New York Jets: What "Play Like a Jet" Means to Me

Andrew KaufmanSenior Analyst IMarch 8, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 18:  Nick Mangold #74 of the New York Jets looks on from the sidelines during the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles  at Lincoln Financial Field on December 18, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

On Twitter, this week, New York Jets' beat writer Manish Mehta posed a question to fans based on one of Rex Ryan's more well-known sayings.

The question received minimal responses, perhaps due to Mehta's recent critical tone towards Jets' management and perhaps for an altogether more random reason, but it made me think about what "playing like a Jet" really means, and more generally what made the Jets successful in recent years. 

The focus regarding the Jets right now has rightfully been placed on their most immediate struggles, but it was only a little over two years ago that Gang Green was playing in their second consecutive AFC Championship Game. The formula that led to this success was sound, and new general manager John Idzik would do well to consult certain components of it.


Building from the Inside Out

The successful Jet teams of 2009-10 had fantastic lines, which served as the backbone for the teams' long playoff runs. 

After drafting Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw in 2006, the Jets developed an offensive line that stood as one of the best in the NFL for several years. Incorporating veterans like Brandon Moore and Damien Woody, the Jets' line drove the success of the team's "Ground and Pound offense."

Gang Green's defensive line has not received as much publicity as the offensive line, and the players often are not household names. But the winning Jet teams had good role players up front and strong run defenses.

The Jets' paucity of talent at the "skill positions," particularly on offense, is noteworthy, and management certainly needs to address it. But football games are often won at the line of scrimmage, and with Brandon Moore, Matt Slauson and Mike DeVito all pending free agents, Idzik would be wise not to neglect the offensive and defensive lines.


Next Man Up

Another of Rex Ryan's favorite sayings is "Next Man Up," a reference to the need for a team to respond to injuries and adversity without missing a bit. But mantra and character can only take a team so far if the talent level isn't there.

The Jets have failed to follow through on "Next Man Up" in recent years because they have not had sufficient depth in recent years. Through draft day trades, wasted selections and free agency splurges, Mike Tannenbaum neglected depth too often.

This philosophy came back to bite the Jets in recent years, with notable instances including the Wayne Hunter experiment and the team's recent injury struggles at wide receiver and defensive back.

The Jets are in a treacherous salary cap situation, so rebuilding depth will not be easy. But Idzik should, at the very least, seek to conserve and compile draft picks while aiming to improve internal solutions.


"Can't Wait"

The legendary Bart Scott quote doesn't have much meaning in its own right, but it is indicative of the confidence the Jets had when they were at their peak.

Many people have lampooned Rex Ryan and his team for their perceived arrogance, particularly in light of their recent struggles. But, as Bill Simmons recently noted, that confidence was a core component of the Jets' attitude and of their associated success.

Simmons points out that the Jets "believed they could win anywhere against anyone," which is exactly what they did over a two-year period where they defeated the Patriots, Colts, Chargers and Bengals in road playoff games. 

It may take a while for the Jets to get back to that point, and in many ways their style of football and the two key mantras detailed above are what led to this philosophy. But given recent backlash against Ryan, it's important to remember that there is nothing wrong with a team believing in itself.