The buildup to the Ravens' second preseason game against the New York Jets is already beginning to simmer, as former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, the new Jets head coach, had some interesting comments about his previous team.
First of all, Ryan made sure he complimented and thanked Ravens head coach John Harbaugh for adding "assistant head coach" onto his title last year, allowing him a closer look at the additional duties of the position.
"I got a chance to work with John, as he would say, shoulder to shoulder with him," Ryan said. "I got to go through what a rookie head coach goes through. And for him to share that with me was big-time. I really felt like a team. We'd have some conversations, and sometimes I'd give him a different point of view. They weren't arguments, but they were conversations. It was great. I learned a lot."
Ryan actually interviewed for the head coaching job after Brian Billick was let go following a disappointing 5-11 campaign in 2007.
But Ryan said that when he realized he would be passed over, he recommended Harbaugh to Baltimore's coaching search committee.
"I'd throw it out there just because I'm being real. I always thought I was the right guy for the job," Ryan said in a press conference that was streamed on NewYorkJets.com. "At the end of the day, when I heard who they wanted to consider, and it was clear I wasn't going to get the job and wasn't in their plans, I recommended John. They did the best thing. If they weren't going to hire me, they did the best thing.
"It's hard. When you have to make a move at the top, you don't generally hire from within," Ryan continued. "I think when Brian was let go, I think some people in the organization think I didn't do enough to rally the troops or something. Maybe that was it. Where really my job was to head up the defense. But I think if you polled the players, I did exactly what they didn't think I did. I kept them playing. But, I'm happy as hell that it worked out the way it did."
Ryan recently faced a similar situation when he formed his first coaching staff. But while Harbaugh retained only Ryan, then-outside linebackers coach Mike Pettine, defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, secondary coach Mark Carrier, special assistant to the head coach/defense Vic Fangio and tight ends coach Wade Harman, Ryan kept 10 of his 23 coaches on board from the Eric Mangini regime.
"I learned that you have one opportunity in life to get this done, and it's not about going out and getting a 'yes' man that you might feel good about because your wives are best buddies," Ryan said. "You better go out and hire a staff. I think he has a hell of a staff, and it's probably the second-best staff in the league."
Ryan was also effusive about the Ravens' defensive tradition, which he helped create. One thing, however, made him bristle.
When the Ravens gave rookie linebacker/defensive end Paul Kruger the No. 99, he became only the second player in franchise history to don that number.
The first was Michael McCrary, who played in Baltimore from 1997-2002 and is the team's third all-time leading sacker.
"I am disappointed that they gave his jersey to some rookie who hasn't proven [anything]," said Ryan, using an expletive. "Excuse my language."
Ryan then smiled and looked over at the Jets' senior director of public relations Bruce Speight. "Sorry, Bruce," he said.
McCrary tallied 51.0 sacks for the Ravens and was a two-time Pro Bowler. Kruger, Baltimore's second-round draft pick, notched a sack in the Ravens' preseason debut last week.
"It was disappointing," Ryan said. "I'm not coaching that team, so that's their decision."