New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan has never been shy about saying what is on his mind. His arrogance was taken to a whole new level last season when after declaring the Jets mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the Jets rallied to not just make the playoffs, but go on a run all the way to the AFC Championship game.
The Jets continued to make noise all through the offseason. They brought in the leading active sacks leader Jason Taylor, as well as signing future Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson. They traded for former All-Pro cornerback Antonio Cromartie, and former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes. They ran their mouths too, saying they were the team to beat, and that it was Super Bowl or bust for them this season.
The Jets did not stop there. They were the focus of HBO's training camp documentary "Hard Knocks," where they continued to run their mouths and talk trash. When All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis was in a 36-day holdout over a contract dispute, the Jets maintained that they could win without him.
Jets fan were surely buying into all this, the rest of the league was not, and the media was surely not. Many articles were written about how the Jets were getting ahead of themselves. Even Bleacher Report correspondent Johnny Rehab got in on the act writing about the Jets getting too cocky after just one trip to the AFC Championship game.
Many critics were rushing to remind everyone how the Jets were playing with a second-year QB in Mark Sanchez. A second-year QB who threw 20 INTs during his rookie season. Everyone was saying the Jets were getting ahead of themselves.
Everyone was trying to remind the Jets that Revis still hadn't signed, that they were nothing without him. They said that Jason Taylor was old, and most importantly, they questioned why the Jets were excited about signing "washed-up" RB LaDainian Tomlinson. They said the Jets made a mistake of cutting LG Alan Faneca, and last season's leading rusher Thomas Jones.
Most importantly, many people in the media were saying the Jets were bringing in too many players with off-the-field trouble, and that they were in store for many off-the-field issues that would unravel the team. Many experts predicted the Jets to fall out of the playoff picture and miss the playoffs this season.
Even with all the criticism in the media, the Jets continued to run their mouths.
Then came Week 1, and a terrible performance in a home loss to the Baltimore Ravens. This would spark nationwide criticism on how the Jets were hurting themselves by running their mouths, and that they weren't that good. It even led to, what has already become a classic rant by Dan LeBatard for Jets fans.
Before the Jets Week 3 game in Miami, wide receiver Braylon Edwards was arrested for a DUI. Suddenly the Jets were being dominated by off-the-field story lines.
But has all this been good for the Jets?
The entire NFL had gotten tired of hearing the Jets talk, they hadn't won anything yet. Eventually people began to say, just ignore the Jets, they're not that good, let them talk, they will still lose. People refused to believe the Jets were good. They were still picked to miss the playoffs, Sanchez is not a good quarterback. Everyone believed the Jets would be distracted by off-the-field issues, and their performance would suffer.
Instead, the Jets have put together a four-game winning streak. Two wins at home against playoff teams from last year, both of whom had star wide receiver Randy Moss. Two other wins on the road against division rivals. The Jets now sit at 4-1 with the top record in the league, and have already beaten every team in their division. LG Matt Slauson, who replaced Faneca, has gotten better each game. LaDainian Tomlinson looks anything but washed up. Most importantly, Mark Sanchez has thrown eight TDs with zero INTs.
It is almost as if all the Jets trash talking turned them back into an underdog. Everyone looked at the Jets like a mediocre team. But the Jets weren't just your average mediocre team, they were a mediocre team that was talking like a Super Bowl team. This caused many people to write them off. Don't buy into the hype, they are not that good. After the Jets' Week 3 win in Miami, the second consecutive monster victory against a division opponent, the Jets actually moved DOWN in ESPN.com's power rankings.
Everyone wanted to ignore the Jets, finding excuses for why they will not be good. Everyone was looking for other teams to be good, Houston finished strong last year, Cincinnati got even better this offseason. Never mind that those teams combined for just 14 points in two regular-season meetings against the Jets last season, they must be better then them this year. Everyone said the Colts would again be dominant, despite the slow start, they were still one of the best, same with the Saints.
The media was looking for every reason to talk up historically good teams with slow starts, and find ways to make the Jets strong start seem not as important. They gushed over Michael Vick, but barely mentioned he beat the Lions and Jaguars. While the Jets going 3-0 in their division was almost unspoken of.
To the rest of the league, the Jets become underdogs once again, just discount them because they are not good. To the Jets, this becomes locker room fire power. The league and media are still not respecting them. LaDainian Tomlinson has already come out and said that reports that he was washed-up have given him motivation. The way the Jets are still fighting for respect has given the rest of the team motivation, too.
If it weren't for the preseason trash talk, the Jets would not be in this position now.