INDIANAPOLIS - Rex Ryan has probably never eaten a slice of humble pie as big as he did Thursday afternoon at the NFL Scouting Combine.
At last year's combine, the NFL's resident big-mouth braggart shocked the assembled press corps by guaranteeing his New York Jets would win the Super Bowl this past season.
The Jets lost their last three games to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs, with the team seemingly fracturing amid bickering players and team chemistry gone bad.
Thursday, the head coach stood up before many of the same reporters and took the blame for it all, hanging the Jets' 2011 miseries on the now infamous guarantee.
"Obviously, in looking back, it was a huge mistake to make that guarantee," Ryan said. "We were coming off two championship games and I really thought it would be a thing that would actually motivate our team, to really talk about the Super Bowl and focus on the Super Bowl.
"But in hindsight, I think it put undue pressure on our team. And we kind of lost focus ... So, obviously it was a big mistake. When I go back and look at it I think it contributed to the season we had.
"It put pressure on guys who quite honestly didn't need (to have it)."
So, of course, right after that mea culpa, the first question Ryan fielded was, "Who's going to win the Super Bowl next year?"
Yes, we're a bunch of smart alecks in the press corps — god love us. And Ryan almost couldn't help himself.
"First off, no promises," he said. "There's not going to be any promises. But I will say we're going to have the team now that's going to have the potential to do great things."
You could almost hear him biting his lip.
Later he was asked if he was now somehow able to control his mouth.
"No, but it's not necessarily self-control, because I am going to have fun ... I have fun with the opponents' media, I have fun with the opponents' players, with the opponents' coaches. This is not life or death. Now, one thing I'm totally serious about is winning. And if I think there is something I say that's going to pull us away from accomplishing that mission, then I'm not going to say it.
"But will I always be myself? Of course. I am going to have a great time. That's who I am, and that's who I'll always be."
That's about what you'd expect from Ryan. He's the son of Buddy Ryan, who wasn't exactly known for his humility with the press as the architect of the 1985 Chicago Bears' defence, and later as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals.
Self-reflection and self-examination aren't traits normally associated with braggarts, and Ryan looked sincere in his apology.
"I was even challenged by one of my players, who said, 'Rex, you didn't have as much fun as you did the first two years.' And you know what? I put the pressure on myself, there's no doubt. But I tried to put it on myself to take it off our team. I don't think I accomplished that."
Ryan was asked about backup quarterback Greg McElroy's stinging post-season comments in which he told an Alabama radio station that last season was the first time he'd ever been around selfish individuals in a locker room, and that many cared more about their stats than the team's record.
"I was angry about it," Ryan said. "I never agreed with all the statements he said. The thing about our football team that maybe we're different from other teams is we are truly a transparent organization. So you're going to know a lot about the New York Jets at the great times, but you're also going to know a lot about us in the not-so-good times.
"There s no question we had some problems with individuals. But we're going to fix it, and I know I'm the guy to do it."
Hey, he'll never be Mr. Humble — no matter how much humble pie he ate on Thursday.