When he arrived at the New York Jets in 2009 Rex Ryan’s new mantra for the team “Play like a Jet” was emblazoned in the hallways of the Atlantic Health Training Centre as well as numerous pieces of merchandise. He aimed that the phrase would mean…
“We care about each other, we’re going to give everything we’ve got and not do it for selfish reasons. When you play us you’re playing against a football team and not a bunch of individuals.”
This off season the new regime, in a symbolic act of moving on from the Ryan era, has literally removed the motto from the walls, replacing it with simply ‘Teamwork’ . Interestingly this new slogan is a concise description of what Rex intended with “Play like a Jet” but in reality this isn’t what the phrase came to be synonymous with. It was always a risky choice of motto to attach to a team dogged by inconsistency and lack of recent success. When we think back to what playing like a Jet a la Rex Ryan came to mean, it was having a loud mouth, an arrogance not matched by onfield performances and a rather laid back attitude to team management.
If you believe various allegations since, player accountability was low. Rex was a player’s coach but at the expense of discipline? There were certainly many examples of players displaying more selfishness than caring for each other; failing to attend or turning up late for meetings. Worse still, such a catchy line was just too easy for the world to gleefully attach to embarrassments such as the infamous ‘butt fumble’ or Geno’s numerous interceptions. Rex’s grand announcements to the press just fanned the flames. It’s little wonder that Todd Bowles wanted to remove traces of this past ideology which, in the last two years, became a parody of itself.
Since his appointment it has been clear that, although defensively mind like Rex, Todd is completely opposite in terms of the persona he show to the media and the players. He is calm, focused and measured; not giving too much away, or making the kind of brash comments which could come back to haunt him. He deals in facts and realism, rather than hyperbole, even when this isn’t wholly positive; admitting for example that in mini camp the QBs need to be more consistent and he needs to work on cutting out training ground altercations. Bowles still has a sense of humour with the media, but seems more grounded in reality than Rex!
In terms of player accountability Bowles seems to put a lot of trust in his team to make good decisions but makes his high expectations clear. Speaking Thursday, he announced he would not be policing players’ social media but expects them to be ‘smart’ and aware of the bigger picture in terms of on and off field responsibilities. On what he hopes the players will take into the break his message was clear:
“Hopefully accountability, just understanding what their job is and how they carry themselves. Communication as far as taking care of each other and understanding every day they go home and leave this building, something can happen, just be more aware of their surroundings and learn from other people’s mistakes”.
Through this ethos and the team he has newly built with Mike Maccagnan, he seems to have quickly gained the respect of the players; early on Willie Colon stated that the tardiness under Rex would no longer be an issue. Mo Wilkerson has turned up, keen to be a part of this new regime (although also keen not to be fined!) and the locker room has been filled with leaders. Marshall, Mangold and Revis to name a few will need the right handling to ensure they are inspirational rather than disruptive. He has already not shied away from disciplining his stars; having already had to ‘speak to Cro’ regarding his Richard Sherman comments and publicly sharing this.
Bowles obviously aims that playing ‘like a Jet’ will have a different perception in 2015 and replacing the sign was a striking demonstration of this intention. Jet fans will be happy if ‘teamwork’ turns to be a more successful mantra…. even if is less t-shirt worthy.