Although football fans around the country have reason to wonder if the New York Jets’ performance against the Patriots on Sunday will cash the checks written by the mouths of their players and head coach, this much is clear: The Jets are relevant again.
Not since Bill Belichick scribbled his infamous note of resignation as the “HC of the NYJ” and signed with the Patriots in 2000 have the Jets received this much national media attention.
Many an NFL coach would have muzzled his players if anyone spoke as openly as Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins about wanting to beat New England.
“This is our Super Bowl,” Jenkins said firmly.
Then, after emphasizing how determined he is to whack the Pats, Jenkins added that if any New England players objected to his comments, “They know where to find me.”
For far too long, the Jets have virtually assumed the fetal position as soon as the Patriots stepped off their team bus outside Giants Stadium.
The Jets have lost eight straight home games against the Pats, dating back to Week 2 of the 2000 season.
That’s ancient history, the Jets are saying.
What matters now, according to voluble safety Kerry Rhodes, is not beating only the Patriots, but also embarrassing them.
“You go out from the first quarter on, from the first play on, and try to embarrass them,” Rhodes told the New York Daily News. “We don’t want to just beat them. We want to send a message to them: We’re not backing down from you. We expect to win this game, and it’s not going to be luck. It is not going to be a mistake.”
How great is that?
In an appearance Friday on “NFL Live,” an ESPN program that used to routinely ignore the Jets, Rhodes told host Trey Wingo, “They’ve come into our home field and beaten us eight straight times, and that’s not a good look. We’re trying to change the culture around here.”
Asked about rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez facing a Belichick-coached team for the first time on Sunday, Rhodes said, “They’ve got a great coach over there, Belichick, who schemes very well. [Sanchez] is going to see a look that he hasn’t seen, so he’s going to have to be calm. And we’re going to try to take the pressure off him with our defense. And we’re going to try to run the ball like we do. We have one of the better [offensive] lines in the game. Those guys have seen a lot, and they’re going to keep him calm, and he’s going to be O.K.”
People who know the Jets only as a team that has made one Super Bowl, way back in 1970 when Joe Namath played quarterback, must think Rhodes is out of his mind.
Is he tugging on Superman’s cape?
Hardly. The Jets beat the Pats in their last meeting, 34-31 at New England.
Rhodes understands that the Jets must convince themselves that last year’s road victory was no fluke and that they are not inferior to the Patriots. That’s the first step toward proving it.
Rhodes actually is following a Jets tradition started by Namath himself when he guaranteed the team would beat the heavily favored Colts in Super Bowl III.
Namath and Company cashed that check with a 16-7 win. Now, it is up to Ryan, Jenkins, Rhodes et al. to do the same.