Even as the Jets backed into the playoffs a few weeks back, even as they got into the tournament on an afternoon where the Bears took them out, Rex Ryan didn't waste any time in reminding everyone that the Jets, his Jets, were planning on winning the Super Bowl this year. You know, in case you had forgotten.
It has been his line forever. It doesn't matter to Ryan that the Jets are playing the Colts this weekend instead of going to Kansas City for a game that most people looked at as significantly more winnable. It doesn't matter because it has never mattered to Ryan, who is on the other side. He talks in terms as big as his waist and the main characters in his story are always the same: He and his guys.
It's a good thing. Coaches should believe in their players, shouldn't be afraid to dream about and talk about all the things they're planning to do. Sports are supposed to be fun,. People like Ryan, more than walking mutes like Eric Mangini and Bell Belichick, make it more entertaining. Good for him.
Ryan should know, though, that he is promising his team is going to make it down a road so treacherous it looks like one of those Brooklyn streets Mike Bloomberg and his merry band of snowplows forgot about during the blizzard. For the Jets to do what their coach has sworn they will, they may well have to go through Peyton Manning and the Colts, Tom Brady and the Patriots and Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. Three quarterbacks with rings. Three teams with history. Three incredible games on the road.
For the Jets, call it the Green Mile.
Around here, we know about memorable runs. It was only three years ago that the Giants, 10-6 and second in their division just like the Jets are this year, busted through the NFC and ran all the way to Super Bowl XLII. That January, the games against the Bucs and the Cowboys and the Packers, and then the huge upset of the Patriots in the Super Bowl in February, were as good as anything New York football has ever seen.
This would be better. It isn't just that the teams that stand in front of the Jets, isn't just the quarterbacks. It is the aura, to steal an overused Yankees phrase. It is the belief that these teams and these stars -- starting with Manning and the Colts -- just aren't going to lose to the Jets in a game that matters.
That is why Ryan does what he does, says what he says. He wants nothing to do with that kind of thinking, even if it is the kind of thinking that most everyone outside of the Jets facility in Florham Park is doing.
It is why he goes into an interview room and says that it is "personal" for him to try to beat Manning this weekend. It is why he says, "I don't know when I'm going to beat him, but I want it to be Saturday night" the other day. It is why he says, "I've waited a whole year for this," going all the way back to the disappointment in the AFC Championship Game.
Some will say it's just Rex being Rex. Others will say it's too much, then go on about how Ryan is putting his players too far out there, putting too much pressure on them. How he is making promises the Jets won't be able to keep.
Truth is, there has never been a better time for those kinds of promises. The only way for the Jets to make this run, to get through this gauntlet that lies in front of them, is to revel in it. To look at it as a positive they get the Colts instead of the Chiefs, to see the chance for history.
Ryan does, you bet. It is why still hasn't stopped talking. Indy, New England, Pittsburgh? The Jets' Green Mile begins Saturday night.