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Former Jets special teams coach shares a ‘fiery’ Rex Ryan story

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 25: Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets looks on from the bench on November 25, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The Jets defeated the Bengals 26 to 10.
(Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images)

Former New York Jets special teams boss Ben Kotwica’s story about fellow green compatriot Rex Ryan literally went up in flames.

In a variety of special teams roles for the New York Jets, Ben Kotwica witnessed plenty of fiery personalities and plays that changed the course of metropolitan football history. Only one, however, erupted in literal flames.

Kotwica, who partook in seven seasons (2007-13) of green special teams endeavors (the last as a coordinator), appeared on Zach Brook’s YouTube program Upon Further Review to discuss his days coaching in the NFL. Asked to tell a “PG-13” Rex Ryan story, Kotwica came through.

During his first years in New York, Kotwica worked under longtime special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, who wasn’t keen on wearing headsets on the sidelines. Kotwica thus wore one to make sure head coach Ryan stayed in contact on the happenings from their side of the ball.

He recalled one memorable incident that happened during the team’s 2009-10 regular-season final against the Cincinnati Bengals. The contest was staged on a cold, rainy night in East Rutherford and served as the final football game at Giants Stadium.

According to Kotwica, a combination of plastic pants and the sideline heaters led to a close encounter for Ryan and comedy gold on the radiowaves.

“Rex is standing right next to the heater and we had those plastic pants on to keep you warm,” Kotwica recalled. “He wasn’t paying attention, and suddenly it was ‘oh (inaudible)’ and he’s caught on fire. His pants are on fire and he’s yelling and screaming!”

Ryan’s pants weren’t the only thing on fire that night. The Jets’ defense let up only 72 yards and forced three turnovers en route to a 37-0 victory that helped them clinch an AFC Wild Card spot.

On Kotwica’s end, Jay Feely booted three field goals. The Jets would face those same Bengals in the opening round of the postseason, earning a 24-14 victory in Cincinnati in the first step to the AFC title game.

Ryan, fortunately, escaped injury. After his departure from the Jets, Kotwica, a former Army Captain and a veteran of the Iraq War, spent seven seasons as the special teams coordinator in Washington (2014-18) and Atlanta (2019-20). He had some friendly words toward his time with the Jets in speaking with Brook.

“Rex was awesome. Great coach, really just very enjoyable to work for. It was a great experience,” Kotwica recalled. “2009, 2010, we go to back-to-back AFC Championship Games. It was a really, really cool time in my journey.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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