Rex Ryan challenges Bill Belichick

Updated: January 11, 2011, 1:18 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- It's personal -- again. This time, Rex Ryan is out for Bill Belichick.

Calling out one of the most successful coaches in NFL history, the New York Jets' coach delivered an unsolicited rant Monday, admitting he was outcoached by Belichick in last month's blowout and vowing to flip the script in Sunday's AFC divisional playoff game against the New England Patriots.

"This is about Bill Belichick versus Rex Ryan," Ryan said, addressing the upcoming showdown in Foxborough, Mass., for the first time. "There's no question, it's personal. It's about him against myself. That's what it's going to come down to."

Dobbs There's no question, it's personal. It's about him against myself. That's what it's going to come down to.

-- Rex Ryan on facing Bill Belichick

In terms of football duels, this was the verbal equivalent of a white glove across the face.

Ryan said both teams are even from the standpoint of talent and assistant coaches, and that the rubber game will be decided by his ability to match wits with Belichick. In their last meeting, Dec. 6 in Foxborough, the Jets were humiliated on "Monday Night Football" 45-3.

"I was outcoached in that game," said Ryan, who also used the "it's personal" line last week in preparation for Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. "I said it then, I'm saying it now. Belichick, I recognize the fact this is a Hall of Fame coach. He'll go down in history as maybe the greatest football coach in the history of this game, or going to be close to it.

"He was at that level that week and I was not. For whatever reason, I never had my team prepared the way it should've been prepared. That falls right down on me."

"You can't want to beat somebody worse than I want to win this one," Ryan continued on his weekly spot on "The Michael Kay Show" on 1050 ESPN Radio. "And, really, I'll say the same thing about last week. I wanted to beat Peyton Manning as bad as I've ever wanted anything in my life. This game, maybe more so. [It's because of] the fact that we got beat up there. Did they rub our noses in it or whatever you want to call it? Yeah, maybe a little. So, yeah, absolutely. That's the truth."

Belichick, in a conference call about two hours after Ryan made his comment, took a lighthearted approach.

"I might have a little quickness on him, he's probably got a little more strength and power on me," Belichick said. "I don't think you'll see either of us out there making any blocks, or tackles, or runs, throws or catches. At least you won't see me doing that. It's probably a good thing for our team."

Ryan's latest verbal assault, obviously orchestrated, was a variation of his celebrated "rings" rant from last year. A few months after being hired by the Jets, he said he didn't come to New York "to kiss Bill Belichick's rings."

Ryan is 2-2 against Belichick, but his credibility took a big hit last month. A few days before the anticipated showdown, Ryan said he wanted to "kick Belichick's ass." It turned out to be the other way around, as the Jets suffered the second-most lopsided defeat in franchise history.

The Jets were ill-prepared, and Ryan made questionable tactical decisions early in the contest. He wasted a replay challenge on a fourth-and-1 spot, and he let the then-slumping Nick Folk try a 53-yard field goal into swirling winds -- and Folk missed badly. Defensively, the Jets had no answers for Tom Brady, who passed for 326 yards and four touchdowns.

Clearly, the Jets missed safety Jim Leonhard, the "quarterback" of the secondary. He suffered a season-ending injury three days before the game, a major disruption in their defensive preparation. The Patriots picked on Leonhard's replacement, Eric Smith. Nevertheless, Ryan blamed himself.

"There are chess matches involved every week. It was checkmate," he said. "He definitely outcoached me."

This perhaps was a clever motivational ploy by Ryan to take the heat off his players this week. Instead of being reminded by reporters about how badly they played in the last meeting -- namely, Mark Sanchez, who threw three interceptions -- they will be bombarded with questions about Ryan's challenge.

The players were off Monday and not available to the media.

"This is going to be about me raising my level against Bill Belichick," Ryan said. "I recognize he's the best. I'm just trying to be the best on Sunday, and I plan on being the best coach on Sunday. ... That's what it is. I recognize my level has to come up. He's going to get my best shot. He's going to get everything I have on Sunday. If he slips at all, we're gonna beat him."

Ryan felt the Jets outsmarted themselves in the previous game, installing a game plan that looked good on paper but wasn't realistic. There may be some truth to that because, after playing Thanksgiving, they had 10 full days to prepare for the Patriots, who also played on Thanksgiving. Most teams thrive when given extra time, but the Jets tend to struggle after extended layoffs.

This time, they will use a "ridiculous amount of preparation" to formulate a game plan that doesn't confuse the players, according to Ryan. But he added, "That doesn't mean we're going to dummy it up. You dummy it up against them, and you get crushed."

The Jets won the first meeting in Week 2, 28-14. After the 45-3 debacle, Ryan told Belichick during the postgame handshake they'd meet again.

"I told Belichick after the game, 'We'll see you in Round 3,'" Ryan said. "He just looked at me."

This time, the stakes are huge. The survivor plays the Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens winner for the AFC championship.

"If we win this one, we'll be the same old Jets," Ryan said, "right back in the AFC Championship Game."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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