Bart Scott is fine with the idea that the Jets are the hottest story in the playoffs, that their astonishing march to the AFC Championship Game after just barely qualifying for the postseason is the warm-and-fuzzy story line of January. He gets that.
And he gets it that fans will think the Jets' season ultimately was a success even if they can't beat the Colts on Sunday in Indianapolis.
But this is not about feel-good moments and wait-'til-next-year if they lose. This is about taking advantage of the opportunity right here, right now.
"I've played [Peyton] Manning eight times and never gotten the best of him," said former Ravens linebacker Scott, who endured a seven-game losing streak against the Colts. "What better chance than right now to try to go to the Super Bowl."
Evidently, Scott is not counting the Jets' 29-15 win over the Colts on Dec. 27 as a victory over Manning; the quarterback was pulled after Indy built a 15-10 lead in the third quarter. The Jets beat up on rookie backup Curtis Painter once Manning was lifted.
Scott knows what it is to feel the exhilaration of getting this far in the playoffs, only to suffer the devastation of losing in the AFC Championship Game. Scott's Ravens earned a matchup with the Steelers in last year's conference title game but were beaten. Like this year's Jets, who have a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez, the Ravens featured rookie passer Joe Flacco.
It was the closest Scott has gotten to the Super Bowl, and the feeling of disappointment about not reaching the ultimate goal was awful.
"I've been to this point last year when we shocked Tennessee on the road and came back and lost a heartbreaker," he said. "We're playing maybe the best quarterback to ever play in this league. Peyton understands. He'll break down our schemes, and we've got our work cut out. But this is about beating the Colts, not just getting to this point. This is about seizing the moment."
Scott knows how seldom these opportunities come along. Just ask Dan Marino, the Dolphins' Hall of Fame quarterback. I'll never forget Marino telling me how mortified he was late in his career at never having won a championship, and how naive he was in his second season when he got to the Super Bowl, only to lose to the 49ers.
"I thought it would always be easy," Marino said. "Here I am in my second year, and I thought, 'This is gonna happen every year.' "
It never happened again.
That's why the Jets can't revel in their feel-good moment. Road wins over the Bengals and Chargers are all well and good, but a loss to Indianapolis would be a crushing blow. Scott knows there are no guarantees moving forward.
So the Jets will bring their us-against-the-world, ground-and-pound mentality to Indianapolis and see if they can overcome Manning. Scott can't promise a win, but he can promise there will be some ugly football - the kind the Jets prefer.
"This isn't the Golden State Warriors or the Phoenix Suns," he said. "This is the old-school Detroit Pistons, and it's ugly. I know the league would prefer the aerial show so it can build the game up. But we got the old and grimy Jets. Tune [in] if you want to."
One game. One chance. Maybe the only chance.
As far as the Jets are concerned, this moment might never come again. So take advantage now, or risk Marino's fate and lament it for a lifetime.