Sunday could be the last meeting between Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick with Ryan as head coach of the Jets as Ryan could be fired at the end of the season. (Ron Antonelli/Getty Images)
FOXBORO — Earlier in the week, Rex Ryan said Bill Belichick was a first ballot Hall of Famer. On Wednesday, Belichick was appreciative of the comment, but even with all the possible outside distractions Sunday’s game possesses, he’s focused on the game and nothing else.
“It’s a very flattering comment, but it sounds like Rex is just buttering me up,” Belichick said on a conference call with the New York media Wednesday. “I know they’re working hard, like they always do, play us very competitively. We’ve really had a hard time with them, including the last time we played them. We’re going to have to do a good job getting ready to go here stopping a team that runs the ball well, that stops the run well, that’s got a lot of explosive guys in the kicking game, that’s well coached, that’s tough, that beat us down there last year. We have our work cut out for us.”
Asked if he has any memories of games between the two over the years, Belichick wouldn’t get into them as he is focused on getting his team to 12-3 and a step closer to the overall No. 1 seed in the AFC.
“Well of course, they’re one of our AFC East rivals,” said Belichick. “This is really about this game, not about some other game. We’ve played a lot of games against a lot of teams in the past. Right now the only one that matters is this one on Sunday. That’s really where all my focus is. [I’m] trying to do the best I can to help our team prepare for Sunday’s game.”
“I have a lot of respect for Rex as a coach,” Belichick added. “I think he’s a great competitor and his teams have always given us very competitive efforts. We’ve won some, they’ve won some, but they’re always a hard team to play against. They play us well. They’re a good football team. They played well again last week. Like I said, they’re tough, they run the ball, they stop the run [and] they’re very good in the kicking game. This will be a big, big challenge for us this week. Their players, their coaching staff, we’re going to have to do a good job in order to be competitive.”
With the two coaches coaching against one another for the past six seasons, Belichick has a lot of respect for Ryan, but because they are in the same division he hasn’t been able to spend much personal time with him.
“We never really get a chance to spend a lot of time with him or in all honesty, any other coaches in our division. That’s the situation we’re in. it’s a competitive situation. It’s the same thing I said when I was the head coach at Cleveland and Bill Cowher was at Pittsburgh. Once that changed then our relationship changed. I told you I respect Rex, I respect the job and I respect their team. That’s what we have to do this week is getting ready to play the New York Jets. That’s what we’re going to do. That’s what this is about, nothing else.”