Joe Namath’s opinion that Rex Ryan’s instilling of too much confidence in his players reared it’s ugly head in Oakland on Sunday, was met with a sharp response by Ryan Monday after both spoke on 1050 ESPN radio. Ryan invited Namath to practice to see how hard the Jets work and how diligently they prepare everyday for upcoming opponents. Namath perhaps was trying to share a hard lesson he had once learned himself on the way to a Super bowl title. Ryan was rightfully defending the positive results of re-branding an organization that eternally felt sorry for itself before his arrival. The harsh words from Namath may not be entirely applicable or appropriate, but the drama that played out over the radio airwaves yesterday can become a helpful foundation for the Jets. A team that has publicly stated that they must win as often as possible, in order to reach their immediate goal: playing home playoff games in January.
Namath is the symbolic patriarch of the Jets. Dick Wood. Mike Taliaferro. Remember them? We didn’t think so. Wood was the QB for the Jets in 1964, one year prior to Namath’s arrival in Green and White. Talafierro hung around backing up Namath as the Alabama star got his feet wet in the AFL. A league that Namath helped raise the awareness of, while simultaneously aiding the Jets in the local football conversation. One that was monopolized by the storied franchise from Yankee Stadium, the Giants, before Jets owner Sonny Werblin made Joe a Jet.
On Monday, Namath may have subconsciously been trying to help his beloved Jets get over the hump, by offering a warning about the thin line between having an inflated self opinion and playing desperate.
Namath’s self proclaimed turning point during the Jets only championship season came early on in 1968. Defensive coach Walt Michaels gave him an earful on the plane ride back to New York, after a putrid loss to an awful Buffalo team. In the Sept 2h9t, 1968 game at War Memorial stadium, Namath tried to do too much, throwing five interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns in a shocking 37-35 loss.
Michaels implored him to let the defense do their job too and to take better care of the ball as the field general. Perhaps even going deeper into the psyche of Namath by in turn reminding him to respect all opponents in the meta message. Namath adjusted from that point forward and it showed. The Jets took off. Winning week after week in taking the Eastern division before knocking off the Raiders in the AFL championship at Shea Stadium 27-23. This prior to the miracle in Miami against the Colts.
Maybe Namath saw the ghosts of that day at Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium when he ranted with radio host Michael Kay. A flashback to a moment during his own prime, where an opponent was clearly beatable had the proper execution taken place on the field.
Ryan had an entirely different set of circumstances facing him as he entered the Jets family. “The Same Old Jets” 2008 version, had just went from 8-3 led by coach Eric Mangini and QB Brett Favre, to 9-7. A typical collapse that took them from first place to out of the playoffs, an ending to another once promising season, that only reinforced the nickname that Jet loyalists had loathed wearing through endless offseasons.
Ryan wasted no time in rebranding the Jets when he told the world during his first press conference that he wouldn’t kiss Bill Belicheck’s rings. He then took the Jets in his debut season of 2009 from almost dead to the AFC Championship in Indianapolis. It was the first sighting for many, of a Jets team would fight until the last second on the clock, until the last breath of a dying season. Jets fans have loved him and stuck by him ever since. Just like his players do.
Ryan’s encore began with a look inside the team, thanks to HBO’s Hard Knocks. A view that furthered the die hardsappreciation for a coach who maybe for the first time in club history, wears his colors loudly and proudly. What followed was yet another road tour through the AFC playoffs in January, which included an improbable win in Foxboro. A victory perhaps only trumped in Jets history by Namath’s Jets 16-7 Super Bowl upset in 1969.
When the 2010 season ended in Pittsburgh, Ryan then took it a step further. He declared New York the Jets town, and the new shared stadium the home of the Jets. Not the Giants. The bravado was not received well by many on the outside to say the least. Especially Giants fans. It was music to the ears of Jets fans though. A cult like collection of crazies who have had to endure second class status since it was stamped on the New York Titans birth certificate back in 1960.
On Sunday the Jets began an imposing road swing that included Ryan’s former team the Ravens and the hated Patriots. Directly in front of them however, was a team that many saw as the weakest of the three teams in this stretch. The Raiders. An organization that has undergone a decade of confusion, a myriad of coaches and quarterbacks, and to put it plainly, has not been very Raider-like.
Without three time All Pro C Nick Mangold, the Jets came out with a shrewd dink and dunk gameplan on offense thatprotected a makeshift offensive line and helped Gang Green jump out to 17-7 lead. Then an old time Jets Raiders AFL battle ensued as the Silver and Black, using a world class speed that may soon demand attention across the NFL, raced their way to 24 unanswered points. The barrage was enough to help lead Al Davis’s “Rai-duhs” to a 34-24 win.
The loss surprised many including Namath who attributed it to the Jets being too self absorbed. A personality that he opined “started at the top.” Maybe however, a better way for the Jets to keep their edge in the future, especially in getting ready for games that sit before “marquee matchups” in prime time, might be the one that CB Darrelle Revis suggested. Instead of toning down the good feeling inside of Florham Park, the Jets might want to listen to, and follow their defensive leader Revis who said that ALL teams are gunning for the Jets. This fact alone should of course keep the Jets on their toes at all times.
Revis is right. The Jets ARE the hunted now. Not only because for the first time since Namath dropped back to throw, they’ve sat in the national spotlight for an extended period of time. Or because they make news when they talk. It’s because Rex Ryan’s Jets are good. Very good. Exciting too. With notable NFL stars all over the field, on both sides of the ball. With that comes the new responsibility for being ready every Sunday for sixty minutes.
The adjustment from being confident to delivering knockout punches before opponents can get up off the canvas, will lead to a stockpile of victories that can finally put them in position to overtake AFC East kings, New England. A group that, aside from their slip up on Sunday in Buffalo, makes a habit of giving lesser teams no chance and no life right from the first drive of the game.
One can argue that the Jets greatest legend, Joe Namath, was out of place when he stuck his nose in Rex’s business. It can’t be argued however, that the Jets can only benefit from Ryan’s miraculous psychology work that began in 2009, by improving upon it in this way as this season develops.
If nothing else, the loss to the Raiders combined with Namath’s comments, can be the foundation where upon the Jets can springboard themselves from a team that has fallen just short two years in a row, to one that wins the amount of games required to host postseason ones. A scenario that could help change the Jets flight of 2011 from one that again misses the ultimate mark, to a safe landing inside of Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5th, 2012. Date and site of Super Bowl Forty six.