Jets vs. Colts: Rex Ryan's crusade against pretty-boy football
In the Jets vs. Colts AFC championship game Sunday, the New York Jets and Head Coach Rex Ryan will be trying to prove that smashmouth football can still succeed in today's NFL.
Head Coach Rex Ryan would have the sporting world believe that Sunday’s AFC championship game between his New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts is a struggle for the very soul of professional football.Skip to next paragraph
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Even by the measure of a man whose mouth has won him the hearts of New Yorkers – no statement too brash, no prediction too bold – Ryan’s comment of Jan. 6 was curious.
Why, he asked rhetorically, was his 9-7 team not the Super Bowl favorite?
“We have the best defense…. We have the best rushing attack,” he said. “If I had a choice to coach any team in this [postseason] tournament, I would choose this one."
To those immersed in the Xs and Os of modern football, the statement sounded like the relic of another era – as though the Jets coach was advocating a worldwide return to Commodore computers and 8-track cassettes.
The era of smashmouth football, the thinking goes, is over.
“Three yards and a cloud of dust” seems like a quaint notion from the days when Red Grange roamed the gridiron wearing an aviator’s cap. Defenses are no longer so feared that they invoke semi-apocalyptic nicknames: the Steel Curtain, the Doomsday Defense, the Monsters of the Midway.
Today’s NFL is dominated by passing – the elastic minds and arms of Mannings and Favres and Breeses – and those who suggest otherwise are muscle-headed luddites who don’t know their time has passed them by.
Or are they?
The Jet gospel
Ryan’s run through the playoffs with the Jets this year has been accompanied by an almost Messianic fervor. His team steamrolled a fading Cincinnati Bengals outfit in the Wild Card round before persuading the San Diego Chargers to press their self-destruct button last week.
But even amid some good fortune, Ryan has remained unsurprisingly unabashed: His goal is to bring the forgotten gospel of bloody knuckles and splintered teeth back to football, one grind-it-out Jets win at a time.
Along the way, he has amassed quite a following.
Despite its overwhelming popularity, the NFL has not reached its current pinnacle without some uneasiness among the blue-collar everyfan.
The league is, undoubtedly, now a quarterback’s league. Evolving NFL rules protect the quarterback as though he were made out of Waterford crystal. The merest brush to his head by a defensive lineman brings terrible and immediate yellow-flagged retribution. Defensive backs have slowly been deprived of many of the tricks and tactics they once used to disrupt receivers, to the point that they can now seem little more than spectators.