In the hit Internet video of Bart Scott's angry rant after last week's win over New England, the New York Jets linebacker concludes by yelling "CAN'T WAIT!" referring to tonight's AFC Championship Game against the Steelers at Heinz Field.
Naturally, Rex Ryan couldn't resist. Addressing the media a few days later, the second-year Jets coach approached the podium wearing a serious expression, looked out and said, "All right, guys. I know, first off, that everybody CAN'T WAIT! for the injury report." The place cracked up.
Another head coach might have had a problem with Scott's outburst. Perhaps a stern talking-to or disciplinary action would have followed. Patriots coach Bill Belichick briefly benched his star receiver, Wes Welker, for slyly poking fun at Ryan in front of the cameras. What would have happened to Scott? The rack?
But Ryan and the Jets have embraced the speech, adapting "CAN'T WAIT!" as a catch phrase. Ryan loves Scott, luring him from the Baltimore Ravens last year. But mainly, it's Rex being Rex.
Where other coaches often seem publicly guarded and tightly wound, if not downright paranoid, the hulking, 48-year-old Ryan is playful, passionate, animated, brash, outspoken, profane and thoroughly entertaining. He is the polar opposite of, say, Tom Coughlin, the icy head coach of the New York Giants with whom the Jets compete for local attention, if not affection.
Last week Giants safety Antrel Rolle said he believes the reason the Jets are still playing (and his team is not) is that Ryan's style promotes greater team chemistry. In his first two years, the Jets have twice reached the AFC title game.
Ryan's counterpart today, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, seems to provide a marked contrast in style and appearance. Ryan fights a constant caloric battle and often pokes fun at his girth. Tomlin, 10 years younger, is fit and trim, bearing more than a slight resemblance to actor Omar Epps, who once made People magazine's "Sexiest Men Alive" list. If anyone would play Ryan on screen, the pre-diet John Goodman comes to mind.