Upon hearing he was drafted in the 3rd round by the New York Jets, Demario Davis was quoted as saying “All I can say is, I am ready to play like a Jet”. So it got me to wondering what exactly that phrase means. It’s become a bit of a running joke in my family. As one of my kids heads out for a soccer or lacrosse match, I will often tell or text them to “Play like a Jet”. I am pretty sure I know what Rex thinks it means. When Ryan was introduced to the media as the New York Jets new head football coach, he made one statement that immediately convinced me things could finally be different for Jets fans. He said “We want to be known as the most physical football team in the NFL, the players will have each other’s backs, and if you take a swipe at one of ours, we’ll take a swipe at two of yours”. I have to be honest, that made my hair stand up, because I had not heard that level of bravado in many years. And it is partly why I live with the Super Bowl predictions and everything else.
Now that we know what it means, upon further examination, have the Jets and Ryan lived up to those expectations? Certainly the defense has improved statistically, but I think it’s fair to say they have come up very short on the type of football Ryan wants from his team. In fact, The Ryan coached Jets biggest problem may be their inability to compete against the more physical teams in the NFL. The Jets have lost their last two contests to the Baltimore Ravens, and maybe looking scared is too strong, but they certainly were not ready to compete physically in either game. The second game against the Miami Dolphins in 2010, the Tony Sparano coached team pounded their wildcat running game down the Jets gullet. In January 2011 the Pittsburgh Steelers took the opening possession, ran 15 plays for 92 yards, and used 9:06 of the clock. 36 of those yards were pounded off tackle by running back Rashard Mendenhall. The Steelers defense dominated the Jet’s offense in the first half, setting the tone for the rest of the game. Clearly Ryan still has some work to do.
Whenever an article that points out the shortcomings of a team or coach is published, most writers secretly hope the piece ends up on the desk of whom it’s critiquing. In my case, my hope is motivated by two things, vanity and winning. I think I have all the answers and I want a Super Bowl more than anything. Except in this case, as I thought about this “Play like a Jet” motto, I truly believe a reminder of how Ryan predicted the Jets organization would be perceived is the exact culture that could turn this franchise back in the right direction after a disappointing 2010-2011 campaign.
With the draft behind us and free agency slowing down, it is time to focus on what the 2012 New York Jets will look like. Will they continue down the path of sketchy focus, untimely penalties, broken leadership, inconsistent execution, and poor tackling? Or will they take the phrase “Play like a Jet” seriously and become a hard-nosed, physical football team that puts the NFL on notice; The New York Jets are committed to excellence. The 2012 Jets will undoubtedly have some new faces that will have to contribute to make them a great football team. From day one the coaches and veterans must lead by example for LaRon Landry, Quinton Coples, Stephen Hill, Demario Davis and all the new Jets. From the opening kickoff until that final whistle, The New York Jets are going to hit you again and again. Running backs should lose heart when facing our defense, receivers should hear footsteps as every passed ball approaches, special teams returners should worry more about holding on to the ball than changing the game with a big return.
Rex Ryan came to New York and his first order of business was to give his new football team an identity. As far as I am concerned, he can continue to predict Super Bowls and be bold and brash with the media every chance he gets. As long as he keeps his promise to make this team “the most physical in the NFL. If he does that, “Play like a Jet” can mean something special or it can be a joke a father repeats to his kids as they run out the door. Which will it be Rex?
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