Should the Jets achieve a dream previously thought impossible this season, the fallout would be ecstatic, yet somewhat predictable. Bring on the parade and plaudits and bandwagon acclaim. All would be absolutely deserved, hallmark tenants of a proper championship celebration.
More interesting would be the question of whether a singular player eventually defines this entire fascinating team.
These Jets had an interesting composition right from the start. The head coach and quarterback were both rookies, a recipe for rebuilding mitigated by an elite level defense, offensive line, and running game, in addition to some brilliant motivation provided by the aforementioned neophyte ringleader.
Instead of following a predictable route, the Jets cooked a volatile brew, alternately swaying between a dominating force and inconsistent mess.
Through superfluous controversy that seemed constantly swirling, and a myriad of incomplete patterns failing to adequately trace a truly unpredictable ride; cornerback Darrelle Revis was a constant.
Indeed, the quarterback will always be a focal point in any seasonal analysis. And bravado will certainly be long associated with this Jets edition. But after these initial reactions subside, it’s very probable, no matter what this team ultimately provides for a final act, that Darrelle Revis will be recognized as the no-doubt number one reason why they were even had a realistic shot to capture a title.
Revis sports a jovial, though business-like disposition when fielding questions in the locker room. “It’s always a process,” Revis said, when asked if it took time for the defense to fully synchronize. “It’s about getting comfortable with your teammates… we wanted to be the number one defense. Now we just got to win.” Revis draws another tough assignment this week, matching up with shifty Reggie Wayne. “He brings a lot,” said a complimentary Revis. “He’s quick, he’s a route-runner.” Though he remained good-natured, Revis quickly jumped to defend his secondary mates when responding to a question concerning their current high level of performance. “We’ve been playing well in the secondary all year, that’s first of all,” said Revis. “We’ve only given up eight [passing] td’s, that’s pretty good.”
To ponder this unit without Revis is most likely a nightmarish notion for Rex Ryan and staff. When a player is this skilled, entire game plans can be predicated on his individual talents. Having a shutdown corner affords coaching staffs certain luxuries unavailable otherwise. But to simply label Revis a shutdown corner, tossing him in a league-wide fray for comparison’s sake, would represent a mischaracterization of his unique impact.
In a league now totally tilted toward the pass, Revis wreaked havoc on a scale unseen since the salad days of Deion Sanders. It was a different world in the mid-nineties, when Prime Time was at his peak. Quarterbacks were protected, but not with fanatic zeal. Referees were far more lenient, allowing physicality between defensive backs and wide receivers.
Corners and safeties lost much of their latitude for tough play following the alteration of pass interference rules. [after the ’04 season] The game has changed dramatically, even in comparison with recent years. For instance, with today’s rules in place, could the Patriots really have derailed the greatest show on turf in the 2002 Super Bowl? Before a late Rams rally, ferocious but ultimately for naught, the dynamic offense of St. Louis was nullified by the Patriots’ physical play. Pop those two teams in a time machine, stage a rematch under contemporary guidelines, and are flags flying all over the place?
It’s within these most unfavorable conditions, where quarterback ratings over 100 are more prevalent than ever, and writers can make an excellent case that the ground and pound Jets are a throwback instead of a model, that Revis has thrived. His performance is equivalent to a baseball player chalking up a .400 batting average in 1968.
The slate of receivers stranded on Revis Island reads like a lineup of perennial Pro Bowl participants. Andre Johnson was first. Four catches, thirty-five yards. Future Hall of Famer Randy Moss was next: Four receptions for 24 yards. After an anomalous letdown against the Dolphins on Monday Night Football, surrendered by the entire defense really, Revis rebounded with a vengeance. Marques Colston? Two grabs. Terrell Owens? Three. Steve Smith? Two. For two yards. Round two with T.O yielded a meager allowance of thirty-one yards and a vicious downfield block. And on, and on, culminating with the humbling of the artist formerly known as Chad Johnson and a clutch effort against Vincent Jackson.
Revis combines speed, athleticism, and intelligence, not to mention superb ball skills. It is not outlandish to associate his play with greatness. Considering Revis’ developing track record, it is very probable to continue.
He’s been there through it all. And that’s why he may be remembered most.
Mark Sanchez met with the media one final time before the AFC Championship. The first year passer should be commended for cutting down on the turnovers marring portions of his regular season. Clearly, if Sanchez can manage the game ably, the Jets can win on any Sunday.
Add in his rediscovered skill at rolling out, and the patience he displayed waiting for Dustin Keller to break open in the end zone last Sunday in San Diego, before firing the pivotal go-ahead touchdown, and there’s plenty for Jets fans to be excited about as it concerns Sanchez.
Rightly viewed as a potential impediment to the team’s success through his midseason slide, Sanchez is now making positive, arguably vital, contributions.
After the painful loss against Atlanta, which appeared to finish the Jets at the time, Sanchez had an illuminating series of talks with Tony Richardson and Thomas Jones about the importance of protecting the ball and displaying responsibility. “Absolutely,’ Sanchez said as he began discussing the talks, “and they just put it to me in a way that, you know, this could be our last shot at it this year type of thing. You know, ‘we love the way you play, we obviously love your instincts.’ But at the same time there’s a point where you have to say, like Coach Schottenheimer says, “You have to say Uncle.”
Sanchez considered this an essential step in his development. He outlined how this type of free flowing discussion could be of benefit in certain game situations. “I think the best part was the exchange we had, it wasn’t them just hammering something to me and not letting me talk about it, but after that, I said, hey, look, keep talking to me like that, keep that going, and you know, coming into the huddle and, all right, hey, third down, or during a time-out, okay, fourth quarter, two minutes left, those are the things I’m saying to myself, but now I have T-Rich and now I have Thomas Jones even helping me with it; on this one I have a drag, on this one I’m running a balloon and going to be checking down over the ball if there’s nothing and that’s the last thing I hear from T.J. , if somebody falls down and we get pressure, I know where T.J. is going to be because he reminded me. Stuff like that just opened the door of communication and it’s been awesome.”
Rex Ryan shared his parting thoughts before leading his team to Indianapolis:
On team merchandise featuring an AFC Champions logo: “All right, I got nothing to say much, really. I will say this. I understand we are selling the championship, AFC Championship merchandise, bags and all that kind of stuff… so I like that thinking. But the other team in the league are doing it, you have Indy, New Orleans, Minnesota, just so everybody is clear on that. But I’ll be honest, I was like ‘What? But I like it, I like it.”
On all things Shaun Ellis:
Restricted in practice? “He’s not restricted. You know, I know his hand is in a cast and all that stuff but there’s no limitations whatsoever from him.”
Using a different cast? “We tried to put a different one on and it was just like, you know, it’s going to be natural, but he would rather have it like this. So we looked at doing different things, but he feels good this way.” [meaning the original cast will be used]
Will he play a normal amount? “Yes.”
On Jim Leonhard: “I knew about Jim Leonhard when he came out of Wisconsin, I really wanted him. He ended up going to the bills, I don’t know it that was money or what it was but he made a mistake and went to the Bills. When his name came up, George Dukanis said, remember this kid that you really liked, he just got released on by the Bills, so we [the Ravens] jumped at him.
On Leonhard signing with the Jets: “Trust me, we were not the only team that knew how good Jim Leonhard was. There was a team that basically offered him a million dollars more in his package to go somewhere else, but he chose to come here.”