David Letterman's "Brush With Greatness" bits with audience members often included "writer embellishments."
Well, apparently New York Jets coach Rex Ryan embellished his brush with Pittsburgh Steelers counterpart Mike Tomlin of Newport News.
AFC championship game and Ryan related the following story from his days as the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator competing against Tomlin's Steelers:
"The example I always give about Mike Tomlin, about what kind of guy he is," Ryan began. "One year we couldn't stop a nosebleed. We were getting crushed like 30-something to nothing. I think we had my son out there playing corner. Really, it was ridiculous and they were up like 30-something to nothing at halftime. They ran the ball every snap in the second half.
"The one thing was, we can stop the run. They got like a yard a carry. It was just like batting practice, but he wasn't trying to rub our nose in it. He said, 'We're just going to try to run the ball every snap.' I think he had respect for us. He knew that wasn't what we were going to be next time we played.
"My favorite story is when the fullback was telling [Ravens linebacker] Bart [Scott] to look at the scoreboard and he was talking on the sideline to Bart and there was a timeout. Bart came over and said, 'Come on back in because we don't play to the scoreboard. We are going to play as hard as we can, anyway.' Tomlin looks over and goes, 'Bart, you want him? You want a piece of him?' He goes. 'Yeah, I want a piece of him.'
"[Tomlin] sends the kid back in there. They run isolation, and Bart separated the kid's shoulder. That's one of my favorite stories, and it told me a lot about Mike Tomlin. He said, 'Hey, all right, you're running your mouth. Go get him then. Let's see what happens.'
He's that kind of guy. He's a man's man and his team plays like that."
Great story, right?
Problem is, it doesn't quite hold up.
Now I'm not the first media knothead to research this, but here goes:
On Nov. 5, 2007, the Steelers and their rookie head coach led the Ravens 35-7 at halftime thanks to five Ben Roethlisberger touchdown passes. And sure enough, Pittsburgh ran the ball on 21 of 28 second-half snaps to close out a 38-7 beatdown.
But neither of the Steelers' fullbacks that day, starter Dan Kreider or backup Carey Davis, was injured, according to subsequent accounts.
Typical Ryan. Always the showman.
For more on the contrasts between the over-the-top Ryan and understated Tomlin, check out Sunday's column in print or online.
BTW, who you like in Sunday's conference title games? I'll take the Steelers and Packers.