Rex Ryan can't help himself. Even when the New York Jets coach means to be neutral, some over-the-top boast might escape. When he is praising one quarterback, he might inadvertently zing another.
Ryan's unrehearsed brashness is part of the reason the stakes are higher for the Jets. But, for guys who genuinely like working for Ryan, it's also part of the reason they play so hard.
"We're behind him 110 percent," cornerback Drew Coleman said. "As much as he takes for us, the least we can do is back him up and be behind him when he stands up for us.
"Rex is by far the most passionate coach I've ever played for. I love playing for him."
As much as it matters to the Jets players that they have advanced to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, helping Ryan keep his word was another reason they wanted to beat the Colts on Saturday. Ryan has been talking about the Super Bowl since the first day he took the job, and has shown no sign of slowing down.
"Rex says a lot of things. I'm sure people look at him like he has three heads," linebacker Calvin Pace said right after the 17-16 wild-card win over the Colts. "But everything he laid out today pretty much came to fruition."
You could chalk it up to coincidence, but Ryan's boasts have come during the only two Jets seasons with back-to-back playoff wins. Second-year player Mark Sanchez has become the winningest quarterback in Jets postseason history with three victories. Joe Namath, Chad Pennington and Richard Todd each had two.
Critics can say that Ryan is full of hot air, but those stats are tangible results for a franchise that has made a habit of inadvertently torturing fans.
Nick Mangold said the Jets, who play the Patriots next, have confidence now despite their up-and-down regular season. He said that once he saw Antonio Cromartie's 49-yard return late in the fourth quarter, he knew the Jets had the game in hand. A psychic on the sideline?
"No, it'd be nice," Mangold said with a laugh. "Confidence, it's all about confidence."
Ryan's bulletin-board quotes can sound pretty harsh, but the players have gotten to know a very personal coach who treats them fairly. He may bring a harsh spotlight at times, but if that gets players to push themselves then the results may be worth it.
"A lot of people hear the things that Rex says, about this team's going to win a Super Bowl before training camp or offseason workouts," tight end Dustin Keller said. "We just want to prove him right. We know how confident he is in this team and we agree with him 100 percent."
Defensive end Shaun Ellis was drafted by the Jets in 2000, and said the win over the Colts is one of the best that he's been a part of.
"It's up there," Ellis said. "An overall team effort against a great team and a great quarterback. For us to get it in the fashion that we got it in was fulfilling."