INDIANAPOLIS - A period of postseason self-examination has led to this epiphany for Jets coach Rex Ryan: Fewer guarantees. More fun. On Thursday, Ryan faced the media at the NFL Combine. A year ago, in the same room at Lucas Oil Stadium, Ryan said, "This is the year we win the Super Bowl. I thought we'd win it my first two years. I guarantee it this year."And this year? Ryan was blaming his guarantee for a season that ended with the Jets out of the playoffs. "I think my comment hurt us," Ryan said toward the end of a 15-minute session. "I don't think there's any doubt. It put pressure on guys that, quite honestly, never needed to be."In the next breath, Ryansoundedthe horn for extra fun at Florham Park. "And I'll say this about our team, we're gonna have as much fun as any team in there. 'Cuz that's how we do business," he boasted. Fun's awesome. In my experience -- and I'm sure in Ryan's as well -- successful teams have a lot of fun.But the fun drips away when the team is rudderless or fractured or has some real miserable players who are self-centered and have been built up to believe they are better than they really are. And that's what the 2011 Jets were. When Ryan ran off at the mouth last February, I asked Ryan if his persistent and hollow guarantees might backfire. The coach who cried "Super Bowl!""I don't care about people taking it seriously," Ryan shot back then."We made it to the AFC Championship two years in a row whenI think people predicted we'd win six games. So, I don't care what people think. I care what our orgainzation believes and what our fans believe. "So, empty promises...I know we got to the same place (the AFC Championship) last year, it might not appear we got better, butI thinkwe got a lot better last year. If we can improve a little bit more, then why not us? We did beat the team with the most wins in the playoffs at their place (New England). We came (to Indianapolis) had a great win against a great team. We're the only team to make the final four the last two years, so why wouldn't I be positive? (Should I say), 'Hey guys, I'll be happy if we're 8-8.' That's the wrong guy standing in front of you."I'm always gonna say the same thing," Ryan concluded. "I believe we can be champs and why wouldn't I believe it. Somebody tell me whyI shouldn't believe that we don't deserve to be champions."Self examination led Ryan to conclude on Thursday, "I tried to put the (pressure) on myself to take it off our team. I don't think I accomplished that this season."Ryan was asked if he really believed words in February caused a his team to "fall off the rails" in December. "I don't see us as completely getting off the track," Ryan said, warming to the metaphor. "I think we got in the gravel a little bit. We just gotta right it. And we can't kneejerk react it or we'll roll it the other way. There's ways of handling these things. I think our football teamis a little closer than people give it credit for."It's interesting, for a guy as open, honest and genuine as Ryan is, he spends an awful lot of time thinking about playing head games with his message. Too much time, it seems. So much that he seems tangled up in who exactly he wants to be sometimes. Asked how he plans to exhibit the verbal self-control that's eluded him since 2009, Ryan said, "It's not just self-control. I'm gonna have fun. I have fun with the opponents media. Opponents players. Opponents coaches. This is not life or death. But one thing I'm totally serious about is winning. And if I think there's something that I say or a comment that I'm gonna make pulls us away from that mission, then I'm not gonna say it. But will I always be myself. Of course. I am gonna have a great time."Party. Hats.
Don’t count the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the Paul George sweepstakes just yet.
The latest rumor involves a three way deal being discussed between the Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, and Denver Nuggets. According to Hayes, the deal would send George and Kenenth Faried to Cleveland and Kevin Love to Denver.
Presumably, Indiana would end up with good picks and a few young assets.
David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl.
What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.
But in a roundabout way he might.
MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?
There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.
If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders.
Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.
Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).
For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich.
We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.