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Rex Ryan Last Stand

Rex s Last Stand


Rex Ryan’s incredible run as the Jets’ leading man ended in spectacular, Chernobyl-level disaster. But does anyone doubt he’ll be back — bigger than ever?

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I remember fondly how close he came to the Super Bowl.

After that game, Ryan famously sighed, “We’re obviously out of the playoffs, and that’s unfortunate.” A stunned press room suppressed a gasp: The Jets actually weren’t eliminated at all. Ryan quickly reverted to Sergeant Slaughter mode, boasting and bragging about an upcoming matchup with the juggernaut Indianapolis Colts, who at 14-0 were chasing an undefeated season. At a news conference, he opened with a list of players on the injury report. “Manning, Clark, Addai, Reggie Wayne, Freeney, Mathis, Brackett — all those guys will not play.” Then he paused. “Oh, hold up. That was my wish list for Santa Claus.”

Caldwell curiously complied with Ryan’s joke and sat his stars in the third quarter, not just killing a chance at history but handing the game — and a playoff berth — to Ryan and the Jets.

Afterward, instead of acknowledging the gift handed to him by those Football Gods, Ryan took a characteristic power steamer on Monday-morning decorum and refused to apologize for the Jets’ sort-of win over the powerhouse Colts.

‘‘For half the year, people played against our backup nose tackle,” he deadpanned, preposterously, referring to an early-season injury to star Kris Jenkins. “I don’t think anybody’s made note of that. I know this is Peyton Manning or whatever, but he did play three and a half quarters.”

(This disingenuous little speech wasn’t Ryan’s proudest moment, but it had one brilliant side benefit. It sent New York radio legend Mike Francesa, one of Jets Nation’s most loathed enemies, into a seizure-like rage fit from which he has never recovered. It’s impossible, listening now, not to laugh at how unbelievably mad this stuff made Francesa — real human fury! “Dat’s outrajuss!” screamed Francesa, in his trademark consonant-massacring Long Islandese. “You begged dem to take the-yah playaz out last week! You sed you wanded it for Chrismuss!”)

But a few weeks later, those “same old Jets” had first beaten the Bengals and then upended the heavily favored Chargers in the playoffs, leading to an actual AFC title showdown with those powerhouse Manning-led Colts. To this day, that run remains Pace’s favorite memory of Rex. “After that Chargers game,” he says, “nobody thought we had a chance. And there we were.”

Nobody could believe it when Rex’s Jets were surprisingly whipping Manning 17-6 at halftime of the AFC Championship Game. But they faded down the stretch, thanks in large part to the atrocious play of his rookie quarterback, Sanchez. (Along with shocker-underdog wins and absurd act-of-God losses, the quarterback-ghoulishly-crapping-himself game would become a staple of the Rex era.) And while the season may not have ended in a title, Rex entered 2010 as the biggest thing in sports. His public shtick was a roaring success, and since part of his act was that he was sometimes a crass, unfunny boor, even his worst material worked. It was comedy nirvana. A nation obsessed with dieting loved him for his 7,000-calorie-a-day intake. They loved him even more when “a source” told the New York Post that “I have never heard him order a Cobb salad.” (There was a lot of this sort of investigative reporting in the New York tabloids during the Rex era.)

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