NEW YORK (AP) — No respect is no matter to Rex Ryan and the New York Jets.
Not when you're 3-2 and one of the NFL's early season surprises.
"We really don't care what people that don't believe in us say," Ryan declared during a conference call Tuesday. "We care about what our fans think. We care about what our locker room knows to be the truth."
And, that truth is that the Jets are much better than many expected. It's still early, but gloom and doom were the buzz words entering the season by pretty much anyone you asked about the outlook for the team.
Except the Jets, of course.
"To say, absolutely, what the national media and people like that think about us, the negative comments and all that kind of stuff, to think it doesn't put a little fuel to the fire, of course it does," Ryan said. "With that being said, we know they're not in the meetings, they're not seeing what we're seeing.
"Again, I'm not going to lie and say it doesn't add something or it doesn't spark you a little bit."
An us-against-the-world approach has bonded this team through the first five games, a stretch in which they have relied on a rookie quarterback in Geno Smith, a tough defense and one of the game's top offensive coordinators in Marty Mornhinweg.
While some fans and media still wonder if the Jets are the real deal, consider this: After a 30-28 win at Atlanta on Monday night, they're just one game out of first place in the AFC East with a home game against the winless Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday followed by another showdown with the division-rival New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium in two weeks.
Ryan isn't surprised, and neither are his players. They saw a team coming together nicely in the preseason, even as people outside the organization saw a bunch that was sorely deficient in many areas.
"We knew we were much better than what we were given credit for," he said. "With that being said, we're not even close to where we have to get to, starting this week against Pittsburgh."
The Jets are a 2 ½-point favorite against the Steelers, something Ryan was asked if he thought was a bit of a sign of disrespect considering the opponent has yet to win a game.
"You guys know how I feel about the betting deal," he said. "It means nothing to me."
Neither does the fact that the three wins the Jets have come against teams who have a combined record of 3-11: Tampa Bay (0-4), Buffalo (2-3) and Atlanta (1-4).
"You can try to discredit us all you want, that's fine," Ryan said. "It's no big deal to us. We know what we have in our building and that's it. You can take any stance you want on it. Those are facts, there's no question, but if you think the Atlanta Falcons are only going to win one game or whatever, then I don't know, I think they're a better football team than that.
"But again, that's for you to write and that's all fine and dandy. We really don't care though, to be honest with you."
Remember that brash Rex Ryan with all that swagger and bravado? Well, he's back — in a toned-down way. There are no guarantees or outrageous boasts now. Just a supreme confidence in himself and his team.
Getting a few wins has helped. And the performance against the Falcons was an indicator that the Jets might just have something in Smith, who is now the clear starting quarterback with Mark Sanchez opting for season-ending surgery.
Things have been up and down for the rookie second-round pick. But Smith was terrific Monday night, finishing 16 of 20 for 199 yards and three touchdowns. Best of all was the final drive in which he set up the winning field goal by completing four passes and moving the Jets 55 yards with less than 2 minutes left.
"It was a tremendous game for him without question," Ryan said.
Now, the Jets will gear up in a hurry for a Steelers team coming off a bye-week break.
"Well, I'm interested to see how we respond, but certainly it's not like we feel like we're King Kong or something," Ryan said. "We know it took a great effort last night, but it's going to take the same kind of effort this week."
And for those who still might not give the Jets much of a chance, Ryan says keep thinking that.
"I got a memo from the league, and they said we can win two games in a row," the coach quipped. "I think that's going to be what I talk to our team about."
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