It was, a triumphant Head Coach Rex Ryan told the media after the game, the “same old Jets, going to the AFC championship game two years in a row.” This was what is called in politics a “dog whistle”—a message that only a select few listeners understand.
“Same old Jets” holds special meaning for those of us who have endured the special torture of being a Gang Green partisan. Some teams innovate on offense or introduce new schemes on defense. For most of my rooting life the Jets seemed to invent new and heart-wrenching ways to lose football games and waste promising seasons. “Same old Jets” was Richard Todd finding the Dolphins five times with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line in 1982; it’s Mark Gastineau crashing into Bernie Kosar in 1986 as the team squandered a 10 point lead with four minutes ; it’s Dan Marino and the fake spike in 1994; it’s Peyton Manning deciding to stay in school in 1997, when the Jets had the first pick in the draft; it’s Bill Belichick resigning as “HC of the NYJ” after one day on the job in 2000; it’s Doug Brien missing field goals twice in the last two minutes of regulation in Pittsburgh in 2004; it’s the tortured Brett Favre fade over the last final five games of 2008.
Same old Jets? Rex Ryan knows better and so now do the long suffering Jets followers. Fans of the “same old Jets” have spent 17 years enduring nightmares where Dan Marino is eternally not spiking the ball; now we can, at least for a few months, drift off to sleep with visions of Tom Brady spending an eternity in the pocket trying and failing to make sense of green and white swarm dancing in front of him.
Same old Jets? It was a dog whistle; a message that these new Ryan Jets are on an exorcism tour. Ryan and his mad scientist defense had never beaten Manning, at least before last weekend. And every football watcher not getting paid by Woody Johnson knew that after a regular season shellacking at the hands of these Patriots, the Jets were bound to be window-dressing for another Belichick-Brady coronation. Next up the Jets go to Heinz Field where they will try to put Doug Brien’s specter to rest.
Same old Jets indeed--going back to the conference finals.