Backdoor Cuts: Don’t stop believin’

January 20, 2011

After the New York Jets upset playoff victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday, Jets linebacker Bart Scott was tracked down on the field for an interview. The outspoken defender didn’t mince words.

“Anybody can be beat,” he yelled. “Felt great. Poetic justice. We know we were a much better team and we came up and represented ourselves.”

Scott ranted on, dissing the Patriot defense and calling out all those who didn’t believe in the Jets. It was an epic tirade, but it was hardly unexpected. In fact, it may have been more surprising if Scott showed a degree of humility.

Scott’s insult to New England, that their defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed, probably doesn’t even make the top-five in the war of words between the conference rivals. The Jets led an all-out verbal assault on the Patriots in the week leading up to their matchup, a barrage of bravado that seemed a bit unjustified after New England dominated New York 45-3 back in December. But somehow, head coach Rex Ryan and the Jets backed it up with a convincing victory of their own. Maybe modesty is overrated.

Since appearing on HBO’s Hard Knocks in the preseason, Ryan and the Jets have developed a well-deserved reputation as the NFL’s most brash and overconfident team. Ryan, who emerged as a profanity-spewing, snack-loving star on Hard Knocks, never played it safe with his proclamations, predicting a Super Bowl for a squad that backed into the playoffs with an 8-8 record in 2009 (albeit one that made it to the AFC Championship Game).

A season’s worth of saber-rattling reached its peak leading up to the Patriots game, with Ryan taking subtle shots at likely MVP Tom Brady and declaring the matchup to be all about him versus rival coach Bill Belichick. His players got in on the act too, none more aggressively than cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who had a succinct description of Brady: “He’s an asshole. Fuck him.”

Plenty of hours of ESPN programming were filled by commentators questioning the wisdom of the Jets trash talk, considering the drubbing they faced during their last trip to Foxborough. But on Sunday Ryan made his critics do what he could not—shut up—by giving a relatively dominant performance against a 14-2 team that had won eight consecutive games by an average of three touchdowns.

Perhaps commentators should not have been so quick to dismiss the Jets’ strategy. After all, more often than not, confidence is looked at as a barometer for success in sports. When Georgetown men’s basketball team went on their slide, the posters on fan message board HoyaTalk were looking for poor body language as a cause of poor play.

Of course, confidence isn’t the be-all and end-all of sports. It ultimately comes down to talent, not to mention strategy and execution. If a few drives went differently on Sunday, or the Jets didn’t have some of the best players in the NFL on their roster, the Jets would have been a laughingstock for their foolish belief they could defeat the mighty Patriots.

But to turn around an old saying, I’d rather have my teams speak up and display their confidence than keep their mouths shut and leave some in doubt. Maybe they don’t have to go as far as Cromartie and Ryan, but I wouldn’t mind hearing Austin Freeman take a couple shots at Kris Joseph in a few weeks.


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