x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Buddy Ryan’s sons too loud and successful to be ignored by NFL foes

Brothers Rex and Rob Ryan have coaching acumen and self-confidence in equal and abundant measure.

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, left, and his brother Rob Ryan, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator, are following closely in their father's footsteps as successful and outspoken NFL coaches. David Goldman / AP Photo
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, left, and his brother Rob Ryan, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator, are following closely in their father's footsteps as successful and outspoken NFL coaches. David Goldman / AP Photo

Buddy Ryan achieved fame for co-ordinating Chicago Bears’ incomparable, trend-setting defence in the 1980s.

He also achieved notoriety for an overconfident attitude illustrated by his feud with equally crusty Bears head coach Mike Ditka that related to who was more responsible for the team’s success.

The apple, they say, does not fall far from the tree. With the Ryan family tree, two apples landed right up against the trunk.

Rex and Rob, Buddy’s twin sons, are the princes of brash. Rex, New York Jets coach, once told Newsday, “When it’s all said and done, they’ll look back and say, ‘Oh, man, this dude can coach his butt off’.

“And you know what? It’s true.”

When Rob was fired as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator after last season, he told ESPN, “I inherited a team that was 31st in the league in defence and made them better ... I’ll be out of work for, like, five minutes.”

Lately, the Ryan brothers have reined in their arrogance, even though each has reason to crow.

Rex’s Jets are off to a 3-2 start after some prognosticators pegged them as a three-win team this year.

This is no small feat with a rookie quarterback, Geno Smith, and a defence that is minus lockdown cornerback Darrelle Revis, who was traded in the off-season.

Rex still plays the “disrespect” card with the media so much that it is bent and smudged.

“You can try to discredit us all you want. That’s fine,” he said last week.

New York’s Ryan takes the perceived slights into the locker room and exaggerates them to motivate his team.

While Rex is polarising among Jets fans, Rob remains in the honeymoon phase with New Orleans Saints. He could get elected grand marshal of the Mardi Gras parade.

The Saints, whose impossibly loyal fans covered their eyes while watching the NFL’s sorriest defence in history last season, have distanced themselves from 2012. In five games, all wins, they are granting an average of 14.6 points, about half of last year’s yield.

This, despite a wave of early injuries that forced Rob to mostly abandon his preferred 3-4 alignment, resorting instead to a system with five defensive backs.

While Rob’s record with teams over his career is modest, he is well-regarded for units that present a variety of looks that keep offences guessing.

“He’s got a passion for the game,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said. “He’s a great staff member, very loyal and hard-working.”

On the sidelines, the excitable Rob burns almost as many calories as his players. His popularity is reflected by a Facebook page and Twitter account – devoted to his silver mane. Both are named Rob Ryan’s Hair.

If both teams remain on course, Rex would contend for NFL Coach of the Year and Rob for the award as top assistant coach.

It might even be enough to make their cantankerous old dad smile.

sports@thenational.ae