New York Jets: Rex Ryan's Team of Destiny Looking for the Big Ticket
Two years ago, a team from New Jersey captured the hearts and minds of millions.
So, the story goes, the very same "everyone" expected Dallas to shred the Giants. The Giants won.
The Giants went on to win the NFC title, so the story goes.
But then the final contest was set against the mighty, undefeated New England Patriots led by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. "The Patriots should kill the Giants," pronounced the all-knowing, all-seeing experts from among the various cable, television, radio and print outlets.
The Giants won it ... all of it.
Two years later, the 2009-2010 New York Jets appear to be heading down a similar path, a journey so improbable and unlikely that a movie producer would grab the script, toss it in the nearest trash receptacle and light a match to it.
If you could pilot the DeLorean time machine from the film "Back to the Future" and return to tell Jets fans after any of the team's hideous home losses to the Bills, Dolphins, Jaguars, or Falcons, that their team would be in the AFC Championship Game, they would tell you that "You are full of s*!#."
Is this what the road to destiny feels like underfoot?
The Jets have not been down this road in quite some time. 1998 was the last such opportunity for the Jets. The offense was led by a resurgent Vinny Testaverde, a star running back named Curtis Martin, receivers Wayne Chrebet and Keyshawn Johnson, and a head coach named Bill Parcells; they took the Jets to the brink of Super Bowl XXXIII.
Those Jets were 6-4 after week 11 and won six straight in impressive fashion to capture the division at 12-4. They went on to beat up the Jacksonville Jaguars 34-24 in the divisional round in the AFC playoffs, advancing to the AFC title game in Denver.
The Jets held a 10-0 lead on the Broncos in the third quarter, and it looked like Gang Green was on its way to breaking a 30-year drought and advancing to their first Super Bowl since Joe Namath made AFL history.
Then the bottom fell out.
Six turnovers, and a 10-0 lead, turned into a horrific and painful 23-10 loss to the Broncos. Even worse, the Broncos went onto destroy the Atlanta Falcons, a team the Jets had dominated 28-3 earlier that same year, 31-19.
What might have been turned into a painful refrain.
During the 11 years since, the Jets have enjoyed their moments: a division title in 2002, some playoff success in 2004, as well as some huge wins in 2006, and the appearance of Brett Favre in a Jets uniform in 2008. But nothing even came close to the wonderful memories of 1998.
Now, in the 2009-2010 season, the Jets are baaaack.
Rex Ryan boastfully predicted last January that he and his Jets had a date with President Barrack Obama in the next few years. He predicted a smash-mouth, tough-as-nails approach to playing football. He even predicted, a couple of weeks after fearing that his team was dead, that the Jets ought to be favorites to win the whole damn thing.
Thus far, Ryan turns out to be a better prognosticator than those other "everyones."
His message may have seemed brash to some overly-sensitive souls, but his words were really directed toward his team. Nobody else believed in the Jets except for Ryan, and he would go down any road to deliver that message to each and every player on his roster.
Give Ryan a Twitter or Facebook account, and he would do the same thing: speak the world of his players because he knows his guys are listening and reading.
Most coaches believe that being negative and talking up the opponent is the only way to keep a team focused, but the Bill Parcells approach to winning Super Bowls was a very, very, very long time ago. Ryan's approach is working because players enjoy it when a coach believes in them and in the system he is running.
From day one, Ryan's approach to the Jets has been different than most other coaches. He encouraged the front office to invite any and all Jets fans to come to the brand new Jets training facility in Florham Park, New Jersey to see the team practice during OTAs. And just before the season opener against the Houston Texans, he and the entire Jets team greeted fans with high fives and handshakes before the team got on the plane.
During the summer, Ryan made the controversial decision to take the team away from their multi-million dollar facility to upstate New York to practice at Courtland. Ryan's logic was to create a sense of team bonding.
Stories of movie nights, players hanging out after practice, and a collegial atmosphere reverberated back down through the New York Thruway. Some pundits scoffed at the idea; some fans complained that the team was not giving them an opportunity to see them practice at a more reachable location.
Six months later, the Jets are giving their fans the greatest gift possible: a chance to play for all the marbles. What else could anyone ask for?
This season has seen its ups and downs. From Mark Sanchez's five-interception performance against Buffalo, to Ted Ginn Jr.'s two kickoff returns for touchdowns in a Dolphins victory over the Jets, to the cold humiliation at the Meadowlands against the Falcons. It has been a roller coaster.
Still, through it all, Ryan believed. When the team was 4-6 and staring at a uncertain future, Ryan told the press that his team had to win the next six games to even have shot at the postseason, and that he believed that his team could do it. This coming after six losses in seven games.
When the Jets beat the Colts 29-15 three weeks ago, almost everyone on the planet felt that the Jets had taken a back door to the playoffs since the Colts pulled their starters.
If Peyton Manning had played the entire game, the Jets would have been creamed, most thought. Ryan defended the win, saying that his players earned it because they still had to beat the players that were on the field, Peyton Manning or no Peyton Manning.
That controvesy doesn't matter much any more.
It doesn't matter at all.
Because SOJ, Same Old Jets, is dead.
Same Old Jets would have found a way to cough up a chance to clinch a playoff spot at home two weeks ago against the Bengals.
Same Old Jets wouldn't have won back-to-back games against the Bengals.
Same Old Jets would have allowed the Chargers to storm back and steal the game in the final seconds Sunday.
Ryan came here with a mission to turn the Jets from frustrated loser of 41 seasons of torture into a super team. He has done this, and more, in just a year's time.
The scary thing about the Jets is that they are young. They haven't even hit the ground running yet, and they are now a legit franchise in the NFL, a threat to win a championship for years to come.
They have rookies on their roster such as up-and-coming running back Shonn Greene. They have a rookie in quarterback Mark Sanchez. They have youth at the center of the offensive line and at left tackle in Nick Mangold and D'Brickshaw Ferguson. They have youth at tight end in Dustin Keller, and youth at corner with Darrell Revis, the best cornerback in the game.
In this crazy world of the NFL, where everything is on a year-by-year basis thanks to free agency and the over-zealous desire of owners to win immediately, building a football team that will be a major threat for years to come is hard to come by.
The Jets are doing it.
If the Jets should find a way to take the next step Sunday in Indianapolis, the dream will continue for another week, but the true goal of any franchise is to keep it going for years.
If you believe in destiny, then you will believe that the Jets are on their way to doing something very special. If not this year, definitely in the next few years.
Oh, and by the way, this is the 50th year anniversary of the AFL, the same AFL that the Jets put on the map in 1969; the Jets are the lone, original AFL team still in these playoffs.
Destiny? Just saying.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?