EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rex Ryan did not sound so tough or funny or brash anymore. No, after this disaster of his own design, Ryan sounded like a guy with an 0-1 record, a prime-time loser, a man who was the second-best coach in the house by Secretariat lengths.
His New York Jets were a joke Monday night, a monument to Ryan's reckless program. And yet, when it was all over in the new Meadowlands stadium, when the Jets were finally done committing fatal penalties and assaulting the senses with their high school offense, Ryan had the nerve to congratulate the winners for a job well done.
"You've got to tip your hat to the Ravens," he said.
Tip your hat to the Ravens? This from the coach who guaranteed a hostile takeover of the NFL, who promised to destroy everything and anything in his team's predestined path to Super Bowl glory?
"You've got to give them credit," Ryan said of the Ravens.
It doesn't work that way, Rex. You don't talk with certainty about winning it all, and you don't profanely dismiss your opponents as roadkill on "Hard Knocks," and you don't act as if you're sure to become the first coach to go 17-0 in a 16-game season, only to pull a no-show in the season opener, shrug your shoulders and basically say, "Hey, the other guys are on scholarship, too."
Asked whether he was humbled by this 10-9 defeat, Ryan said, "Humbling in the fact we got beat by a point."
In his postgame news conference, the coach didn't perform any better than his team performed on the field. Ryan should have jumped all over his players, and he should have trashed the man in his bathroom glass.
Ryan's former boss in Baltimore, John Harbaugh, fielded a team that committed five penalties for 38 yards; the Jets committed 14 penalties for 125 yards, their highest yardage total in 22 years.
"It was pretty damaging," Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "I'm very surprised by it because we thought we were well prepared. We thought we could control a lot of things that went on tonight."
Control? The Jets have been out of control for weeks.
They agreed to turn their preseason into a bizarre reality show, with Ryan and his foul mouth assuming the roles of co-stars.
The blustering Rex was everyone's favorite summer camp counselor, letting boys be boys. Only the anything-goes vibe shaped the disturbing scenes from Saturday's practice, at which players and coaches are alleged to have demeaned and harassed a female reporter.
Another report, this one from ESPN, said a team turned in Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for attending California workouts they weren't supposed to attend, a claim hardening the notion that Ryan is a renegade coach lucky he doesn't answer to the NCAA.
If the Jets needed any more reasons to temper their approach, they found them Monday night, after Baltimore arrived as the more professional team. When Braylon Edwards wasn't knocking over a field goal kicker, helping turn three Ravens points into seven Ravens points, he was shifting illegally and negating Mark Sanchez's 33-yard pass to Dustin Keller to the Baltimore 4.
At least Kyle Wilson had his excuse for the ghastly holding call on third-and-28 and for the pass interference penalty in the end zone that conspired with Edwards' follies to set up the game's lone touchdown.
Wilson is a rookie from Boise State. He's not playing Louisiana Tech anymore.
But Antonio Cromartie has been around a bit, long enough to think of himself as Scottie Pippen on the other side of Darrelle Revis' Michael Jordan. Only if Cromartie was Pippen in this opener, he was the Pippen who missed a Game 7 with a migraine or the Pippen who boycotted the final 1.8 seconds of a Game 3 against the Knicks.
Cromartie was flagged for four penalties, inviting Joe Flacco to stay as far away from Revis Island as he could.
"I've got to be more disciplined," Cromartie said.
The same goes for his entire team. Off a change of possession, the Jets were ticketed for 12 men in the huddle. They rushed offsides on an extra point, and they committed a personal foul on a made field goal. Their failed final drive opened, fittingly enough, on Damien Woody's false start.
"You've got to be smarter than that," Ryan said.
The coach was guilty of leading an ill-prepared team into 2010 and of playing scared. Ryan was afraid to have Sanchez throw the ball downfield against a secondary going without Ed Reed; Sanchez finished with a grand sum of 74 passing yards, making a prophet out of Ray Lewis, who had maintained Ryan wanted no part of the kid putting it up.
Ryan also was afraid to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Baltimore 10 in the second quarter. Once again, with feeling, you don't talk the way Ryan talked and then settle for a 28-yard field goal and a 6-0 lead.
"It hurts, because we're a better team than this," Revis said. "We need to focus a little more and be a little smarter. ... We need to focus more on technique in practice."
The Jets need to focus on being focused. Kris Jenkins could be out for the year with another left knee injury, making a long season that much longer and leaving Tomlinson with this sinking feeling after his first game in green:
"We feel bad, like it's a playoff loss."
His new coach set up his new team for this Week 1 fall.
"Our goals remain the same," Ryan said. "The fact is we want to win the Super Bowl, and we think we can win the Super Bowl."
That stuff sure sounded good on "Hard Knocks." On Monday night, it sounded like another empty promise from a franchise that leads the league in them.