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The NFL Vs. Rex Ryan: Year Two

Ryan remains endlessly fascinating in a league devoid of big personalities

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    If there's actually anyone in these parts who hasn't developed a strong opinion about Rex Ryan yet, they'll get their chance this weekend when the Jets coach is profiled in the New York Times Sunday magazine.

    It's more high-minded than your normal football profile, certainly more than what's needed for a man whose life philosophy boils down to telling you he's going to punch you in the face, punching you in the face and then repeating until he goes and gets a goddamn snack. Still, it's worth a read if only to hear the story of Rex picking up a Playboy bunny at a roller rink many moons ago.  

    Despite the fact that there doesn't appear to be anything left to say about a man who has dominated headlines since the second he arrived in New York, it won't be the last you'll hear about Ryan this season. Every week will feature opposing players spouting off in the run-up to the game and it will be trumpeted across TV, papers and the web each and every time. Ray Lewis took the honors this week. The dancing Raven is an amusing choice to speak on the propriety of preening before games, but that just goes to show you how easy a target Ryan has become over the last two years.

    The NFL rulebook says that the Jets are supposed to be humble about the way their season ended last year because they caught a break to make the playoffs. It says that teams like the Jets are supposed to wait their turn out of the spotlight until there's a reason for the spotlight to find them.

    Ryan has rejected those rules and rejected the overwhelming homogenity of the NFL in favor of his own route. That he chose to reject them so flamboyantly as the star of his own television show has made him equal parts hero and pariah and it puts him front and center as the Jets get ready to start the season. 

    Everything that happens this season will be placed through the prism of Rex and every result will be seen as a referendum on his style. If the Jets lose, he'll be mocked in every corner of the football world. If they miss the playoffs, he'll be held up as the poster child for what not to do and many around the league will be thrilled that one last bolt of personality has been stamped out before it was able to remind people that it is okay to have fun while playing football. 

    If the Jets win, though, and if they win big, it will be about as fun as anything that's ever happened in sports. Ryan won't ever be beloved, but he'll be given begrudging credit for infusing his team with confidence and bravado that led them to the mountaintop. Better yet, the copycat heavy NFL will suddenly find themselves looking for more coaches willing to speak their mind and moving away from the Bill Belichick-inspired group that views football as something more solemn than war and strife. 

    That's a lot to put on one guy, but it wasn't our choice. Ryan has happily stepped up to put himself on the spot. He'll be there for the next 17 weeks, at least, and the one sure thing is that you'll never forget it for a second.  

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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