Florham Park, N.J.– After last week’s trash-talking circus surrounding the Jets many members of the media were wondering how Rex Ryan and the Jets could possibly hope to stir the same amount of headlines as they did leading up to the Patriots game?
It didn’t take long for them to get their answer, although it clearly wasn’t the answer they were expecting or hoping for.
There will be no trash-talk this week, on Monday the Jets took turns heaping praise on the Steelers players and the entire organization as a whole. Ryan said, “I have a great deal of respect for Mike Tomlin, he’s one of my favorite coaches.”
Yesterday Tomlin returned the favor, saying, “I love Rex. Rex has a lot of fun with the media, but when you see past all of those things, man, this is a great football coach.”
Last week Antonio Cromartie famously voiced his less than flattering opinion on Tom Brady, but he has no such issues with the Steelers quarterback. Cromartie said, “He’s a great guy. He’s a tough guy… I love him, man. Ben’s a competitor.” Today Roethlisberger reciprocated Cromartie’s feelings saying, “Well, I love him too. I have a lot of respect for those guys, every single one of them on defense, because they’re so good.”
Cromartie was certainly not alone in voicing his, ‘love’ and respect for Roethlisberger. As Trevor Pryce was fielding questions about Roethlisberger a reporter pointed out that it sounded like he and the other players have a great deal of respect for Roethlisberger because of the way he plays, to which Pryce said, “Absolutely.
“When I was in Baltimore, my first year, Bart (Scott) kind of decapitated him and he came back in the game. And you know what he did? He said, ‘Great hit, Bart.’ He’s not that guy; he’s not going to run his mouth to you, he’s not going to do any of those type of things and he gives respect where respect is due, so you’ve got to respect him for what he is and what he’s accomplished.”
“I don’t know who’s going to play quarterback (on the scout team in practice). I don’t know who’s going to be Big Ben.” Pryce joked, “It might be me, the way he plays. It’s an honor and a privilege to play against him. It really is.”
The last two weeks everything was personal and last week there was the added bonus of expletives and hatred consuming every story about the Jets and their opponents. This week all that can be heard is, love, respect and ‘it’s an honor and a privilege to play against him.’
So, yeah, you could say this is a bit of a shock to the system for reporters.
With the hatred having seemingly vanished and peace and love filling everyone’s hearts, the question everyone seems to be asking is, how can the Jets possibly hope to match the intensity of the last couple of weeks without the extra motivation of hatred and revenge on their minds?
To these players the answer is simple. The Jets may not have any animosity towards the Steelers, it may not be personal between the opposing players, but what these Jets do take personal is the feeling they had when they walked off the field as losers in last year’s AFC Championship game. And that’s a feeling these Jets are determined to not have to go through again.
“I think with the AFC Championship, if you can’t get up for that, you might as well not even be in the building.” Nick Mangold said, “It’s a great challenge for us. It’s a team that’s playing really well, and it’s going to take all of us for 60 minutes to be able to get the job done.”
“Anytime you play the Steelers there’s no words.” Shaun Ellis said, “You know what type of game you’re going to get and they are going out and are going to be tough and physical and that’s the same way that we’re going to play.”
Second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez has been told, over and over again, that making the conference championship game in both your first two seasons is far from the norm. He knows he is lucky to have had this type of success and he also knows it’s important to seize these opportunities now, because there is no guarantee they will come back around.
“Once you understand after your first season, what it’s really like, how much hard work it takes, the dedication and the grind of the season just to make it to the AFC Championship game and then to feel that last year losing, this year it’s like, man, we have such a great opportunity.” Sanchez said, “We wouldn’t want to feel like that again.”
So let the media worry about scrambling for story ideas, these players just want to make sure they don’t suffer the same fate as last season and that’s all the motivation they need.
The Jets are known for their talking, but it’s usually their coach who does most of the talking, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that when he puts a muzzle on himself, the players will do the same. The players are a product of their coach and just as they will back their coach up by talking, at times, or with their play on the field, if the players aren’t worried about motivating themselves through any other means then wanting to play in the Super Bowl, well then you know their coach is going to feel the same.
So when Ryan was asked if he was worried about a potential emotional let down in this game, he couldn’t have possibly dismissed the idea any faster.
“No. Shoot, the Super Bowl’s not played for another three weeks.” Ryan said, “We plan on being there. To do that, it’s going to take everything we have to have a chance.
“You thought last week was emotional and all that, just wait until this week. Both teams, we’ve both had huge wins against some outstanding opponents. But, we know what this one is all about. It’s going to take everything. Both teams will be committed to the same thing. Both teams want to get to that Super Bowl and have that opportunity. Both teams want to be AFC Champions and represent our conference in the Super Bowl. So as a letdown emotionally, I don’t think that’s even possible this week.”
There is always a method to Ryan’s madness, it’s just that it usually isn’t this obvious to everyone else. Ryan leaned heavily on the emotion of revenge and hatred the past two weeks, but that was all already there. Nothing had to be manufactured it all came about organically.
A sense of hate or a fabricated rivalry with the Steelers would have just felt phony and forced, besides what more motivation could a player have than to make it to the Super Bowl? Especially considering that the terrible taste of last season’s AFC Championship loss is still so fresh in these players’ minds.
To hate or respect is so inconsequential at this point, there is only one thing that matters and only one sight that Ryan and his players want to see once the final seconds tick off the clock in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
“I want that green and white confetti coming down. We want to hold the trophy, the Lamar Hunt Trophy.” Ryan said, “We want that to be ours. We want the hat, we want the t-shirts. We want to experience that.”