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Jets vs. Colts: Rex Ryan's crusade against pretty-boy football

In the Jets vs. Colts AFC championship game Sunday, the New York Jets and Head Coach Rex Ryan will be trying to prove that smashmouth football can still succeed in today's NFL.

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New York Jets coach Rex Ryan (l.) yells at quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) in the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers during their NFL Divisional playoff football game in San Diego, California January 17.

Alex Gallardo/Reuters

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Head Coach Rex Ryan would have the sporting world believe that Sunday’s AFC championship game between his New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts is a struggle for the very soul of professional football.

Even by the measure of a man whose mouth has won him the hearts of New Yorkers – no statement too brash, no prediction too bold – Ryan’s comment of Jan. 6 was curious.

Why, he asked rhetorically, was his 9-7 team not the Super Bowl favorite?

“We have the best defense…. We have the best rushing attack,” he said. “If I had a choice to coach any team in this [postseason] tournament, I would choose this one."

To those immersed in the Xs and Os of modern football, the statement sounded like the relic of another era – as though the Jets coach was advocating a worldwide return to Commodore computers and 8-track cassettes.

The era of smashmouth football, the thinking goes, is over.

“Three yards and a cloud of dust” seems like a quaint notion from the days when Red Grange roamed the gridiron wearing an aviator’s cap. Defenses are no longer so feared that they invoke semi-apocalyptic nicknames: the Steel Curtain, the Doomsday Defense, the Monsters of the Midway.

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