Tom Brady vs. Rex Ryan, for the soul of the game

Because we're still a few weeks from football games that matter -- unless determining the third-string holder is something you find fascinating -- and because Rex Ryan can combine curse words in novel, if nonsensical, ways, we care today about a little spat that Ryan, the New York Jets coach, and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady are waging through the media.

At issue is whether Brady has watched HBO's popular "Hard Knocks" series, which this year is focusing on the Jets's preseason. From ESPN, here's a breakdown of the ruckus so far:


"I haven't turned it on," Brady said. "I hate the Jets, so I refuse to support that show."


When told of Brady's remark later in the day, Jets coach Rex Ryan brushed it off.


"Hell, he knows we hate the Patriots," Ryan said. "So what's the difference? My brother's got a couple Super Bowl rings [from his time as a Patriots assistant]. He loves Tom Brady. But I don't have them, so I don't like Tom Brady. I respect him, but I don't like him."


Told by the WEEI hosts that it's hard to hate Ryan when watching the show, Brady responded, "I'm sure it's great TV. I'm glad people are liking it, but that's just something I have no interest in watching. I'd love to say a lot of mean things, but I'd rather not do that either."

Let it be noted that the salvo fired off by Jets offensive lineman Rob Turner, who was seen staging a fight with linebacker Vernon Gholston in episode two, has won the day, so far. When asked if Brady would engage him in fisticuffs, he said: "Aww, he wouldn't fight me. I'd break his jaw."

With that sort of attitude, Turner could blow out both ACLs and break both arms and he'd still have a spot on Ryan's team.


Obviously we have a clash of division rivals here, and there's that whole New York-Boston thing at work. But there's more in play. Clearly. The very soul of the league seems to be on the line. On one side stands the prettiest of pretty quarterbacks, all flowing locks and chiseled chin. On the other, you have an angry, gelatinous man washing down assorted grilled meats with beer.

Oh, who to root for?

Here's what we know about Rex Ryan:

* Son of former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan, who by all accounts was as unpleasant a person and as good a defensive coach as anyone's ever known.

* Apparently spent part of his childhood in Canada, eh.

* Well-traveled among the coaching profession, having worked at Eastern Kentucky, a place called New Mexico Highlands, Morehead State, Cincinnati and Oklahoma. Had stints in the NFL with Arizona and the Ravens before being hired by the Jets as their head coach prior to last season.

* Somehow maneuvered the J-E-T-S to within a game of the Super Bowl last season. And, by "maneuvered" we mean yelled profanely and loudly while making outlandish, pompous, grandiose promises about how good his team is. It worked.

What we know about Brady:

* He's often seen with pretty women.


* Was an average quarterback for Michigan, earning All-Big Ten honorable mention twice. Ended up being drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 draft.

* Has gone on to become of the finest quarterbacks of his era. Proving, mostly, that being seen with pretty women might be the key to being good at football.

* According to his Wikipedia page, Brady holds a lot of records. For throwing footballs, not being seen with pretty girls. Though, who knows on that one, really?

So, there you have it. What we have is two men with equal but opposite charisma. Brady is the person you'll never be, the one who can spend his life trying out new hairstyles. He gallivants and means it, where as the rest of us can only do that ironically. He's the real deal, the man for our age, the exemplar.

Rex Ryan? Well, he's the guy you hope is at the corner bar when you get there after a long day of work. Because he's going to say something to make you laugh. Even if his target is you.