Rex Ryan stirred the pot again today.
"Nobody studies like [Manning]. I know [Tom] Brady thinks he does and all that stuff," Ryan said. "I think there's probably a little more help from [Bill] Belichick with Brady than there is with Peyton Manning."
Ryan made the impromptu remark in answer to a question about how gifted Manning was in his ability to think on his feet and improvise.
"He's not just a coach on the field," Ryan said. "You give the coaching community too much credit. This guy is one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game, and he's one of the smartest guys. And it's not just a coach dialing up plays. He dials his own plays."
Here's what we can expect:
- Members of the media who pretend to be impartial but really hate the Jets with a passion like Mike Francesa, Mike Lupica, and Ian O'Connor to name three will sharpen their knives, and ruthlessly attack Rex for running his mouth the second the Jets are eliminated.
- If the Jets and Patriots play a rematch, and the Patriots jump out to a huge lead, they will keep throwing the ball and driving up the margin until the game ends.
- Brady will make some cutting remark in the postgame press conference while nominally saying he doesn't care.
- The Patriots will take underhanded swipes at the Jets leading up to such a game while nominally saying they do their talking on the field, itself something of a swipe.
What will it mean in reality? I don't think a whole lot. The Jets have to get past the Colts first, which will be no easy task. If they do that, they will get the Pats. I think providing bulletin board material can be a factor in some games where motivation might be lacking, but I question whether it really exists in big games. Teams are fighting for their lives. They already couldn't be more motivated. The Jets made plenty of noise about wanting to embarrass the Patriots before Week 2 in 2009. The Pats had plenty of motivation. The Jets won. Gang Green was hardly as bold before heading to Foxborough this year. We all remember what happened. What? Are Rex's words going to make things worse than 45-3 in a rematch?
After the jump I'll discuss the merits of what Rex said.
I have a world of respect for Tom Brady. He has put together an incredible statistical year. He quarterbacked the team with the best record in football even thought that team had a young defense that did not really put it together until the end of the season. If I had an MVP vote, I would put his name down without hesitation. I also think he needed a season like this just to even get himself back into the discussion for the title of best quarterback in the league. That is how far ahead Manning was.
The year Manning put together last year might have been the most incredible for a quarterback in the history of the league. Nobody really talks about it, but it was truly staggering. He had a rookie head coach. This guy's last head job was in the ACC at Wake Forest, where he was 23-63. He had a run game in the bottom five in the league in both yards per game and yards per carry. He had to break in new receivers across the board aside from his top guy, none experienced or highly regarded before the year. He had a defense ranked in the lower half of the league.
He went 16-1, only lost to the champion Saints in a close game, and handed the lead over to his second team in another game. That is staggering. Incredibly, I saw Boston mainstream media members focus on one throw as an indictment of Manning, Tracy Porter's Super Bowl interception. They said this proved Brady was better since Manning failed in a big spot. It conveniently ignored Brady's 3 interception clunker when his team went out in the first round to Baltimore. It also missed the bigger picture. That was a superhuman season without a Super Bowl win. It was a Michael Jordan type performance in a sport that doesn't lend itself to domination by a single player. You usually need a team.
Such criticism was misguided in other ways. Manning doesn't need to justify himself in big spots. You cannot criticize him. Maybe there was a time you could, but those days ended four years ago when he overcame an 18 point deficit against Brady in the AFC Championship Game and won the Super Bowl two weeks later with an MVP performance.
Then let's talk about the way he willed the Colts to 12 wins in 2008 after knee surgery. The Pats won 11 without Brady that year. There was also him coming within 10 yards of winning the passing title this year with a depleted receiving corps for a chunk of the season. I could go on.
It isn't disrespectful to Brady, a guy who should be a unanimous Hall of Famer on the first ballot, to suggest Manning is on a different level. I think he is.