Rex Ryan Article "The Mad Scientist"
Posted 16 January 2009 - 09:50 AM
The Ravens' defensive coordinator was late for his meeting with the Jets contingent, which included owner Woody Johnson. It wasn't Ryan's fault - he got held up in an earlier interview with Rams officials - but he still didn't want to taint their first impression of him.
"I was going crazy," Ryan told the Daily News Thursday at the Ravens' headquarters, where he was preparing for the AFC Championship Game Sunday against the Steelers. "I was like, 'I can't believe I'm going to have to show up late.' I remember calling my wife as I'm going, panicking, like, 'Golly, the owner's here. Woody Johnson is here. There's no way he's going to still be there when I get to the interview.'"
Johnson waited. And now the entire organization appears willing to wait for him.
From all indications, the Jets are mad about the Mad Scientist, the odds-on favorite for their head-coaching job. If the Ravens' improbable playoff run ends in Pittsburgh, Ryan could be named next week as Eric Mangini's replacement. By rule, the Jets can't make an offer until the Ravens' season is over.
"It was great," Ryan said of his five-hour sitdown with the Jets, which took place in an airport conference room.
If Ryan lands the job, it will be the culmination of a lifelong dream. The son of coaching legend Buddy Ryan, a defensive mastermind who popularized the intimidating, pressure-based "46 Defense," Rex grew up in football. He served as a ball boy with the Vikings and Bears (two of his dad's former teams), doodled plays in his notebook during high school English classes and leaped into the coaching profession as soon he graduated from college.
"It's like any father-son deal; I inherited my father's business," said Ryan, whose twin brother, Rob, is the Browns' newly hired defensive coordinator under Mangini. "That gave me a leg up on most people. I'm 46 years old, and I've been coaching football or learning about football almost all of my life."
Ryan, in the words of former Ravens coach Brian Billick, is "just a ball coach." In other words, he isn't one of those slicked-back, smooth talkers from the corporate coaching factory.
Much like his father, Ryan isn't shy about speaking his mind. When a reporter mentioned how the Ravens struggled last week against the Titans' Chris Johnson, who rushed for 72 yards in the first half before leaving with a sprained ankle, Ryan fired back.
"I read all the experts say we would've given up 150 yards, but, remember, he never finished the game for some reason," he said, smiling. "Whatever that reason is, they can cry all they want. Who cares? We're here. We're still playing, and they can watch us."
The always-guarded Mangini never displayed that kind of bravado. The Ravens love that about Ryan, who is so respected among the players that he earned a spot on the defense's new T-shirts. They are charcoal-gray with "Organized Chaos" emblazoned across the front - a reference to Ryan's unpredictable but often lethal game plans. On the back, there's a list of every player's nickname. The last nickname on the list: The Mad Scientist.
"Every week in our meeting, it's like, 'Who are we going to be this week, Mad Scientist?'" said former Giants cornerback Frank Walker, reaching into his locker and unfurling one of the new T-shirts. "It's like he creates us."
In four seasons under Ryan, the Ravens' unit has finished no lower than sixth in total defense. He has been blessed with exceptional performers - 11 Pro Bowl selections since 2005 - but the players credit his football acumen and passion for the game as big reasons for the sustained success.
Billick recognized that passion some 13 years ago at a football clinic in Toronto, where Ryan addressed about 10 coaches. Billick, who had seen Ryan speak to large groups, was amazed he was able to radiate the same enthusiasm to a tiny group.
"Whether it was two coaches or 2,000, his energy, knowledge and enthusiasm for the game were evident," Billick said in a phone interview. Billick never forgot that day. A few years later, in 1999, he hired Ryan to be his defensive line coach.
Ryan wasn't forced into coaching. In fact, his father wanted him and Rob to pursue careers in the food-service industry. Finally, Buddy relented. A few days before the twins graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State, Buddy bought an easel, rented a hotel room near their campus and gave them a two-day, crash course on the "46" defense. It was like hearing Einstein explain the Theory of Relativity.
"I knew Rex always wanted to coach," Buddy said in a phone interview. "He loved the game, even when he was a ball boy. Most of the ball boys were out there playing (around), but Rex was all business. He was watching great coaches coach."
Now the Ravens realize Ryan could be moving on. "He's definitely tradition-oriented and can step in anywhere right now and lead a franchise," safety Ed Reed said.
They're happy for him. But they'll miss the madness
Posted 16 January 2009 - 12:03 PM
"It's like going from Alcatraz to Dorney Park."
It is better to destroy than create what is meaningless, so the picture will not be finished.
Posted 16 January 2009 - 02:29 PM
I love this guy!
Now I realize he has good talent on that team, no question about it but I hear this kind of thing all the time about Rex. Yes their personnel is good but Rex is a beast!