Having made his box office debut this summer with a cameo appearance in an Adam Sandler movie, Jets head coach Rex Ryan could well be eyeing more opportunities on the silver screen after Bart Scott compared him to Dustin Hoffman’s character Raymond Babbitt in the movie “Rain Man.”
In the movie, Babbitt suffers from autism, but has an extraordinary ability for analysis and recall.
“It’s Rex’s defense. No one can teach his defense better than he can. He’s the defensive version of ‘Rain Man.’ He sees things that other people don’t see,” Scott said. “I’m sure everyone chuckled when he said he was the best defensive coach in the league, but I dare you to look over the last 10 years and find a better defensive coach.”
The Jets were the fifth-best total defense in the league last year, but didn’t always seem to play that way. Pivotal breakdowns, especially towards the end of the season, marred a unit that statistically was ranked among the best in the league but struck fear in no one.
Ryan has been more hands on with the defense this year, including returning to his practice from season’s past of attending the unit’s meetings and promising to be more active in schemes and play calling. There’s also a bit of bravado, some of that Ryan swagger that comes with his involvement with the defense.
“I look at myself as the best defensive coach in football,” Ryan said this past Friday. “But that’s the way I’ve always believed. And you know what? I believe it because the guys I coach with, there’s no doubt about that and the guys I’ve coached. But that’s the truth. That’s kind of how I feel.”
The offseason marked a return to what the Jets hope will be groundwork for a defense as good as the 2009 season when, in Ryan’s first year as head coach of the team, the defense was tops in the league. Getting leaner and faster was a priority, with the defense being told to shed pounds and report to camp under last year’s playing weight. The goal to get lighter was an effort to improve the unit’s speed.
Last year’s lackluster play of the defense over the season’s last few weeks coupled with internal dissension is a thing of the past, Scott said.
“I flushed that turd that was last season and started over. Every time you come into a new season it’s like the start of a new school year — you have the opportunity to answer a few questions and that’s what I’m working on. [Our defense] can be as good as it wants to be. We have to come out here and put the work in,” Scott said. “We have to master the defense. We’re to the point now that we’ve been in this system for four years. Now is the time to take it from an X’s and O’s level to the master level. Where you’re asking graduate level questions, you’re trying graduate level things. We have to understand and learn where everybody is going to be and what everybody is going to do.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for live updates from training camp in Cortland.