By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork.com
NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Hello? Other shoe? Where the heck are you?
For a very long time the Jets were innovators in finding new and inventive ways to lose. They got so adept at making a mole hill out of a mountain the fans became numb to it all. They became accepting of the inevitable. No matter how good things appeared to be on any given Sunday, they only appeared that way. Sooner or later the ridiculous would rear its ugly head and we’d all be right back where we started, wishing we could change a few things.
It was often more a sick sense of deja vu. The notion that something would invariably go wrong permeated every last fiber of the fans’ being. No matter the situation, the Jets would do themselves in.
Even last season, one that ranks as one of the most memorable in the franchise’s 40-plus year history, the Jets found ways to screw things up. The Atlanta game comes immediately to mind, as do the Buffalo and Jacksonville games, all three agonizing losses, all three at home, no less.
Yet, unbelievably, things are totally different now. In his 25-game career with the Jets, Rex Ryan has successfully replicated the work of Bill Parcells, albeit in an entirely different manner. And, unlike Parcells, Ryan doesn’t strike anyone as the type of guy who’s going to abandon ship for seemingly greener pastures. He’s in it for the long haul.
Ryan may not have any trophies in his office, but he’s successfully changed the culture of Jets football.
It’s true. There’s really no denying that fact. It has been a monumental undertaking.
If fans still cringe during tight games, worrying that something will happen to wreck all that seems promising, that’s now officially the fans’ problem. As shocking as this may sound to the long-time supporters, the ones who have worn their allegiance as a badge of honor and have been forever hopeful but always mindful of reality, the Jets now make their own breaks.
Take Sunday’s 24-20 win in Denver as the ultimate example of this new world order. Can anyone remember the last time the Jets turned the ball over three times, either at home or on the road, and yet still won? It’s probably happened, but you have to really think about it.
There will be no forgetting Sunday’s game, mostly because there’s no way the Jets of the past would have won that game.
Consider everything that went down — Mark Sanchez looking more like a rookie than the guy who stunned the NFL for the first five weeks, a powerful running game struggling mightily against an average at best Broncos defense, Santonio Holmes fumbling away what looked like a sure scoring drive, and a series of calls by the officials that both baffled the mind and reeked of a conspiracy — what the Jets did on Sunday has to get even the most pessimistic among us thinking. This team went into a sea of orange hostility, shot itself in the foot on several occasions, got no favors from anyone and yet still found a way to win.
In any other year the Jets would have shied away from what wasn’t working. They would have abandoned the running game or stopped blitzing or put wraps on their quarterback following interceptions.
Not this season.
There was Sanchez making pressure throws on that final drive. There was offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer calling LaDainian Tomlinson’s number with the Jets trailing even though LT had been largely shut down all afternoon. There was defensive coordinator Mike Pettine sending the house at Kyle Orton, despite the fact that the Broncos quarterback had done a number on the Jets’ secondary. Orton at times looked so good he made even mighty Darrelle Revis look pedestrian.
But the Jets kept coming. That’s because Ryan is sticking to his convictions and his message has not been lost anyone. If his team is going to go down, it will go down on its own terms. There are no excuses. There is no playing not to lose. If you beat the Jets, you will have earned it.
What we have been left with going forward is nothing but cold, hard facts that are undeniable. The Jets at 5-1 have the best record in football. Since coming out with a preseason hangover against Baltimore, they have successfully navigated a treacherous schedule that included two division road games, a trip to Denver, and two home games against New England and Minnesota that, at least on paper way back when the schedule was announced, looked like toss ups at best.
The Jets are in the driver’s seat in the AFC East and are staring at the possibility of securing homefield advantage in the conference playoffs.
More importantly, the Jets have lived up to all the hype. They have backed up their tough talk with excellence of execution and coaching prowess. They have developed into a team of believers and achievers, not a sideshow filled with examples of unrealized potential.
And in reality, the new reality that is this franchise’s, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t continue.
After their Week 7 bye, the Jets will host Green Bay on Halloween. Then they will embark on what can be considered the soft part of their schedule — road games at Detroit and Cleveland, who have just two wins combined this season. There is absolutely no reason why the Jets shouldn’t be in the same place they are now in the standings when they return home for their Nov. 21 tilt against Houston.
No reason whatsoever.
That’s because Ryan has these guys thinking — and playing — big.
Forget about all the times the Jets got off to fast starts only to limp to the finish line. This is not 1986, 1997, 2000 or 2008, years this franchise spit the bit in the second half of the season. The culture was the same back then, fear of the inevitable was everywhere.
No, it’s 2010 and it’s a different world. The Rex Ryan era may indeed prove to be the greatest in franchise history. It’s beginning to unfold before our very eyes, regardless of the fact that so many of us are having a hard time coming to grips with this new reality.
The other shoe?
Seriously, what other shoe?
These Jets are wearing combat boots.