Raiders coach Hue Jackson makes it clear that he and New York Jets coach Rex Ryan are two different people who just happen to be friends who once worked together.
Ryan has made a name for himself as an NFL head coach. Jackson wants to do the same. At the same time, Jackson admits that he is envious of what Ryan has accomplished in two short seasons as the Jets coach.
“He went there with a mentality that they were going to be a really good football team,” Jackson said of Ryan. “They were going to be the bullies of the east, and they are.”
By now, everyone has heard Jackson talk about his goal of “building a bully” in Oakland. When he steps on the field Sunday for the Raiders regular-season opener against the Jets, he will see, in many ways, what he envisions the Raiders becoming at some point.
Ryan talks the talk and walks the walk, as the players say. He talks big and he gets his players to back it up through their play.
Ryan’s Jets run the ball well, they stop the run well, they impose their will upon the opponent and back down from nobody, inluding the mighty Patriots.
Who can’t forget the Jets getting pounded by the Patriots 45-3 last season, only to knock out the Patriots in the playoffs?
Jackson realizes there’s plenty at stake Sunday. A victory not only would send notice to the rest of the league that the Raiders are capable of beating an elite team, it would get his players to believe that they are farther along in the process of becoming bullies than they might believe.
“I’m not Rex, and Rex is not Hue, but I’m sure we have a lot of similarities,” Jackson said. “We believe in violent, physical, tough aggressive football teams. And I’m going to build it here. I didn’t tell you it was going to happen overnight, but I’m going to build it.
“That’s what I truly believe in, and that’s what I want our football team to be. I didn’t say the Jets. It’s what Hue Jackson wants his football team to be. And we got some work to do, I understand that, we all do, but I tell you what, we’re going to work at it. And eventually we’re going to get this thing done that way.”
Ryan succeeded right away, getting the Jets to the AFC Championship Game in his first season in 2009. They returned there again last season. He keeps up the pressure by promising a Super Bowl victory each season.
He knows he can’t get reach that goal unless he has the proper players in place. To that end, an inordinate amount of time is spent searching for the proper players that fit the blueprint for what makes a Jets-type player.
“There’s some players that can play in the league, but they might not be able to play for us,” Ryan said. “There’s a lot of good players, maybe playing for other teams, that may not, quite honestly, weren’t guys that fit our mentality, whether it was their study habits, whether it was their commitment to the team, whether it was building each other up.
“Maybe there was something there that we weren’t happy with and we let them move on. And there’s other cases where we lost players we wish we could have kept. … But we’re a team. When we come out there, we have 53 players we feel strong about that they understand what we want, the team commitment and the unselfishness. So, we feel good about our team.”
Jackson said he feels good about the players he has assembled in his first season as the Raiders head coach. Sunday’s game will provide a measuring stick as to where Jackson is at in the process of building that bully.
“What Rex does is, Rex collects his kind of guys, the guys that believe what he sells,” Jackson said. “That’s what it’s truly all about. He believes in winning. He’s there because he wants to win. The guys that are there, I guarantee you, they’re there because they want to win. He believes in the system. He has a way of putting guys in position to make plays. I truly respect that.
“That’s what we’re trying to create here for our team. We’re trying to put guys in the best position to be all they can be, offense, defense, special teams. Not that we’re modeling after the Jets or Baltimore or any of that. That’s just my philosophy. I truly believe it and I’ve been around some men who do it that way that have had success.”
Jackson is like Ryan in that he arrived with a vision, is sticking to it and is confident that it will reap dividends in a timely fashion.
For Ryan, he said the process wasn’t difficult. In fact, it came naturally.
“I was just myself when I came here, and we’re fortunate, I’m fortunate, to have a lot of excellent coaches with me,” Ryan said. “It’s just something that we believed. It’s a style. I have one shot to be a head coach in this league and I was going to build it a certain way.
“Whether it’s building a bully or playing like a Jet, whatever it is, this is who’s coming in. This is our football team and this is how we play, and I guess that’s kind of our trademark of how we play. We’re a passionate football team, play snap to whistle, play 60 minutes and that’s the type of team we have and the type of character we have in our room.”
So, it sounds as if we are certain to see at least one bully Sunday. If Jackson has his way, the bully that is the Jets is going to meet his match in the new bully on the block.
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