Jets embrace brash banter for AFC title game
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The Jets have taken a page right out of Joe Namath’s Super Bowl playbook.
Coach Rex Ryan has already scheduled the Jets’ Super Bowl parade, the team’s pro shop is already selling AFC champions gear and players are convinced Sunday’s conference title game is a chance at their own redemption – proving last month’s victory over the then-unbeaten Colts was neither fluke nor gift.
All that’s missing is the famous guarantee.
Suddenly, brash is back in fashion in New York.
“Some people look at it like it is arrogance, but that is the goal you want to focus on,” Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “I don’t think an organization or a team comes into training camp thinking they are not going to the Super Bowl. That is the goal we play this game for, to try to be world champions.”
Indianapolis (15-2) won’t quibble with the sentiment – especially heading into Sunday’s AFC title game with the Jets.
After all, it was Colts Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne who came to training camp in a yellow dump truck with a custom-made hard hat bearing the words “Super Bowl under construction.” And it was team president Bill Polian and coach Jim Caldwell who repeatedly acknowledged in December that the Colts’ ultimate goal was winning the Super Bowl, not going 16-0.
But Indy has never been a team that enjoyed trash-talking, and it isn’t about to start now – one win from a second Super Bowl appearance in four years.
Instead, the Colts are bringing back their favorite New York phrase: Forget about it.
“We pay attention to it,” Indy linebacker Clint Session said. “Everybody on this team is paying attention to it. We’re not letting it distract us at all, but you’ve got to pay attention to it.”
The difference in attitude is a reflection of the team’s coaches.
Ryan, like his father, Buddy, is refreshingly flamboyant. He says what he means, exudes confidence and leaves no doubt about his lofty expectations for the Jets (11-7). That’s why Ryan wasted no time declaring New York the Super Bowl favorite when the playoffs began three weeks ago.
“I was shocked, I really was shocked, when they (the oddsmakers) came out and said that we were the longest long shot out there at 50-to-1 or something,” Ryan told Indy reporters this week. “I was like, ‘That’s amazing,’ because most Super Bowls are won with defense and the ability to run the football. … I’m sorry and I don’t care who it offends, but our defense is the best defense in the NFL, and we can run the ball better than anybody in the NFL.”
Ryan has the numbers to back up his claims.
The Jets had the league’s No. 1-ranked overall defense, the No. 1 pass defense, the No. 1 scoring defense and the No. 1 rushing offense. Conventional wisdom suggests that is a winning Super Bowl formula, even if New York does have a fun-loving quarterback back on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
And having Ryan speak his mind, has certainly kept the Jets at ease.
“You get that extra oomph when you have enthusiasm and passion and you’re enjoying yourself,” said linebacker Bart Scott, who followed Ryan from Baltimore to New York. “When you worry about it and you’re tight, you’re out there and you’re robotic. You’re not out there playing. There’s going to come a point in the game when you have to be a football player and it’s outside of X’s and O’s.”
Caldwell, meanwhile, takes the traditional approach.
The man who served as Tony Dungy’s understudy since 2001, who worked with Bill McCartney and Joe Paterno and Howard Schnellenberger as a college assistant and who became the first rookie coach in league history to win 14 straight games, is thoughtful and deliberative.
Publicly, Caldwell chooses his words carefully and doesn’t get involved in controversy. Behind the scenes, words are at a premium though he continually gets the attention of his players.
“We listened to him (in the team meeting) and he was fired up,” Session said of Caldwell. “He definitely wants to win this game.”
But with four-time MVP Peyton Manning leading the way, Colts players refuse to take the Jets’ bait. They were quite and loose this week, with no sense of distractions.
“They’re saying it, that’s how they feel,” Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis said. “It won’t affect us, not at all.”
Even if the Jets keep talking like Namath did before beating the heavily favored Colts in the third Super Bowl.
“People say we don’t deserve to be here and things like that,” Revis said. “We hear what is going on, but we aren’t focused on that. Our focus was getting into the playoffs and now that we are here, trying to make noise.”