The greatest Jet of them all, Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, says the current group of Jets players need to stop hearing how great they are, and start hearing that they need to buckle down and get to work.
And Namath said it’s coach Rex Ryan who bears the blame for the Jets being overconfident heading into Sunday’s loss to the Raiders.
“It’s rather alarming,” Namath said on the Michael Kay Show. “It starts at the top. Coach Rex Ryan, he’s been doing a great job, getting us to two conference championship games, but there’s one thing about the athlete: You keep telling him how good he is, he’s going to start believing it to the point that he may not be preparing quite the way he should. He may be losing some respect for the other team.”
Namath — the man who famously guaranteed victory before Super Bowl III — never lacked for confidence. But he says there’s a difference between a player expressing confidence in himself and then backing it up on the field, and a coach telling his players that they’re the greatest when they haven’t won anything.
“I think these guys might be believing that they’re better than they are,” Namath said. “Rex has been the only coach that we know, in maybe the history of the game that I’m familiar with, that keeps continually telling his guys how good they are. And they have been pretty good — pretty good — but they haven’t won a championship yet. I think they’ve got to remember that there’s room for improvement.”
Part of the disconnect between Namath and Ryan is simply a matter of age: Namath played for Bear Bryant in college and Weeb Ewbank in the NFL, and those coaches employed an old-school approach of yelling, screaming and chewing players out, and rarely handing out compliments. (For some of Namath’s years with the Jets, one of the team’s assistants was Rex’s dad, Buddy Ryan, who was never shy about chewing his players out when they weren’t performing up to expectations.)
But Namath also seems to believe that Ryan is doing his players a disservice by not calling them out when they make mistakes — including what Namath called a “bonehead decision” by Mark Sanchez on an interception against the Raiders. In thinking the Jets are overconfident and questioning Ryan’s bravado, Namath may anger some Jets fans. But he’ll find a lot of fans of the other 31 NFL teams agreeing with him.