Neither Rex Ryan nor Robert Saleh has been known to bite his tongue. Maybe it’s something about coaching the Jets that requires bluster and being outspoken, or maybe it’s just something about Ryan and Saleh, but the two traded barbs Monday.
Ryan, now a personality on ESPN’s “NFL Live” and “Get Up,” appeared on an ESPN radio show and let his thoughts be known on Saleh, his stature as a supposed “defensive guru” and the Jets’ performance as a whole.
“This is a horrendous defense,” Ryan said. “This guy supposed to be a defensive guru? I heard everything and I take it personally on this one because I heard he was a lot like myself, without the bad part.”
Ryan continued to talk about how this iteration the Jets lacks heart and how Saleh had a top defense just once as a coordinator in San Francisco, which is part of the conversation that particularly incensed Ryan.
“Don’t ever compare this guy to me,” Ryan said. “Statistically, one time they were a top defense. Here’s one thing he’s going to be familiar with — four out of five years, the 49ers were dead last in their division, so he’s going to be dead last again. So he’s used to that.”
Ryan’s assessment of Saleh’s defensive prowess appears to be accurate.
During Saleh’s time as defensive coordinator from 2017 to 2020, the Niners’ best year defensively was 2019, when they ranked second in yards allowed and eighth in total points allowed. Aside from 2019, the team was middle of the road defensively.
The Jets also rank last this year in both points and yards allowed, but Saleh didn’t seem to care about the merit of Ryan’s claims.
“I’ve never met Rex,” Saleh said on “The Michael Kay Show,” per the New York Post. “I’ve never had a conversation with Rex. I don’t even know him, except for people who know him throughout the league. Obviously, if it’s that personal for him, he knows where to find me.”
And while it’s easy to paint Ryan as the bitter or spurned ex-coach, he does have defensive bona fides. In two of his last three years as defensive coordinator in Baltimore, the Ravens ranked first in both yards and points allowed in 2006, and then second and third in both categories in his final year in Baltimore in 2008.
His success carried over to the Jets, where, as head coach, the team ranked first in total defense in 2009 and third and sixth, respectively, in yards and points in 2010.
“I’m a little pissed off when I hear, ‘This guy’s background is a lot like yours’ — no it isn’t,” Ryan said.