Jump to content

Jets-Browns Is Next Battleground for Ryan vs. Ryan


Recommended Posts

The Ryan brothers remember only highlights from their infamous fight at Southwestern Oklahoma State. It started in a dormitory and spilled outside, where two friends broke their noses while attempting to restore peace.




By brawl’s end, Rex Ryan’s shirt had been torn off. His twin, Rob, had a broken nose and ankle. Yet, almost instantly, all was forgiven. Soon afterward, the Ryans were off to the Super Bowl to be with their father, Buddy, the defensive coordinator for the 1985 Chicago Bears.


There, the Ryans partied in New Orleans, walking almost everywhere to save on cab fare. Rob complained of foot pain — oh, shut up, his brothers told him — and later discovered the bottom of his cast had disappeared.


“They tried to tell our stepmother that Rob fell down a flight of stairs,” said Jim Ryan, their older brother, a lawyer in St. Louis. “My dad was sitting there with a look on his face, like, yeah, right.”


The Ryan rivalry will continue Sunday, when Rex Ryan’s Jets travel to Cleveland, where Rob Ryan is the Browns’ defensive coordinator. This being the Ryan brothers, the level of trash talking has only increased in recent weeks.


Rob Ryan, speaking from the Browns’ facility near Cleveland, pointed to his early victories as a college assistant (Tennessee State over Morehead State) and noted that he owned more Super Bowl rings than Rex (two to one). Rex Ryan said in a telephone interview that he triumphed the last three times they stood on opposing sidelines and that he had never lost to Rob in the N.F.L.


The trash talking even extended to whiffle ball, a Ryan family pastime.


Rob: “I absolutely kill him. His bat’s tardy.”


Rex: “He’s delusional. I buckle him with the knuckle curve. He’s never been the same since I hit him in the head with a golf ball when we were 10.”


Growing up in Toronto, the Ryan brothers played backyard football, with Jim, older by six years, pitted against the twins. Their games had one rule: if you did not dispense cheap shots, you were penalized. In one contest, Rex or Rob, Jim cannot remember which, slid down a snowbank into a moving vehicle. In another, Rob celebrated before he reached the goal line, then turned smack into a tree.


After hundreds of such games, the twins reached high school, and the days of Ryan versus Ryan and Ryan ended. In their final meeting, Jim said, “Rex dropped me and Rob kept laughing at me while stepping on my face.”


The Ryans played all sports with similar abandon, much like the defenses they coach, which are physical and tough. They played hockey (Rex as goalie, Rob on defense), basketball (camped underneath the basket and fouling on every play) and football, at least when they were allowed. They were booted from their youth football league in Canada for tackling too hard.


Over the years, Jim Ryan said, Rob proved the more talented trash talker and the more accident prone of the twins, the kind of child who once fell from a tree and broke his arm. Rex was the more politically savvy of the two, and, Jim confirmed, the whiffle ball king. Rob, Jim continued, is more like their father and more like a pirate because of his long hair.


Both brothers speak in expletives as much as in English. Both have mountainous midsections. Both are considered brilliant defensive strategists, a notion sometimes overshadowed by their bluster and brutal honesty. Even their sentences sound the same.


Rob, with an expletive removed: “When Rex won the Super Bowl, I was jacked. I was talking so much mess. It was awesome.”


Rex, with an expletive removed: “When Rob won the Super Bowl, I was surrounded by St. Louis fans, talking mess the whole game. When Brady led them down the field, it was awesome.”


Buddy Ryan pushed his sons into anything but coaching. But it was clear, even in college, that the twins would follow him into the family business.


Even then they started at the bottom. Rex coached at Eastern Kentucky, New Mexico Highlands and Morehead State. Rob coached at Western Kentucky, Tennessee State and Hutchinson Community College. Sometimes, while at different programs, they helped each other in recruiting, sharing information and tips.


Eventually, Jim persuaded Buddy to hire the twins in Arizona in 1994. But when the Cardinals tanked the next season, Buddy’s worst fears — accusations of N.F.L. nepotism — were realized.


The Jets assistant Jeff Weeks attended college with the Ryans, whom he labeled the two most loyal people he ever met. In Little League, Rex borrowed Rob’s contact lens and smacked a two-run homer. In football, they often double-teamed opponents instead of completing their respective assignments.


Rex estimated the brothers were in more than 100 fights. Only rarely did they square off against each other (like the epic battle, or once on Easter).


“There’s probably a top-10 fight list out there that would blow your mind,” Weeks said. “I’ve never tried either of them. And I never will.”


Just as they helped each other recruit at different colleges, they share inside information in the pros. When the Jets played in the American Football Conference championship game last season, the twins and Weeks met nightly in Rex Ryan’s hotel room, where they studied film and exchanged ideas.


That loyalty is reciprocated by their players, who see real people in the Ryans, who held paper routes, tarred roofs and worked in construction; who give honest assessments; and who send defenses after quarterbacks like a swarm of bees. Against New Orleans this season Rob Ryan received a Gatorade shower from his players.


With Rex Ryan’s instant success last season, and with the Browns’ striking victories over the Saints and New England the last two weeks, Rob said he “will be shocked” if he does not join Rex as an N.F.L. head coach next year.


On Sunday they will continue to take part in an interesting triangle, because Rob works under Coach Eric Mangini, whom Rex replaced when the Jets fired Mangini after the 2008 season. Mangini is as reserved as the Ryans are outspoken, but he called Rob “a great counterbalance” and “the minister of trash talking.”


All three played down the potential awkwardness of the dynamic. Rob, in typical Ryan fashion, labeled Mangini “a special guy.” He added, “I mean, he hires me as defensive coordinator, probably his most important hire.” And Rex, also in typical Ryan fashion, said Rob remained loyal to Mangini, saying, “He would fight for him.”


Soon, the latest installment of Ryan versus Ryan will commence. For all the talk, Weeks predicted the twins would embrace afterward, perhaps even shed a tear. Until then, they will continue talking.


Rob said: “I got a lot to look forward to. All I hear is this mess about how he kicks my butt all the time. We’re ready. We’re going to beat him.”


Rex said: “He’s drinking too many beers. I’m losing count of all my wins. I’ve always been able to whip him, and this year will be no different.”



Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...