Give Rex Ryan credit. He found a way to make the NFL combine interesting.
Standing before the media Thursday, the Jets head coach announced, "I guarantee we’ll win it this year.”
Naturally. It would be more of a story if Ryan showed up in an Eric Mangini costume and spoke in stone-faced generalities about "getting better" and "preparing for next year."
But this is Rex. The process is as much about propaganda as Xs and Os. The thing is, it's the same message he's delivered in some form or another for almost a year now.
We heard it during "Hard Knocks" (among other things), at various points during last season. And when the Jets fell short against the Steelers in the AFC Championship game in January, Rex formally announced during the post-game press conference that they would win it all next season.
It's almost as if Ryan is running for office and everything leading up to a Super Bowl is the campaign trail. If he repeats the message enough times to enough people, they will eventually buy in. The campaign is in Year 3 and presumably behind schedule. But the coach doesn't sound worried.
"I don't care what people think," Ryan said. "I care what our organization believes and what our fans believe. We've gotten better. I know we got to the same place last year. It might not appear that we got better. But I thought we got a lot better last year. I think if we can improve a little bit more, why not us?"
First up: the owners and the players union need a new labor deal, otherwise the 2011 season could be in jeopardy.
Second: the Jets have plenty of personnel issues to resolve in the coming months, chief among them: re-signing Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Antonio Cromartie.
Third: Ryan defenses are about pressuring the quarterback. The 2010 Jets struggled to do that and it started with the defensive line. DE/OLB Vernon Gholston, the team's 2008 sixth-overall pick, is likely done in New York, DE Trevor Pryce could retire, and OLB Calvin Pace was inconsistent late in the season. Using Ryan's logic, those are areas in need of improvement.
Still, he's undeterred.
"Why wouldn't I be positive?" Ryan said. "I'm always going to say the same thing. I believe we can be champs. Why wouldn't I believe it? Somebody tell me why I shouldn't believe that we deserve to be a champion?"