Sixty minutes to erase forty one years.
Forty one years of ‘could have beens’, ‘should have beens’ and ‘never was’.
Forty one years of wide right’s, fake spikes, roughing the passer’s and everything in between.
The base of the very same sixty minute mountain the Jets have found themselves at just three times since 1969. A mountain whose summit they have yet to reach in most reader’s lifetimes.
I read an article a while back that attempted to refute the term “the same old Jets”, pointing to the phrase as something of a non-sensible myth. A non-fact based term that does more to sell newspapers than it does to accurately depict a franchise. Well, from my vantage point over the past twenty eight years, the term sure as hell seems tangible to me.
Perhaps the pundit who penned the article is a saner person than I. Scratch that….he most certainly is a more sane person than myself. That said…. logic as concrete as the sidewalks of Madison Avenue will do little to turn my opinion. An opinion that believes the moniker of “Same old Jets” is as real as the day is long. For as long as I have been a Jet fan, I have watched as they have invented, and then re-invented new and creative ways to lose football games.
The Jets are rarely a poor football team. Sure they have had their share of mediocre seasons, but what team hasn’t? The fact is, generally speaking, the New York Football Jets contend. A perennial bottom feeder they are not, and anyone who interprets the phrase to mean that simply misses the point. What the term “same old Jets” portrays is a team that can’t get out of their own way. An organization that continually trips over their own shoelaces, falling face first on the 49th meter of 50 meter race. A group that sells a dream, takes you close and then lets you down…Over and over again.
If there has been one marked highlight to the Rex Ryan era, my vote would go to his all out blitz designed to sack the term. A blitz that thus far has worked…near perfectly.
Rex Ryan talks. A lot.
But what he’s done in the process is re-shape the level of expectation within an organization.
How many times before could you say that a first round playoff loss as an underdog, on the road, against one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever buckle a chinstrap, would be considered a disappointment? Probably never. And as a follow up, let me ask this….how many people on that team, and within that organization would have been disappointed with a loss in Indianapolis? You get my drift. Expectations have been re-set. And that’s how strides are made and that’s how cultures change.
Last Sunday was a monumental win for this organization, obviously.
We watched our loud mouthed coach outclass semi-arguably the greatest head coach in the history of the sport. We watched our barely legal to drink quarterback out duel a future hall of famer. We watched Santonio Holmes haul in what, depending on how these next few weeks play out, could be viewed as the single most important catch in franchise history. We saw a New York Jets team walk in to the lion’s den and first and last drive withstanding, dominate a fourteen win Patriot team that hadn’t lost a game in their own building since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
But more importantly, we saw a coach, a quarterback, a wide receiver and an entire team that expected to do so. And that is the difference Rex Ryan has made.
A culture is infectious. Its why teams, companies and even countries are successful- or not. It starts from the top, and slowly seeps downward.
For forty one years the New York Jets have harbored a culture of reticence and futility. A belief that somehow, someway they will find a way to see that the other shoe drops. It’s an attitude that has caused many of Jets teams to tip-toe when they should be sprinting, to stop when they should go. And in turn it’s an approach that has caused many of Jets teams to fail.
So perhaps you don’t like Rex Ryan. Maybe his brash attitude and over the top confidence rubs you the wrong way. Possibly he talks too often, refrains not nearly often enough and writes large checks his players must cash.
But one thing you cannot refute is that in his two year tenure he has done what not thirteen other Head Coaches have done since Weeb Eubank.
He has somehow; some way cultivated a culture that expects to win.
It’s a culture; a swagger and an expectation that could prove to be oh so very dangerous to the Pittsburgh Steelers come Sunday. And it’s a culture that should make all of us feel a sense of confidence that this Sunday….maybe, just maybe….the summit is within reach.