Posted by Chase Stuart on August 19, 2010
For the last 8 months, the New York Jets have been doing almost everything they can to position themselves for a Super Bowl run. The Jets reached the AFC Championship Game in 2009, thanks to seven key players all 26 years of age or younger; then, New York added a quartet of stars in the off-season. They brought in two veterans with a combined 11 Pro Bowls to their name in RB LaDainian Tomlinson and OLB Jason Taylor. They were joined by two young stars who have mixed great success on the gridiron with off the field troubles in WR Santonio Holmes and CB Antonio Cromartie. After having by far the league's #1 pass defense and overall defense in '09, the team looked to be even stronger on defense with NT Kris Jenkins back from injury, Taylor, Cromartie and rookie CB Kyle Wilson. Then, came the Revis hold out.
Rex Ryan has invoked the names of Todd Bell and Al Harris when talking about Revis. What's the connection? In 1984, Todd Bell was in his fourth season with the Bears, and made his first Pro Bowl. The starting strong safety had an AV of 15 that season, and was named 1st-team All-NFL by the Sporting News and honored as a second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press. Al Harris was the 9th pick in the '79 draft for Chicago, and sat on the bench for the first two years of his career. In '81 and '82, he was Chicago's starting right defensive end. Then, to make room for Richard Dent, Dan Hampton and Steve McMichael on the defensive line, the Bears moved Harris to RLB, where he could replace Gary Campbell. In '83 and '84, Harris started 27 games for the Bears. But in 1985, both Bell and Harris were unhappy with their contracts. Both were starters on a Bears defense that finished 1st in the league in total defense and rushing defense and second in passing defense. They never caved, and sat out the entire season. As you know, the 1985 Bears weren't worse for the wear, as Wilber Marshall and Dave Duerson replaced Harris and Bell, and that unit went on to win the Super Bowl and go down as one of the greatest defenses of all-time. Ryan's father, Buddy, was the Bears defensive coordinator that season, and Rex had no problem bringing up that memory when discussing the Revis situation: "They were replaced and missed out on a Super Bowl, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Ryan said.
On the other side of the coin? Emmitt Smith and the 1993 Cowboys. As discussed during his HOF spotlight:
Smith held out the first two games of '93 due to a contract dispute, and the Cowboys lost both games. With Emmitt back, the Cowboys won their next six games. In the last of those, a win over the hated Giants, Troy Aikman went down with an injury that would sideline him for two games. The first of those, against the Cardinals, Smith gained 182 yards from scrimmage and scored a touchdown, allowing Bernie Kosar and Jason Garrett to call themselves winners. The next week, Smith injured his quad, and had just one carry in a loss against the Falcons. The next week, Aikman was back, and on Thanksgiving Day the Cowboys had locked up a win over the Dolphins until Leon Lett cost Dallas the game. The Cowboys would win their next [eight, including all of their playoff] games ... Smith missed nearly three full games in the 1993 season, yet he still was named NFL MVP because of his dominance while playing (and, perhaps, because of how ineffective the Cowboys were without Smith). In the remaining 16 games, the Cowboys went 15-1, with the only loss coming when Lett's blunder snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Doug, Jason and I discussed the Jets difficult early season schedule, which includes games against the Ravens and Patriots in weeks 1 and 2. Perhaps Revis (and more importantly, Revis' agent) are banking on history repeating itself. If the Jets start 0-2, perhaps New York will cave to his contract demands, and he can come in as the Jets white knight, leading the team to the promised land with visions of Emmitt dancing in his head. An 0-2 start would certainly back New York into a corner with the Revis situation, a possibility that is much more likely if the team plays without its most explosive offensive (Santonio Holmes, suspended for the first four games) and defensive players.
On third hand(?), Rex Ryan has been through this before, as
defensive coordinator defensive line coach of the Ravens. In 2000, defensive tackle Tony Siragusa held out of training camp for four weeks, as he thought he was worth more than his $1.5 million dollar contract. The Ravens played hardball. As Sports Illustrated explained:
Word of a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum by the Ravens broke in the Baltimore papers on an August day on which Siragusa was relaxing with his wife, Kathy. four-year-old daughter, Samantha, and 17-month-old son, Anthony, at their beach house on the Jersey shore. When Billick called to smooth things over, Siragusa asked whether he was prepared to begin the Season with an inexperienced starter (Lional Dalton) and a free-agent pickup (Sam Adams) at the tackle positions. "Oh, I see," Billick said. "It's all about leverage now?" "Brian," Siragusa howled, "it's always been about leverage!" (Two weeks later he signed a three-year, $9-million contract.)
Siragusa reported to camp just 13 days before the team's opening day, which would be akin to Revis joining the team on August 31st, less than two weeks away. In Siragusa's situation, things worked out pretty well. What happened in the opener against the Steelers? "We went out there and shut 'em out 16-0 and went on to win the Super Bowl," [Rex] Ryan said. "I know Darrelle and I know he's missing it. I know how much he wants to be here and how much he loves playing and loves this team."
There's no denying how incredible Revis was last season -- he may have been the best player in the league in 2009. The Jets pass defense was dominant largely because of Revis. Then, in the AFC Championship Game, the Colts had too many weapons to be contained. Sure, Revis could cover Wayne, but Peyton Manning had no trouble helping Pierre Garcon (11-151-1) and Austin Collie (7-123-1) obliterate the rest of the secondary. It was with that game in mind that the Jets traded for Cromartie and spent their first draft pick on Wilson. With three strong corners, the Jets front office believed they could match up with the Colts (or Saints) and finally come out victorious. Without Revis, the Jets defense should still be top-notch (adding Jason Taylor, Cromartie, Wilson and half a season worth of Kris Jenkins should help cover the loss of Revis), but without him, the Jets best case scenario may be finding themselves back at Lucas Oil Field, unable to stop Peyton Manning.