Rex Ryan's Dirty 11: Badfellas of the Gridiron
This is not your father's New York Jets. Hell, this is not even your brother's New York Jets! If one thing was clear on Sunday afternoon as the Jets stomped all over the highly touted Houston Texans by a score of 24-7, it is this: Rex Ryan has clearly brought an edge to the Jets that has not been seen from the franchise in its entire history.
Over the past 40 years of futility since Jan. 12, 1969, fans of Gang Green have grown accustomed to seeing their defense give up chunks of yards, fail to blitz the quarterback, and allow opponents to storm back to steal the game in the final quarter.
Fans have made ritual trips to the bathroom to vomit after watching another horrific performance from their starting quarterbacks: Richard Todd, Ken O'Brien, Neil O'Donell, Glenn Foley, Rick Mirer, Chad Pennington, Brooks Bollinger, Kellen Clemens, and Brett Favre. It just doesn't matter; the results have always been the same.
This time around, Jet fans are seeing a different team. They see it on the sideline, moving from the top with Ryan down to the the last man listed on the 53-man roster. This team plays with a brand of violent aggression, sacking, pushing, punching, hitting and clipping their opponents without fear of foul.
This group cares about only three things: (1) Victory, (2) Sending a message that this version of Gang Green will not be pushed around, and (3) Victory.
Coach Rex Ryan has to take credit for this transformation. From day one, Ryan has instilled a brash, no-holds-barred attitude in the locker room, and it is apparent now that his message has gotten across pretty quickly.
In the Texans game, the Jets held star receiver Andre Johnson to a mere 35 yards on four catches, and they even knocked him out of a few plays after a nasty hit by Donald Strickland in which he smashed Johnson to the ground like a bull striking at Pamplona.
They confined Pro Bowl running back Steve Slanton to a stingy 17 yards on nine carries, exposing the Texans as rather a vanilla football team.
The Jets' harassment of Matt Schaub was not only unexpected but a graphic display of the Jets' new approach. On the opening drive of the game, David Harris broke free on the blitz and launched himself seemingly through Schaub, drilling him to the ground as he released the ball. The pass floated incomplete; the Texans had the punt and Schaub limped off the field.
Hitting and rushing the passer is something Gang Green is not known for, but, this team rendition will not only get after the quarterback, they will go after him like a falcon diving at red meat. They hit Schuab over a dozen times on Sunday, even getting away with a couple of late hits, and sacked him twice, including an obvious horse collar sack by Harris, when he yanked Schuab down to the ground by the back of his shoulder pads.
The Jets' aggressiveness appeared on offense, too. With the clock ticking down in the second quarter, quarterback Mark Sanchez rolled out of the pocket and appeared to have the first down in his sights; at the last minute, he caught sight of Dustin Keller breaking free of coverage; Sanchez drilled the ball across his body to Keller, who made the catch and was tackled after a 25-yard gain.
After the tackle, the Houston linebacker was jawing at Keller. Keller suddenly snapped, got up and pushed the surprised backer away from himself. Soon, most of the Jets sideline marched onto the field and started pushing and shoving other Texan players in defense of their tight end.
Ryan and his coaches had to pull his players off the field to protect them, but the die had been cast that this group was playing with one large chip on its shoulders.
Later in game, after Sanchez threw a costly pick that cut the Jets lead to 17-7, the young quarterback showed true grit. Sanchez released a bomb down the sideline to Keller, who made the catch in stride and dashed 40 yards to the Texan 38-yard line.
Two plays later, Thomas Jones burst through the trenches and scored on a 38-yard sprint to give Gang Green an insurmountable 24-7 advantage.
For the past week, the Jets have trash-talked about what they plan to do to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Trash talking is usually cheap, and it is new to see it coming from the Jets who were one of the most disciplined teams in the NFL over the past 12 years.
Those days are gone. Kerry Rhodes, Kris Jenkins, and others have told the media that the Jets plan to make Brady into a Raggedy Ann doll on Sunday afternoon, and I am sure that Ryan is pumping up the troops tonight with another profanity laced stump speech.
In case you didn't know, several Jet players told the New York Post that Ryan's speech before the Texans game was so motivational that they were ready to strap on pads and smack into someone right then.
In fact, kicker Jay Feely was quoted as saying that Ryan used "the F-bomb 52 times" during the speech. Imagine what he could be saying tonight. It might sound a little like Geroge C. Scott's speech at the beginning of Patton, if not more profane.
It is becoming clear that Ryan's die is cast: This Jets team will play the role of the anti-hero and love it. They will trash talk, illegally kick, trip and tackle anyone who stands in their way, and, somehow, find the means to win ball games with their solid NFL talent.
Talk about being the bad guy; this is a talented group of players who not only win, but win dirty.
Whatever the case may be, the Jets will have to back up their new coach and prove to the nation once again that they are indeed a different franchise on Sunday against the New England Patriots. Anything less will be considered a disappointment.
Ask any Jet player or coach; the mantra is "Make my day."
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