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Welcome to Rex Ryan Week

Facing his brother is only one challenge for Jets head coach

By Josh Alper
|  Tuesday, Nov 9, 2010  |  Updated 5:30 PM EDT
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Within the rather homogeneous fraternity of professional football coaches, it is hard to imagine making a bigger u-turn than firing Eric Mangini and hiring Rex Ryan.

One man is a paranoid mumbler who seems to view having fun as being toxic to a football team and the other is Rex Ryan. Surely we don't have to spell out just what it is about Rex that makes him a breath of wonderfully fresh air after three years with the Mangenius.

Of course, personality doesn't matter all that much if you don't win. Ryan has already won three more playoff games than Mangini, but he's in a pretty similar place that Mangini was at 8-3 during the 2008 season. The bar is extraordinarily high from here on out and anything less than a repeat of the 6-2 first half is going to be seen as a disappointment. Mangini spit the bit when faced with heightened expectations, which is precisely the reason he's coaching the Browns team that the Jets will play this weekend. 

Will Ryan suffer the same fate? He's got a better team at his disposal than the one Mangini was coaching and he won't have to deal with Brett Favre hijacking his offense, but the last few weeks have sent some mixed signals about the job Rex is doing. 

The Jets have looked woefully undermotivated, unprepared and undisciplined in most of their last four games. Of those 16 quarters, you could argue that the opposition has been in control for all but five of them and that's a formula for disaster no matter how much magic the Jets have come up with in the fourth quarter of games this year. It's not just the players, either. Ryan's clock management against the Vikings was enough to make a man long for Herman Edwards and he's been even worse when it comes to handling challenges and timeouts.

We've learned enough over the first 27 games of Ryan's career to know that he's a good coach. His ability to clean up what's ailing the Jets right now is going to show us if he's more than that, which would make him more than the brief flickering star that Mangini was when he was co-starring on "The Sopranos" and getting called the next Belichick.

The fact that the first game of that quest is against Mangini is fitting, obviously, but it is even more fitting that it comes against his brother Rob. The twins were the subject of an entertaining profile in the Times -- their college fight is something that cameras really should have captured -- and you can bet that the Cleveland defense will be playing for their defensive coordinator's honor and familial bragging rights this weekend. The family angle goes beyond Rob, however.

If Rex can win this weekend and can take the Jets places they haven't been since Namath, it would go a long way toward changing his entire family's legacy in the NFL. Buddy Ryan was seen as a master schemer and motivator who could never run a team well enough to win at the highest level. Rex has the same label right now but he's got a golden opportunity to improve on it, even if it means starting by making his brother look bad.

That's why this week, the entire second half really, is all about Rex.

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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