Talk is cheap.
8 months ago, Rex Ryan and the New York Jets walked off the field into the tunnel at Lucas Oil Stadium after having their coffin nailed and buried by the league’s finest second-half mortician, Peyton Manning.
January 24, 2009 will be remembered in green and white lore forever, but for more than being another shortcoming by a historically snakebit franchise. The 30-17 AFC Championship loss in Indianapolis meant more than that. Much more.
The “Same Old Jets” died that day. Buried and forgotten, never to be heard from again. For 46 years, the former Titans of New York, have operated as a timid, tentative franchise always waiting for the glass slipper to break.
The clock struck 12 on opening day 1999, with Vinny Testaverde’s Achilles tendon transforming the Jets Super Bowl carriage into a pumpkin. Time ran out again in 2005, with each missed field goal from Doug Brien in Pittsburgh.
But those days are over at the Meadowlands. At least the Jets talk like they are. They haven’t stopped talking since that night in Indy and they don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
The whole braggadocio persona works well in professional sports. But in New York, it is a double-edged sword of razor-sharp proportions. Talk here and you better back it up, or suffer the colossal backlash of the fans and media. Win here and you’ll be forever idolized among the other deities of New York sports lore. Lose and prepare to have the Big Apple streets run red with your blood.
Be cocky. Go ahead. Swag-surf up and down the New York harbor and shores of Long Island if you will. Climb the Empire State Building with your King Kong-like brashness. But get it done. Be Mark Messier, not Patrick Ewing.
Rex Ryan and the Jets haven’t accomplished anything yet to be mentioned in the same breath as Messier, Jeter or the real L.T. But they sure make it seem like they have.
For six months, we’ve heard it all. Heard about how Antonio Cromartie will clean up his act in New York, playing Robin to Darrelle Revis’ Batman. Heard how LaDainian Tomlinson will return to hall-of-fame status running behind the Jets’ offensive line. Heard how Santonio Holmes will finally provide the big-time playmaking threat Gang Green has lacked since Keyshawn Johnson. How John Conner is the second coming of Larry Csonka. How not only will the Jets win often but to paraphrase Dustin Keller– they’ll make it look good.
We’ve heard how all the talent and personality the Jets have assembled will check their egos at the door, paving the way to the franchise’s first Super Bowl in over 40 years.
In a city where their stadium roommates, the Giants, took home the Lombardi just two years ago, somehow it is the big-talking Jets who have stolen the headlines. Running pep-rallies in Times Square. Starring in HBO primetime specials. They’ve got the mic now, all the spotlight of the city that never sleeps.
It starts tonight against a team that doesn’t do that much talking. At least not historically. The Baltimore Ravens are no homecoming game pushover. Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs certainly aren’t hopping aboard the Jet Superbowl bandwagon any time soon. Nor are Anquan Boldin or Ray Rice.
Enough talking. It’s finally time for the Jets to put their money where the mouth is. It’s time for Mark Sanchez to step up and lead an offense. Time for Braylon Edwards to make plays downfield. Time for Dustin Keller to develop into the playmaking tight end the Jets thought they were getting when they expended a first round draft pick on him in 2008. It’s time for Ryan’s self-proclaimed “championship defense” to go get a ring. Time for the excuses to cease.
If the New York Jets 2010 quest is to end in Dallas in February, it starts tonight. At 7:00 on national television, it’s time to prove your case to the entire country. Shut down Ray Rice, knock Joe Flacco around in the backfield. Go beat the Ravens, smack them in the mouth. Roll some heads like you said you would. Start off 1-0.
Then we’ll talk.
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