The New York Jets, fresh off the smack-talking, in-your-face victory over the New England Patriots, are apparently trying a different approach with the Pittsburgh Steelers: kill them with kindness.
Yes, you read that right. They have nothing but praise for the Steelers and QB Ben Roethlisberger. From ESPNNewYork.com:
“I don’t think anything really works with that guy because he makes it up as he goes along,” said Jets defensive lineman Trevor Pryce, who played in AFC North showdowns and postseason wars against Roethlisberger when he and Ryan were both with the Baltimore Ravens. Most of those games ended painfully.
“The guy is a once-in-a-blue-moon kind of football player, one of the two, three biggest challenges in this league, because you can’t prepare for what he naturally does,” Pryce continued. “How do you prepare to tackle a guy as big as a polar bear? How do you prepare for a guy who can flick a ball 50 yards at the drop of a dime? How do you prepare for a guy who can run like he does? How do you prepare for someone who wants to win like he wants to win? … There have been many times I’ve had two hands wrapped around him, and he just doesn’t go down. … He’s a genetic freak.”
Jets head coach Rex Ryan also voiced his adoration:
Standing at his news conference podium, Ryan tried briefly to demonstrate how the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Roethlisberger behaves once he’s dropped back to pass. Ryan swatted at a couple of imaginary planes like King Kong.
“Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are huge men, you know,” Ryan began, “but they approach things a little different. Brady will sit in there and throw the ball at the last second. Then you hit him. Peyton, if you’ve got a free run and he doesn’t like what he sees, even though he’s the hardest guy in the league to sack, eventually he’ll get down with the ball. He won’t take the hit.
“Whereas Roethlisberger will beat you up. He’ll hold the ball, and then when you come in there, he’ll go, ‘Ah, now we’ve got a free runner, one or two guys? Ahhh, I’ll just knock this guy down. Stand there. And then make plays down the field.’ I mean, I’ve never seen a guy take the hits he can take, and also make people miss the way he does, and be as accurate on the run. And he’s a lot faster athlete than you think.”
After their first two playoff wins, the Jets spoke about how you can fool Manning some of the time and you can rattle Brady with pressure. But Roethlisberger? He not only extends plays by avoiding the rush and shrugging off tackles and throwing on the run — he also makes big plays once he does. He’s fearless.
Wait. Not only is Ryan comparing Roethlisberger to Manning and Brady, two of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, he’s claiming that Roethlisberger is better, as if Manning and Brady have these visible faults but Roethlisberger is Superman and impossible to defend.
All right, I’m a Pittsburgh homer; I graduated from Carnegie Mellon, and I have great love and respect for my alma mater, the city of Pittsburgh, and the Steelers. But do I think that Roethlisberger is a superior quarterback to Manning and Brady? I would be insane if I did.
Think about all the times that Roethlisberger made a spectacular, SportsCenter highlight play. How many can you really count?
Think about this logically. You have a quarterback who likes to hang on to the ball instead of getting rid of it because he always thinks that 1) he is elusive and fleet-footed enough to simply run away from the rush, 2) he is strong enough to simply shrug the defenders off, 3) he is so visionary that he sees exactly where his receivers are and what the defense is doing even on the opposite side of the field, and 4) he has the arm strength to make throws on the run when he doesn’t have time to plant his feet.
The results of Roethlisberger’s repeated heroic attempts? A handful of appearances on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays and an alarming number of sacks. Sacks, you say? Well, yeah. 1) He doesn’t have Michael Vick’s speed, 2) it’s not humanly possible to consistently escape an NFL gang tackle, 3) he doesn’t have x-ray vision, and 4) accuracy is decreased when you’re throwing on the run.
So, Ryan wants to compare Roethlisberger’s mobility and fearlessness to Manning’s willingness to take sacks and Brady’s propensity to get rattled by pressure? Let’s do a comparison of the last five years. (The numbers in parentheses represent the overall ranking of NFL quarterbacks in terms of most sacks taken that year.)
2010 Season (No. 11 Roethlisberger, No. 20 Brady, No. 31 Manning)
2009 Season (No. 1 Roethlisberger, No. 32 Brady, No. 39 Manning)
2008 Season (No. 2 Roethlisberger, No. 30 Manning)
2007 Season (No. 2 Roethlisberger, No. 19 Brady, No. 19 Manning)
2006 Season (No. 4 Roethlisberger, No. 15 Brady, No. 34 Manning)
*Special thanks to Playerfilter for the data tables
As you can see, Roethlisberger consistently ranks at or near the top for most sacks taken; Manning and Brady consistently rank near the bottom. If any coach thought that an occasional highlight-reel play was worthy of three sacks a game over the course of a career, that coach would be fired.
Which brings us to the ultimate question: Are Ryan and the Jets sweet-talking the Steelers in order to soften up the men in black and gold or do the Jets truly believe that Roethlisberger is the greatest quarterback on Earth?
My guess? The boys from New Jersey know exactly what they’re doing, just like they did when they brashly and boorishly goaded and mocked the Patriots into a loss. It’s all part of the master plan.