There won’t any one-liners this time from Rex Ryan as the gregarious and affable Jets head coach gets ready to face his twin brother Rob, the Cowboys defensive coordinator, on Sunday night.
Last year, the two brothers squared off in an overtime win by the Jets in Cleveland, but the real battle began in the days leading up to the game. During his midweek press conference last fall, Rex Ryan entered and took the podium with a pillow under his shirt and a blonde wig on, clearly poking fun at his brother’s portly shape and long locks. This year, given the fact that the game takes place on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and will be played just minutes from Ground Zero, the brothers have ratcheted down the talk.
“He knows that it’s 9/11. He can poke fun and obviously last year that was good for him and I love him, but that’s just the way he is,” Rob Ryan said on Monday. “But if he does I’d be surprised.”
For his part, Rex Ryan sidestepped any chances to further up the banter and trash talk between the two, choosing to remember that he too watched the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on television. Both brothers recall being worried about a cousin, Matthew Russo, who was a firefighter in New York. Russo was not called to the site of the attack that day and has since retired.
But the Jets head coach feels the pressure of the game resonating as he realizes that his team represents a city still very much coming to terms with the senseless act of terrorism that perfectly crisp and peaceful Tuesday morning. Last week, the Jets visited Ground Zero to pay their respects to the victims of the World Trade Center attacks.
“I feel it. It’s different,” Rex Ryan said. “The significance of it, it’s stronger. I don’t know.”
Adding further emotion to the season opener for both teams is that Buddy Ryan, their father, will be in attendance on Sunday night. Buddy Ryan is currently battling cancer and is scheduled to have surgery Sept. 16.
“Anytime you got cancer again, it’s a huge concern,” Rex Ryan said.
But to understand the dynamic of the two, there is only one person to turn to in the Jets locker room — safety Brodney Pool. In 2009, Pool played for Rob Ryan in Cleveland before joining the Jets the next year for Rex Ryan’s second year as head coach of the team. He has interacted with both Ryans and understands the dynamic that makes them among the brightest minds in the NFL.
And the quirkiest.
“They’re both similar, both a lot alike. The same sense of humor and type of jokes,” Pool told Metro. “Both of them use the ‘F Bomb’ a lot too.”
Pool remembers that prior to meetings with his defense in Cleveland, Rob Ryan would play YouTube videos to lighten the mood. It was “just usually something crazy or stupid, something to laugh at,” but Pool sees similar personality traits in his current head coach that he observed while in Cleveland, watching Rob Ryan.
“If you just gave Rex grey hair, pretty much they’d be exactly alike,” Pool said.
There is an identity and a common bond forged between the two. Football, their common love, gives the Ryan brothers a universal language and a common reason to bring it extra hard this Sunday.
“You can’t be any closer than what we are. We’re a pretty tight family. Dad’s got another bout with cancer that just came up. He’s constantly fighting that and that just happened last week,” Rob Ryan said. “This game is important to him and he’s going to get operated on after the game. He wants to see these two rams bat heads and we’re going to get after it.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for news all season long.