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Jets owner: Rex Ryan 'brilliant'

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- When it comes to delivering bold statements, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson lets Rex Ryan do the talking, and the coach's talking has dominated the run up to Saturday's big game against the New York Giants.

That's fine by Johnson. He described Ryan's brash style as "brilliant," and he backed him all the way.

"Absolutely, 100 percent," Johnson said Wednesday in a sitdown with ESPNNewYork.com. "The reason I hired Rex to begin with is because of his personality and his ability to draw his team together. I trust his judgment 100 percent. He's a brilliant guy in my estimation -- on the field and off the field."

Ryan created a firestorm by saying the Jets are "better than" the Giants, and have been since he was hired in 2009. He also said he didn't come to New York to play "little brother" to the Giants, adding more juice to a game that already has enormous postseason implications for both teams.

"This year, we're both in it to win it," said Johnson, who is 0-2 against the Giants since buying the team in 2000. "It will have a huge impact for both organizations. We had a slow start this year and (a victory) would be very meaningful to us getting to the playoffs. That's what we intend to do, so we're motivated."

Johnson backed away from Ryan's claim that the Jets (8-6) are having a "disappointing" season. He wouldn't even go so far as to say it would be a disappointment if they fail to make the playoffs for the first time in three years.

"I'm going to assume we make the playoffs, so I'm not going to be disappointed," he said.

The Jets had won three straight before last week's embarrassing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Johnson seemed more philosophical than angry about the defeat, saying, "the best player on the team dropped the ball. That (usually) doesn't happen, although this is football, so these things happen."

It's interesting that he referred to wide receiver Santonio Holmes as the best player, not cornerback Darrelle Revis, widely regarded as the Jets' premier talent.

Playoff implications aside, this is a huge game for the Jets' status in New York. For decades, they've been perceived as the No. 2 team, unable to match the Giants' tradition and success. But things have changed under Ryan, who has been outspoken in his desire to be "the best team in New York."

Johnson scoffed when asked if the Jets have an inferiority complex toward the Giants.

"I mean, open your eyes," he said. "I don't think we've acted like that in any way that I can recall. Certainly nobody around here feels that way."

Johnson said the Jets' transparent approach to operating the organization is a sign of confidence, proving there are no feelings of inadequacy.

Clearly, Johnson believes the Jets and Giants are on equal footing, especially because the Jets no longer play their home games in Giants Stadium. The two teams co-own MetLife Stadium, which opened in 2010.

Previously, it was "a serious disadvantage in playing in a stadium named for another team," Johnson said, adding, "Every game played was essentially an away game, even at home."

On Saturday, Johnson will take great pride in being able to host the Giants. Technically, it's a Jets home game.

"To be playing the first home game (in the rivalry) at the new stadium that will be all green, with the name Jets on the field, will be big for us," he said.

The two organizations have shared some difficult moments. Two years ago, they squabbled over which team deserved to open the new stadium. Johnson said he has "tremendous respect" for Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch, but there will be no love lost this week.

Asked if New York is a Jets town or Giants town, Johnson said: "We'll see on Saturday."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.