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Ryan: Doing it his way

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Jim Caldwell quietly eased into his promotion as Indianapolis Colts head coach. The transition was virtually seamless when Tony Dungy retired, abdicating to his designated heir.

Then there's Rex Ryan, the New York Jets coach who arrived with an eruption and set about an upheaval of an entire organization's persona.

This was no caretaker of successes past. Ryan, with a magnetism as large as his physique, a gravitational pull as it were, quickly became the center of the Jets' universe.

Ryan and Caldwell will intersect orbits Sunday in the AFC Championship Game. Rookie head coaches never have squared off for a conference title. One of them will be the fifth rookie coach to lead his team to the Super Bowl.

AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky wrote about Caldwell's straightforward and succinct approach to coaching the Colts. He won 14 regular-season games, an eye-popping amount, yet only two more than the year before.

Ryan, meanwhile, finished the regular season 9-7, the same record as the Jets did last year under Eric Mangini. But their versions couldn't have been more different.

"This wasn't about Eric," Ryan said this week at the Jets' facility. "This was about me coming in. I was going to be true to myself. I never really needed to get advice from anybody else. I was coming here, open minded. I just wanted to put our plan in place, and that was what I focused on. It wasn't about things were done this way or that way. That meant nothing.

"I could have followed anybody here, but I was going to try to put together what I thought was a vision for our team and building a winner."

Ryan has transformed the culture in Florham Park. The Jets toiled under the austere watch of Mangini, who was fired after falling short of the playoffs with Brett Favre slinging interceptions about.

Now the Jets are all about fun and smack talk. The players are free to speak their minds, and with Ryan in charge their minds entertain fanciful thoughts. He talks them up like they're superstars. He makes bold predictions about meeting Barack Obama in the White House and being Super Bowl favorites after barely qualifying for the playoffs.

"You've got to prove him right," Jets safety Kerry Rhodes said. "If he has that much confidence in you to say that you're the best, you've got to go out there and prove it for him.

"When he says stuff, he's not just saying it to say it. At the end of the day, he's held accountable for what he says. If you don't live up to what he said, it kind of gives him a slap in the face."