Rex Ryan was more than unhappy when he didn’t become coach of the Baltimore Ravens three years ago.
The brash and outspoken coach has instead found plenty of success with the New York Jets, with whom he makes his return to Baltimore on Sunday night.
Most sports books monitored by the SportsOptions odds product have installed the Ravens as 3 1/2-point home favorites, with the total set at 42 1/2.
Ryan spent 10 years with the Ravens (2-1) as a defensive coach, rising to coordinator and assistant head coach while building perhaps the NFL’s most ferocious defense. Despite that resume, he was passed over for the head job following Brian Billick’s dismissal in 2008.
He was hired by the Jets (2-1) a year later.
“Was I bitter about not getting the head coaching job? Yeah, absolutely,” Ryan said. “But when it was determined that John Harbaugh was going to be the head coach, then I wanted to be the best coach that he’s ever had under him; be the best coach that I can be. Not worry about the job I didn’t have.
“I’m 100 percent committed to (the Jets). As much as I appreciate my years in Baltimore, one of the reasons I got this job – a big reason – is the way those guys played.”
Ryan got a first-hand look at what it’s like to go up against those players in last year’s Sept. 13 opener at the Meadowlands. The Jets lost 10-9 to the Ravens while being held to 176 yards of offense and 60 passing, their lowest totals in 35 games under Ryan.
The Jets, however, have reached the AFC title game the last two years – something Ryan is more than happy to point out to his former employers.
“Now, we haven’t won the AFC championship game, but we’ve got there two years in a row,” Ryan told Baltimore’s official website. “The Ravens haven’t. So you can throw that one right back at them as well.”
Not surprisingly, linebacker Ray Lewis didn’t let those comments go by.
“The only response I could ever have for that is he was sitting in the same place I was sitting watching the Super Bowl,” he said. “He had to be, because he wasn’t in it. I don’t care how far you go. The ultimate goal is to feel that confetti drop.”
New York’s defense is known for feeding off Ryan’s swagger, but the unit has been an area of concern. The Jets are ranked 31st against the run and were shredded for 234 yards and four touchdowns on the ground in a 34-24 loss to Oakland last week.
New York is allowing 136.7 rushing yards per game and has given up a league-high five touchdowns via the run.
“Quite honestly there’s only one other time I can remember a game like that happening to me, and I’ve coached, what, 15 years in the NFL? So it doesn’t sit too well with me or anybody in this organization and the good news is we get to play Sunday,” Ryan said. “The bad news is that we have to play against a team that is rolling right now. You have Baltimore and then New England right after that.”
Darren McFadden did most of the damage on the ground against the Jets last week, and now they’ll be tasked with slowing down Ray Rice, who has run for 231 yards while averaging 5.6 per carry. He also has 14 catches for 178 yards.
The Ravens aren’t known as a high-scoring team, but they are coming off the best offensive game in team history. They accumulated a franchise-record 553 yards while Joe Flacco threw for a personal-best 389 and three TDs in a 37-7 victory at St. Louis.
“If you’ve got aspirations to win a championship, you’ve got to be able to attack people in every kind of different way,” Harbaugh said. “But that’s not to say we we’re not going to run the ball. We pride ourselves in that, too.”
Rookie receiver Torrey Smith may be in the lineup again in place of the injured Lee Evans. He finished with 152 yards on five catches while hauling in TD receptions of 74, 41 and 18 yards in the opening quarter against the Rams.
Mark Sanchez is expected to start for the Jets despite suffering a broken nose last week. He went 27 for 44 for 369 yards with two touchdowns and one interception against the Raiders.
He may not be taking snaps from Nick Mangold for a second straight week, as the center is hampered by an ankle sprain that forced rookie Colin Baxter into action.
Derrick Mason is also returning to Baltimore for the first time. He was released in the summer following six seasons with the Ravens, during which he topped 1,000 yards receiving four times while totaling 29 TDs.
Mason has 10 catches for 71 yards with New York.