Dan Shaughnessy
Monday January 17th, 2011

Now who's the buffoon?

I'm a New Englander and folks in my region have been having a lot of fun at the expense of bombastic Jets coach Rex Ryan.

You know the drill. Rex looks hideous in those sweater vests. He's a blowhard. He talked about eating a goddam snack. He says his sorry team is Super Bowl bound. He wears a wig to a press conference. He's got a thing for his wife's feet.

On and on it goes. We had a big belly laugh a week ago when Rex stood before the world and said that the Jets' second-round playoff game at New England was really all about Rex vs. Bill Belichick. He said Belichick was the better coach, but that the playoff game would be decided based on who was the better coach Sunday.

And you know what? The Jets bounced the Super Bowl favorite Patriots from the playoffs Sunday and Rex outcoached the almighty Hoodie.

It's one of the great upsets in NFL playoff history. It came less than six weeks after the Patriots beat the Jets 45-3 on Monday Night Football.

Think about that for a moment. You lose 45-3 then come back and beat that same team in that same stadium in a playoff game. No team in NFL history has won a playoff game after losing to the same foe by 42 points.

Here are more facts: Since Ryan took over the Jets, he has four playoff wins to Belichick's zero. He's made it to two AFC Championship Games. He's matched wits with Belichick five times and beaten him three times.

Belichick and Ryan engaged in a man hug after Sunday's upset. Neither would reveal what was said, but we're pretty sure that Belichick has a healthy respect for what Ryan has accomplished. Belichick loves football history. He has great respect for Rex's dad, Buddy Ryan. Rex' brother, Rob, was once part of the Patriots Super Bowl-winning staff. Now Rex is the man who derailed Belichick's 14-2 team.

Rex was humble after this one.

"I was dead wrong,'' Ryan said at the start of his postgame press session. "I thought it would come down to me and Belichick and thank goodness it never did because he won that battle like he always does.''

Not true. Belichick is the one who panicked and tried a fake punt on fourth down from his own 38 near the end of the first half. The play backfired and the Jets wound up with a 14-3 lead instead of a 7-3 advantage at intermission.

In the fourth quarter, with the Jets leading by 10, Belichick is the one who stayed on the ground and let his team chew up almost eight minutes of clock without scoring a point. The poor clock management wound up killing the Patriots.

Rex killed the Patriots, too. He killed them by smothering Brady (five sacks) and the New England passing game. The Pats had won eight straight games, by an average margin of 21.8 points, but Rex's defense exposed New England.

"We came here for a reason,'' said Ryan. "We thought we were the better team. Now clearly, that Monday night game, we weren't. They were clearly head and shoulders better than we were, but I knew if we applied ourselves and we played the way we were capable of, then we would beat them. And that's exactly what happened.

'' ... We thought we had a good plan, but the plans are useless without great play from our players and our guys bought in and they did a great job. It was a total effort there on defense, from the pass runs to the second level, and obviously to the deep guys. Just a great effort. We knew we had a good plan. Again, I tip my hat to the players and the assistant coaches.''

One can make the case that this was the Jets' greatest win since Joe Willie Namath guaranteed victory in Super Bowl III in Miami in 1969. It's certainly a game that makes the Jets-Patriots rivalry as good as any in the NFL today.

The Jets haven't enjoyed any sustained success in the last four decades, but now they are in the AFC Championship Game for the second straight season. They have won four road playoff games in two seasons -- winning games at Cincinnati, San Diego, Indianapolis and New England.

"We are moving on, same old Jets going to the AFC Championship Game two years in a row,'' said Ryan. "Only difference is, we plan on winning this one.''

Winning at Pittsburgh will not be easy, but the Jets have proven they can win on the road in the playoffs. And Rex is proving that there is more than one way to operate when you are a head coach in the NFL.

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