Joe Douglas knows what he wants from this team and in particular for this team as he brings in players to the New York Jets in free agency or the NFL Draft. And the phrasing used by the general manager harkens back to a slogan instilled by a former Jets head coach.
When Rex Ryan became the Jets head coach in 2009, he coined the phrase ‘Play Like a Jet.’ It was emblazoned all over the team’s training facility, painted on walls, hung on banners and adorning posters in the team’s meeting spaces. Now Douglas, in his first full offseason with the Jets and just two days out from his first NFL Draft as a general manager, wants players who ‘Play Like a Jet.’
But what does it mean to ‘Play Like a Jet’?
Ryan once said it was someone who played like their hair was on fire. Douglas, in talking with Alan Hahn and Bart Scott on ESPN 98.7 on Tuesday, invoked the phrase and wants the same thing from the players he’s bringing in.
“So you just got ‘Play Like a Jet.’ What does that mean? You know, like I mentioned before, it's a tough division, man, and it is a tough town,” Douglas told Hahn and Scott.
“So in there - there has to be a ruggedness to your team, you have to be you have to be an all-weather team. You to have guys that are mentally psychologically tough enough to walk into Gillette Stadium. You know, you got to be able to go to Buffalo in bad weather, windy, snowy, you got to be able to go down to Miami in September when it's 95 degrees. You gotta get an all-weather team to take a certain moment of mental toughness to do that.”
There is an interesting connection here as, before becoming head coach of the Jets, Ryan was defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens for several years. Douglas spent 14 years with the Ravens in their scouting department, overlapping with Ryan for several years.
Those Raven teams were known for toughness and playing with a chip on their shoulder. Ryan’s early Jets teams, in particular the first two seasons when he made consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances, were known for the same attributes.
Tough. Gritty. Playing for the team’s colors.
The AFC East and a pathway to the playoffs is a bit wide-open for the Jets. The New England Patriots lost franchise quarterback Tom Brady in free agency this offseason, perhaps marking that the stranglehold they had on the division for two decades is loosening.
The Jets, still in rebuilding mode, likely aren’t there yet and won’t challenge for the division in 2020. But with eight draft picks this week including four selections in the top 80 picks, perhaps Douglas can add more personnel willing to ‘Play Like a Jet.’
Then, maybe just maybe, things will change for a franchise that hasn’t made the postseason since Ryan’s team in 2010.