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Rex Ryan has earned a reputation around the NFL for being quite boastful, a proud man with a knack for the hyperbole.
That’s Rex being Rex. Right?
That mantra about Ryan has undoubtedly become infectious in the locker room, spreading to the players. And lately, the players that have spoken with a Ryan-esque confidence has been faced with criticism.
The New York Jets’ first-round back in 2013, cornerback Dee Milliner, was drafted with the expectations he would eventually make the departed Darrelle Revis a distant memory. Of course, a rookie thrust into a starting job right out of college has little chances of replacing a cat whose nickname included the word “Island” in it.
Asked about his rocky rookie season in New York, Milliner fired back and stated he was the best corner in the league.
“The best corner in the league? Me,” Milliner told the Daily News. “I ain’t gonna say that somebody else is better than me.”
Obviously Milliner isn’t the best corner in the NFL. That’s a debate that includes Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson and Joe Haden, as I’ve addressed in the past. But what should Milliner have said? “No, I’m a terrible corner that still needs to learn a lot.” Or “I don’t think I’ll ever be an elite defender?”
That’s malarkey. Milliner is an athlete — an elite one at that, because he’s playing a skill position at the highest level of sport. And athletes — especially great ones — never lack a certain bravado about them. They should always consider themselves the best, so that one day their play might actually be worthy of that accolade.
Ryan’s confidence hasn’t only spread to his second-year corner.
Veteran outside backer Calvin Pace stated the Jets have the NFL’s best defense. Second-year quarterback Geno Smith, who’s on track to be the starter come Week 1, said he expects to be a top-five quarterback in the next year or two.
But what’s the issue with these statements? Should Pace have tempered his defense’s expectations, saying they might finish in the 15-to-20 range, hopefully close to the No. 10 spot? Or should Geno have said he’s cool with being one of the league’s worst quarterbacks? That his bar is set at being the 18th-best quarterback this season, and that would be just fine with him?
Like with Milliner, great athletes are never short of confidence. Their belief in themselves is what drives them to be great — or eventually be great.
Ryan’s confidence, which has clearly been passed along to his players, is a good thing for the Jets as they look to contend for a playoff spot in 2014. They need to believe they can have a top-five quarterback, the best cornerback, and the No. 1-ranked defense, especially if they actually believe they can get to the postseason.
If they didn’t have that confident, bold demeanor, then they would really be the league’s laughing stock.
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