The Jets, as we have always known them, are over. The precise moment at which they ceased to be anything that can be described as the "same old Jets" is not known, but the transformation from what they've always been to what they are now under Rex Ryan was completed sometime prior to the final two minutes of Sunday's playoff victory over San Diego. Because it was then, with less than 1:55 left on the clock, that you realized everything was different.
Needing six yards for a first down that would have sealed the game, Shonn Greene ran for five on third down, setting up a fourth-and-1 from the Chargers' 29-yard line. If you were watching the game, you wondered what the Jets would do next. Try a 46-yard field goal that would have put them up by six? Punt, and try to coffin-corner the ball out of bounds inside the five? Or go for it, knowing that one more yard and a first down would seal the game? If you were watching on TV, you wondered which choice the Jets would make.
But the Jets weren't wondering.
A quick camera shot of Ryan on the sideline showed him pumping his fist and giving a knowing nod. He was making the call each one of his players knew he'd make. He was going for it. And not only was he going for it, he knew they were going to get it.
The look on Ryan's face as he pumped that fist was not that of a coach who was nervous about a possible career-defining decision. It was not the face of a man whose decision, if it turned out wrong and the Chargers went back down the field and scored to win the game, would be questioned forever and added to a litany of sad green failures in big spots.
It was the look of a man who knew he'd won the game. By getting five yards on the previous play, the Jets had locked up the game. Ryan's team averages 171 rushing yards per game, and against a beaten-down San Diego defense that they'd been hammering up front all day, he knew there was no way Thomas Jones wasn't going to get one measly yard.
"There was no doubt in our minds that we were going to put the game in our offensive line's hands, and they came up huge, which they've done all year," said Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis, who was celebrating with teammates on the sidelines in anticipation of Jones' successful run. "Rex has a lot of confidence in us. At that particular time, it was, 'We'll run the clock down, take the time out and run a play and win the game.' Simple as that."
This is a whole new Jets era. They haven't exuded confidence like this since Joe Namath sat shirtless by a pool in Miami and told the world they'd beat the Colts in Super Bowl III. They may lose to the Colts on Sunday, but they don't buy into the idea that they should. They respect Peyton Manning and all those offensive weapons and Indy's underrated defense, but they don't think the Colts are a better team than they are. The Jets as we find them in 2010 are all about confidence, as defined by a head coach who predicted a Super Bowl in his introductory news conference and hasn't wavered all year in his belief that that's where his team belongs.
"I'm not an I-told-you-so guy," Ryan said Monday, then smiled. "Until after we win the Super Bowl. Then I'll make that comment. But it's not even about that at all. It's about a belief in the people we had in the organization from the top, from Woody Johnson all the way down. We've got everybody buying in. I've got guys crying in the locker room because they're not active. Everybody wants to contribute to the team's success."
And everybody together believes they're good enough to win every game they play. Even playoff road games in San Diego and, yes, Indianapolis.
At this point, even though the uniform still says Jets, do you really feel like doubting them anymore?