Probably trying to divert attention away from his team's awful loss in Philadelphia, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan reached back for some vintage bluster Monday, firing the first shots in this week's Battle of New York.
"Quite honestly, I never came here to be little brother to anybody," said Ryan, using a variation of his famous line from 2009 about refusing to kiss Bill Belichick's Super Bowl rings.
Ryan said it's "ridiculous" for anyone to suggest the New York Giants have been better than the Jets since his arrival in '09, but he acknowledged the winner of Saturday's game at MetLife Stadium will own the city -- and there's no doubt in his mind it'll be the Jets.
"I recognize they're an excellent football team," he said, "but I think we're better."
The Jets (8-6) didn't resemble anything close to a good football team in their 45-19 loss to the Eagles, but they almost certainly will claim the final wild-card spot in the AFC if they finish with two wins. The Giants (7-7), coming off an ugly loss to the Washington Redskins, are desperate, too, but they win the NFC East with two wins.
It sets the stage for the most meaningful regular-season game in the history of the Jets-Giants rivalry, which began in 1970. The teams have met 11 times, with the Giants having won the last four to take a 7-4 advantage.
The Jets always have been perceived as a No. 2 team in town, but Ryan has tried to change that. In his autobiography, released last spring, Ryan writes: "I know it's going to piss off every Giants fan to hear this, but here you go: We are the better team. We are the big brother ... (We're) going to remain the better team for the next 10 years."
On Monday, Ryan didn't back down much at all.
"Sure, there's a lot of talk going back and forth, most of it driven by me, but you know what? I'll stand by everything I've ever said," said Ryan, adding, "I came here to win, to be looked at that way, to take over not just this city -- even though it's the city to take over -- but also this league.
"I haven't accomplished that yet," he continued. "Saturday, I think, would go a long way to doing that. We have to win this game. We have to get in the playoffs, and the Giants have to do the same. It's going to be huge."
This sounded more like the old Ryan. In recent weeks, with the Jets going up and down, the outspoken coach had curtailed his bold statements. But now, coming off a humiliating loss, Ryan can take the spotlight off his players. That has been his motivation in the past for making headlines with his mouth. Maybe he can also light a spark.
Ryan, on a 30-minute conference call with reporters, was all too eager to discuss the Giants, throwing out several "little brother" references. It beat rehashing the many mistakes from Sunday's loss.
He didn't go so far as to say the Jets are going to own the town for the next 10 years, as he says in his book, perhaps because he knows his team isn't as good as he envisioned. But, over the last two years, Ryan believes the best team in New York was a no-brainer.
The Giants missed the playoffs in 2009 and 2010, he noted. The Jets went to back-to-back AFC Championship Games.
Ryan forgot to mention the Giants' Super Bowl title in 2007 ... and 1990 ... and 1986.
"To say a team is better than you that never made the playoffs is ridiculous," Ryan said. "Clearly, we were the better team my first two years here -- and we get to prove it on Saturday, who the best team is this year. Quite honestly, both of us are having disappointing years, but it comes down to who beats who. Whoever wins this game is clearly the best team in New York."
Ryan called Tom Coughlin "one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport," and he said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is "playing as well as anybody in the league" and deserves to be a Pro Bowl starter. He also said he's more concerned with Eli Manning and the offense than he is with the Giants' struggling defense.
Meanwhile, the Jets should be relatively healthy for the game. Quarterback Mark Sanchez, who appeared to suffer a pinched nerve to his neck/right shoulder area, is "going to be just fine," according to Ryan, adding that no tests were required.
Sanchez was in pain after a third-quarter hit by defensive end Jason Babin, but he didn't miss any action. Ryan claimed he wasn't aware of any specifics.
The team's collective psyche suffered perhaps the biggest hit. This was their most lopsided defeat since last December, when they lost to the New England Patriots, 45-3 -- an outcome they avenged in the playoffs.
"I got up this morning, so that's a good thing," said Ryan, trying gallows humor.
He quickly turned his attention to the Jets' playoff pursuit, insisting his team will respond to the adversity. That they face the Giants, with a postseason berth likely at stake, means more than enough incentive.
"There's no way I'm going to be second fiddle," Ryan said. "If we were playing the New York Yankees, I don't want to be second fiddle to them. This is the same type of deal. I want to be the best team in football, not just the best team in this city. But we'll start by being the best team in this city."
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.