The Jets have everything to lose this week, but Todd Bowles isn’t getting caught up in the melodrama of facing his predecessor, Rex Ryan. Nor will the Jets coach use it as a motivational selling point with his players.
Asked why, Bowles simply replied: “I don’t know. You would have to ask a coach that would do that. That’s just not me.”
It’s only fitting that the Jets’ season hangs in the balance in Week 17 with Ryan’s Bills as the final obstacle in their path to the postseason — a destination the Jets failed to reach during Ryan’s final four seasons with the franchise.
And they already know their ex-coach will use every motivational trick in the book to ensure his Bills ruin their storybook run.
“Rex is a prideful guy, so I know he’s going to have his team ready to play,” said outside linebacker Calvin Pace.
The Bills (7-8) now find themselves in a situation Ryan has become all too familiar with: no shot at the playoffs and only pride left to play for. But the Jets have seized control of their playoff destiny with five straight victories — the most important being Sunday’s dramatic OT win over the Patriots — and a Steelers’ loss in Baltimore on Sunday. That means the stage is set for one epic showdown in Western New York. If the Jets (10-5) beat the Bills, they’re in. And Ryan’s former players know he’s aiming to play spoiler on his home turf.
“It’s a major motivation for him,” Pace said. “But I think more so than anything, he probably wants to finish this season on a winning note also. So I think both of those play a factor into motivation coming into this game.”
Following the Bills’ 16-6 win over the Cowboys on Sunday, Ryan made it clear he’s not pleased about missing the playoffs in his first year in Buffalo. On Monday, he gave his former club high praise.
“We know we are facing a team that is red hot,” said Ryan, who was fired after six seasons with the Jets following a 4-12 finish in 2014. “A team that is probably as talented as anybody out there.”
He also downplayed how much his players will be motivated by possibily being the team to ruin the Jets’ season. “That is a possibility,” Ryan said, a day after his running back Boobie Dixon called the Jets matchup “the Super Bowl” for them.
“I think guys do get revved up for, you know you are playing against a team, you admire where they are at, you wish that was you in that situation . . . But this is your last shot at it this year, so you get to play against a team that has everything riding on it.”
Even with so much at stake, Bowles said there’s no added pressure on his players because “the past couple weeks have been playoff games.”
Bowles added: “We understand what we are going up against and we understand what happens this week, so we know that fully well. We have to continue to do the things that we have been doing. If we try to do anything else, then we won’t have a chance to win.”