Is there a franchise more maddening in the history of this great city than our beloved New York Jets?
At least the Islanders had the guts to make a sharp turn onto “Insignificant Boulevard” years ago. They don’t hide their lack of sizzle, as evidenced by the Disco-inspired dump they still call home. They have a small, albeit loyal and raucous fan base, sure, but for the most part, seem comfortable playing in the shadow of the grand metropolis.
For years, the New York Jets lagged painfully behind the Yankees, Knicks and Giants in two important categories: marketability and street-cred, in no specific order. Many of their off-season acquisitions failed to measure up, and for the most part, the coaching tree is lined with a bunch of uninspiring, unsuccessful names. They tried.
They simply failed.
Year after year after year.
The Jets were a national punch line, and there wasn’t a damn thing we could do about it as fans.
The Jets are clearly marketable, as shown by the summer-long love affair with “Hard Knocks” on HBO, and the prime-time games that peppered their regular season schedule. They were also the marquee matchup on Wild-Card Saturday, playing prime-time against Peyton Manning and the Colts.
Personally, I think the organization increased it’s Q rating for good with the signing of Brett Favre, and while many fans are selective in what they recall from that season, it represents a turn in the organization’s philosophy. No longer were the Jets trying to replicate the Patriots mundane (but highly effective approach). Instead, the Jets showed guts, and by rolling the dice, finally occupied a space on the national landscape–something they rarely enjoyed.
The Jets finally figured out that fans crave ownership of a team, and the way to do that is to put people who relate to us, front and center. It’s OK to make mistakes, just get up, laugh it off, and continue the journey.
Charts and data and “due-dilligence” yes, it’s an integral part of the game, but we respond to emotion, not graphs and buzz words.
Laugh at Favre all you want, but his mere presence forced people to view the team differently. Suddenly, they were a focal point of SportsCenter, and were no longer the tri-state’s “other team.” They were 8 and 3, and firmly entrenched in the Super Bowl discussion after beating the Titans and Pats in back-to-back games.
They had momentum, and they had cache.
I also believe dealing with the Favre circus conditioned Mike Tannenbaum to take more chances. Chance # 1: Braylon Edwards. Chance # 2: Santonio Holmes. Chance # 3: Antonio Cromartie.
Tannenbaum learned to work with increased scrutiny and exposure, which I also believe allowed him to take a chance on Rex Ryan, which quite frankly, has changed the Jets forever.
Rather than hide, the Jets went all out with daily shows on SNY and increased radio exposure on 1050. And it’s worked.
Aside from Joe Namath, the Jets have had a handful of shooting stars, players who momentarily lit up the NFL skies before eventually flaming out for various reasons: Klecko and Gastineau, Toon and Keyshawn. Vinny and Chrebet had legions of fans, but aside from # 12, the Jets have never raced out of the tunnel prior to kickoff with all eyes on one specific player.
As consistent and productive as Curtis Martin was, did he ever resonate nationwide like say, Marshall Faulk, or Terrell Davis? Marcus Allen? Eric Dickerson?
If you close your eyes, and try to capture one lasting NFL image this season, player or coach or team, it’s probably Rex Ryan. He’s colorful, sure, bombastic, you bet. But he’s smart.
The way he handles the psychology of the sport is amazing, deflecting criticism and inspiring simultaneously. Lots of coaches push buttons, but Rex has the guts and instincts to push them while the rest of the world is watching, and he does so without a net.
What do you think the Giants are thinking, now that several players have gone on record saying they wish their head coach was “more like Rex?”
Deep down, many of you are terrified, terrified that the Jets will fall painfully short, and stomp your football soul. Again. They will manipulate your mind and emotions like other Jets teams have in the past:
Not this season. Not with this coach.
I urge you to embrace the stage, embrace this opportunity. Forget the ’83 draft and the “fake spike” and Blair Thomas and Rich Kotite and “HC of the NYJ.”
For once, think like a winner.
Rather than lament the past, and expect the worst, enjoy this ride and adopt the mindset of your head coach.
Dallas better tighten the screws for the storm that’s about to hit in a few weeks.
The New York Jets.
Yes, the New York Jets.