Body By Jake late night infomercials, its all about Soloflex Rex!)

Stylistic Disparity

While Ryan is no-nonsense, Belichick has that oh so British, dry sense of humor. As dry as grandmother at Burning Man. As dry as Bickford’s toast.. As dry as eating a dozen saltines in a minute. As dry as Bud Dry.

Ryan is as wet as Peter O’Toole at a wedding reception. As wet as Amy Winehouse at a winehouse. As wet as Ethan Hawke in Denzel Washinton’s Monte Carlo in Training Day. As wet as R Kelly’s girlfriend. As wet as Water County. As wet at Patrick Ewing at the free throw line. I’ll stop.

Ryan leaves reporters’ notebooks and recorders bursting with juicy nuggets that send them running breathlessly to their laptops like blogging teen girls after a Justin Bieber concert.

Belichick is more of a tool, the snarky, smart kid who plays too much Risk and is always sneering at something under his breath. He probably speaks Kilngon, if he hasn’t invented his own language. If football were a corporation (you know what I mean) Belichick would be the nerdy scientist from R&D while Rex would be the sardonic and overpowering bully executive.

This is made-for-TV stuff. In fact, After Belichick and Ryan retire they should produce a sitcom where they move in together. Hilarity will ensue when Belichick’s plans to read David Halberstam books all night are ruined when Rex has Rob and Kevin James over to the apartment to play drinking games and sing along to Springsteen albums all night.

Or maybe they buy a small-town hotel after both are widowed, hire an intelligent, driven, detail-oriented and hard-headed hotel manager and a sassy foreign chef. Add in two parts smart-mouthed youngster and film. They already did a show like that you say? Shoot.

As much as a Patriots fan as I am, I love Rex’s panache. Or is it his élan? Let’s just say he has what the French call a certain “I don’t know what”. Unlike the French, Ryan never quits. Belichick has the ennui.

You gotta love the atmosphere and attitude of the Jets, but you’d rather have the success of the Patriots. The Jets seem like the early ‘70s Oakland A’s or the Gas House Gang or the Madden Raiders. What was up with Oakland in the late 60s to early 70s? Oh yeah, the Hells Angels. Hunter S. Thompson literally got this beat into him.

Remember the Dave Chappelle “crazy camera” skit? If we flipped to the “true self” setting, Belichick would be tied up in a basement with a ball gag in his mouth, while Ryan would be a hammered banshee, throwing beads from a Mardi Gras float as he waves his shirt over his head, his bulbous, pale stomach jiggling like a lava lamp. Himself, basically.

Mutual  Respect

Still, there is a palpable subtext of mutual respect between the two, as one must see the other as he contemplatively stares in a rippling pond. Ryan is a younger version of Belichick; they are both defensively innovative coaches who have structured a team identity built on toughness and accountability. Both took over moribund franchises, guided young quarterbacks, and rode strong defenses deep into the playoffs. They’ve even begun giving each other what Bill Simmons used to call “the full body rub.”

“When [Ryan] was at Baltimore and the Jets, you always watch their tape and see how he defends teams that you’re going to play or kind of what they’re doing and try to get some ideas,” Belichick told ESPN. “If you can figure it out — which you usually can…maybe you can take an element or that part of the defense or that way they attack the offense and try and utilize it some way in what you’re doing.”

“There are very few coaches that I steal from, but Bill Belichick is one of them,” Ryan told ESPN. “He’s so creative, what he does coverage-wise, how he looks at things, puts traps out there. The guy is an amazing coach, the best coach in football. It’s not even close.”

I can see Rex stealing Belichick’s lunch money along with his gameplan. Like Coach Red Beaulieu and Mister Coach Klein in “The Waterboy.” I can see Belichick stealing Rex’s soul. Ryan is a Wookie. Belichick is a Jedi.

Fittingly, Ryan is not afraid of brash players like Bart Scott (whose acquisition began Ryan’s transmogrification of the Jets) and Braylon Edwards. (I love the idea of a loquacious man named Braylon. I imagine he would brag all night around the campfire while his peers yelled “bray long, bray long”.) Ryan is not afraid of players with disciplinary issues like Santonio Holmes. He welcomes your poor, your tired, your egomaniacal skill position players yearning to breathe free.

Jets players take their cues from their corpulent corporal and run with it. Holmes, speaking about the Patriots defensive backs, said this week

“If I could speak my mind, I would…but just off the strength of me being a professional, I don’t worry about those guys.”

(So, Santonio Holmes claims he can’t speak his mind, but he’ll say that in his judgment, an estimate supported by his extensive experience as a unionized professional football player, the Patriots defensive backs aren’t worthy of any concern on his part. Way to bottle it up Holmes. Ryan probably loved this.)

When Belichick takes on a malcontent, it has a rehabilitative tone. Like Jennifer Melfi taking on Tony Soprano. It was a big deal when Randy Moss and Corey Dillion became Patriots. Belichick’s steady hand has transformed New England into a football Lourdes. Wayward and itinerant Pro Bowl players who seek championships in their waning years of athletic productivity are taken into the fold by Belichick and his disciples.

With the Jets, Moss probably would have been the arbiter of the kangaroo court or the team’s NFLPA representative.

One is Jazz and one is Heavy Metal, but both make sweet music. Seeing the insanity and ridiculousness of the media game, its only aim to detract player concentration and create man-made distractions, Ryan slants towards Bozo the Clown while Belichick takes a Corporal Punishment angle.

Is this effective? What have the last 2,000 some-odd words been about?

What? Ohh, the game? Right. Like the two coaches, the teams are pretty much evenly matched. The Jets’ strength is their defense; the Patriots’ is their offense. Flipping the script, the New England defense is ripe with fissures and prone to the big play, which should be an interesting juxtaposing for the Jets’ inconsistent yet prone to making big plays offense. In fact, the Jets whole recent run of success and last few squeaked out wins are built on big plays.

I predict a medium scoring, tight game with lots of turnovers and sacks. Patriots, 27-21. The Patriots have Shane Graham, you say? Make that Patriots 24-21. He’ll miss at least one high-pressure field goal.

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