"That wasn't a $2,000 hit. They should have hit him with a $10,000 fine. I've got a wife and a kid, and he was trying to take my job away from me."
—Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Jimmie Giles on Chicago Bears' safety Doug Plank
It was Monday night, Oct. 6, 1980, when Doug Plank cemented his reputation as one of the NFL's most vicious hitters before a national audience.
Plank delivered a vicious blow to Jimmie Giles when he smashed his helmet square into the tight end's chest. Giles would leave the game for some time as Bucs' quarterback Doug Williams disputed the legality of Plank's contact.
The hit didn't draw a penalty, but it drew an attempt at retaliation from Giles later in the game. The NFL took action, the Buccaneers took it personally, and Plank took it all in stride.
"Any time you can get another player thinking about something other than his assignment, it's good," said Plank after the game.
Wearing No. 46 during his eight seasons with the Bears, Plank's reputation was immortalized when Buddy Ryan created the 46 defense in his honor. The defensive alignment was designed to be fast, aggressive, and relentless against the offense: exactly how Plank played.
Although his career was shortened by injuries sustained while playing the only way he knew how, the memories of Plank's devastating approach to football continue to inspire the Ryan family.
“The message to the rest of the league is 'Hey, the Jets are coming, and we're going to give you everything we got,'" said Ryan. "And I think that's going to be more than you can handle."
So when it was time for Ryan to place his stamp on the Jets, bringing Plank on board as the assistant secondary coach was the most natural thing the first-year head coach could do.
Gone are the days of Eric Mangini's timid, read-and-react defensive approach.
Signing Doug Plank to coach the secondary speaks louder than any quote Rex Ryan threw at the media. It speaks volumes of Ryan's commitment to turning the Jets into one of the NFL's most intimidating defenses to date.
And given his family history, that's going to be a tall order for Ryan to fill.
Looking to Plank was the only way Ryan could truly honor the impact of his words. It's a personnel move that immediately proved his dedication to making the Jets more physical, and even rivals the Jets aggressive pursuit of Bart Scott at the start of free agency.
The Jets' secondary was the defense's Achilles' heel in 2008, allowing over 230 yards per game and finishing 29th in the league against the pass. With so much talent in the secondary, opposing quarterbacks were never challenged through the air.
A defensive backfield boasting Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, star safety Kerry Rhodes, and future Hall of Fame cornerback Ty Law should never rank towards the bottom in the NFL.
Since talent wasn't the issue, then the concerns have to rest with the coaching. These athletes weren't being motivated to play to their full potential.
Now they have Plank to look to for guidance, a man whose career was defined by leaving everything he had on the field.
With the hard-nosed safety Jim Leonhard and former All-Pro Lito Sheppard joining Rhodes and Revis during the offseason, New York now boasts even more talent in 2009.
Plank is the man who should be able to aim them most effectively in accordance with Ryan's schemes.
The skills and intangibles are already in place for the Jets. The actual hard work lies in getting the unit to execute efficiently.
And if there's anyone who knows about execution on the football field, it's one of Chicago's original hitmen.