Extra Points: Strange bedfellows, Rex defends Belichick

 

The Sports Network

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It's that time of year in the NFL, the five-week lull between mini-camp and training camp when stories begin to be manufactured like bubblegum pop stars.

It's not unfair to report Mike Pettine's off-the-cuff revelation that suggested the "cheating-stained" Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots may have obtained a copy of the New York Jets' playbook a few years a ago. It is a bit biased, however, if you don't provide some context to Pettine's remarks.

The rookie Cleveland head coach claimed the his former boss in Gotham, Rex Ryan, once gave Alabama mentor Nick Saban a playbook, something Pettine questioned because Saban is very close to Belichick.

Pettine's concerns were supposedly validated at the wedding of then-Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker when Tom Brady allegedly bragged to former Jets assistant Mike Smith that New England might be in possession of one of the Jets' playbooks.

As you can imagine, Ryan wasn't all that thrilled with his former defensive coordinator's loose lips and became very defensive when asked about his laissez-faire security procedures after New York's final mini-camp practice on Thursday.

"No. 1, I think it's disrespectful to New England to say, 'Oh, they did this,'" Ryan said. "I can tell you every single game we've ever had with New England has been decided on the field. Nobody's had a competitive advantage. Nobody's had anything else. And that's a fact."

The so-called "Spygate" scandal in which the Patriots were disciplined by the NFL for videotaping a number of the Jets' defensive coaches' signals during a Sept. 9, 2007 game has forever tainted Belichick in some people's minds. Not his biggest rival, though, who understands the NASCAR-like mentality which pervades professional football -- if you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'.

"To discredit somebody like Belichick, who is a real coach, studies his butt off, is ridiculous," Ryan admitted.

This was an opportunity for Ryan to take a rather easy shot as his biggest nemesis, but the coaching fraternity is as close-knit as it comes and Rex understands more than most that Belichick's behavior over the years is no different than dozens of other coaches.

So instead Belichick received a tip of the cap from Ryan, who admitted every loss the Jets have suffered at the hands of the Pats was the result of New England "outperforming us."

And to be honest, Pettine knows Rex handing out his playbook to Saban was no big deal, either.

"It didn't shock me," Pettine admitted to MMQB.com, "because Rex would give them out like candy anyway."

Things have changed a bit in the NFL and some clubs do guard playbooks like state secrets today, making sure they have remote access to every iPad in the organization so when a player is released, they can easily delete the missive even if the scorned talent conveniently forgets to hand in his team-issued goodies in a timely fashion.

Ryan, of course, started in the NFL as an assistant coach in 1994 and his roots around the league reach back far longer than that as the son of long- time coach Buddy Ryan.

In Buddy's day, football was all about execution. It didn't matter if you knew what was coming. From Vince Lombardi's Packers all the way to Jimmy Johnson's Cowboys, knowing what the great teams were going to do was inconsequential because you weren't able to stop it anyway.

This very scribe, who began covering the NFL in the 1990s, has about 10 NFL- issued playbooks in his house right know, although admittedly none are recent.

Fast forward back to 2014 and Rex explained while things may have changed a bit, each team frequently morphs its playbooks anyway, often on a weekly basis by tailoring game plans for specific opponents.

"To me, I think (the whole controversy is) ridiculous," Ryan said.

And it is.

The real story here is a rookie head coach not realizing his words are now going to be parsed over like he is a presidential candidate.

"I don't understand what he's trying to gain by it," Ryan said. "That's up to Mike and he's certainly free to do whatever he chooses."

Ryan's terse and defensive tone throughout his comments, however, made it clear that it's Pettine who has taken the hit in the actual coaching fraternity, not his former boss or Belichick.

"He needs to learn to be quiet," Ryan quipped.

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