The New York Jets have suffered a great loss this season. I’m not talking about Velcro cornerback Darrelle Revis or whiny wide receiver Santonio Holmes, both of whom are lost to season-ending injuries. The Jets have lost their voice.
R.I.P., Jets Swagger (2009-11).
It was nothing but pleasantries, tributes, and half-hearted pronouncements of success from the J-E-T-S, who seemed to have gone M-U-T-E in the lead-up to Sunday’s AFC East clash with the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Florham Park, N.J., the training home of the Jets, was more like Boredom Park.
What happened to the snack-eating, smack-talking bunch that loved to tug on Superman’s cape and antagonize Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? Where is the team with a coach who wasn’t going to kiss Belichick’s rings, a cornerback who said Brady wouldn’t be out of place at a proctologist’s office, and the linebacker who, after the Jets eliminated the Patriots from the playoffs in January 2011, proclaimed the New England defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed?
There was more enmity displayed and verbal salvos voiced in the last presidential debate than in the latest installment of the Border War.
Patriots-Jets Week used to be summed up by the words of Jets linebacker Bart Scott: “Can’t wait.” Now, it just seems tedious and perfunctory. After imploding under the weight of coach Rex Ryan’s pompous predictions, plus incessant player infighting last season, the Jets have become button-down boring, as vanilla and uninspiring as their offense.
Unable to put up, the Jets have chosen to shut up.
What passed for trash talk from the HC of the NYJ was saying he thought the Jets would win. It sounded less like a bold prediction and more like an unwanted obligation. Ryan was like a musician on the last stop of a 30-city tour just going through the motions of a performance he didn’t want to give anymore.
“I just think that I want them to know . . . and they know that I think we’re going to beat them,” Ryan said last week. “I recognize that they’re a great football team, and Belichick is a great coach. I’ve never once said that he wasn’t. But again, we’re not going to back down or concede anything.”
Ryan added: “They’re going to get our best shot, and we know we’re going to get theirs. It really doesn’t matter who says what. But we are going to be ourselves. We’re coming there to take our swing. We’ll see if we land that punch to win the game.”
The Jets are going to give it their best shot. Fire up the bulletin boards in Foxborough.
The Jets players weren’t much better. The aforementioned cornerback who called Brady a naughty word two years ago, Antonio Cromartie, was throwing verbal bouquets at TB12.
“He’s a competitor. He hates to lose,” Cromartie said Wednesday. “I’m a guy I hate to lose, too. And knowing that it’s New England, the new America’s Team, I think that’s the whole thing of going against Brady, because for one he’s one of the future Hall of Fame quarterbacks and a guy that’s won multiple Super Bowls.”
The most controversial story to come out of Jets camp this past week was Ryan hinting that they could use backup quarterback/apostle Tim Tebow at running back. At least that would get Tebow on the field. Tebow has been on the field for just 45 offensive snaps this season, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
The Jets have become so mundane that they have turned Tebow, one of the league’s most polarizing and recognizable players, into the NFL equivalent of an anonymous utility infielder. He has rushed the ball 18 times and thrown three passes, one of which came on a fake punt last week in a 35-9 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
What happened to these guys? They used to brag about tying their shoelaces better than the Patriots. One 8-8 season later with Red Sox-esque dysfunction and they’ve swapped their Broadway Bravado for diffidence and deference.
Perhaps the Jets learned their lesson last year when they talked openly about dethroning the Patriots as the kings of the AFC East and then got swept by scores of 30-21 and 37-16 and had to eat their words.
This will be the eighth time the Patriots and Jets have met since Vociferous Rex became coach. The Patriots are 4-3 against the Jets. Whatever mastery Ryan once had over Brady has disappeared. Brady lit up the Jets last year, completing 69.4 percent of his passes for 650 yards and four touchdowns with one interception.
Still, the Patriots are 3-3 this season, just like the Jets. New England looks vulnerable, after going pass defenseless in Seattle. Brady is being talked about like he’s Tony Eason.
This would be the perfect time for the Jets to tweak their stolid rivals. Instead, they’ve gone the same non-controversial, reverential route the Patriots do every week.
The Jets have gone from irritators to imitators.
That’s too bad, because the one thing you could count on the Jets doing under Ryan, win or lose, was speaking their mind. They were the Big Apple Circus. Love them or hate them, they were a breath of fresh air in a league that mass-produces platitudes the way General Motors does Chevrolets. It worked for Ryan’s first two years on the job as they advanced to back-to-back AFC title games.
It could be as simple as the Jets not having much to brag about this year. They have a franchise quarterback, (Off The) Mark Sanchez, who has the lowest completion percentage in the league (49.7 percent). Their pass defense is still among the league’s best without Revis, but they’re allowing 4.7 yards per carry on the ground and 150.5 yards per game (28th in the NFL). They’re 30th in the league in total offense.
The Jets’ state of quiescence is a bit disquieting.
If you’re the Patriots, you have to be afraid that the Jets are saving their biggest statements for the game.