Ryan, Belichick and the Fine Art of Leadership

The Patriots-Jets feud has been heatin gup over the last week.  But what’s interesting to me isn’t the comments that are coming out of both sides but the nature of those comments.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan led off early in the week by saying this (via FOX Sports):

“‘This is about Bill Belichick vs. Rex Ryan,’ the Jets’ brash coach declared Monday. ‘There’s no question. It’s personal. It’s about him against myself, and that’s what it’s going to come down to.'”

Belichick‘s response (via ESPN):

“We’re gonna do our best to win on Sunday.  They’re a good football team across the board: good on offense, defense and special teams. They beat the Colts in Indianapolis. We all know how tough that is. Everything concerns me [with them]. They’re good across the board.”

So what?  Typical Ryan.  Typical Belichick.  But let’s take a look at what happened yesterday in relation to the players feelings about the game and each other.  As was the case early in the week, the Jets threw the first salvo.  Antonio Cromartie said this when ased if he had ever seen Patriots quarterback Tom Brady pointing after a Patriots score late in their blow out win over the Jets earlier in the season (via Gary Myers at The New York Daily News):

“‘We see that a lot. He does it a lot,” Cromartie said. “That’s the kind of guy he is. We really don’t give a damn, to tell you the truth.’

“Okay, what kind of guy is Brady?

“‘An ass—-.

“‘—- him.'”

Brady’s response (via ESPN):

“I’ve been called worse. I’m sure there is a long list of people that feel that way.”

“But he’s a good player. [Darrelle] Revis is a great player. They have a great secondary. They’re one of the best defenses we’ve faced. We spend a lot of time preparing for them, and what they’re capable of doing over there. To shut down the Colts’ offense like they did is pretty impressive, because we know how good that offense is. We’re going to be ready to play.”

Or perhaps more humorously according to Ian Rappaport:

“Belichick has called me that. My offensive coordinator has called me that. They like me, so maybe he likes me.”

So what’s my point?  When you assess the comments by both players you come to the same conclusion as I did above.  Typical Rex Ryan.  Typical Bill Belichick.

Its a source of constant amazement to me how true it is that those who follow take on the personality of those who lead.  Individual players and, indeed, entire teams are affected and can be characterized generally by the way their head coach acts and reacts.  On some level every good coach knows it and when you see the way they react publicly you can consider it to be a sign of how they expect their players to react.

The Patriots-Jets contest isn’t just a game of talent of even a game of wills.  It also a philosophical conflict in terms of leadership.  Just one more aspect of the game that makes the NFL so interesting.

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