Calvin Pace thinks there's a lack of respect, a certain vibe given off by some when it comes to the Jets. "For whatever reason, we're kind of a team that everybody kind of likes to hate, and that's fine," the linebacker said yesterday. "Everybody is not going to like you."
But hate? What's up with that? Is it because the Jets have a confident, trash-talking coach in Rex Ryan and because of all the brash words that have come from their locker room?
"I don't know," Pace said. "It's funny. I was out for four games, and we couldn't do anything wrong. Watching the games on TV, all the analysts were on the bandwagon. Then we lose a couple of games and 'Oh, the Jets are phony; they are not going to win.' I guess when you have a coach who speaks his mind and says some comical things, people take it the wrong way.
"They don't want to hear that. They want to hear a bland guy sit up and talk about the game plan. But Rex, he's himself and maybe that turns people off. We have guys who speak their mind on the team, and maybe that rubs them the wrong way."
Ryan isn't about to pull a Rod Smart and have "He Hate Me" plastered across his hooded practice sweatshirts or the black sweater vests he wears on game days. But the rookie coach, who has the Jets in the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, thinks the way some feel about the Jets is a direct result of their thoughts about him.
"I think people hate me, which is fine," Ryan said. "I want to be that guy that comes into your town . . . I want the negative focus, put it on me. That's fine, but I think our football team is respected.
"That's the biggest thing - respect who we are. This is a pretty darn good football team that plays the game in my opinion the way it should be played. I think any true football fan appreciates the way we play.
"We play great defense, and we can run the football, and we're efficient in the passing game. And by the way, we play pretty good special teams. So I think people respect that. If they dislike us or whatever, maybe it's [because] I'm not afraid and I can be myself. Then that's fine and dandy. I truly believe we are building a team that I want our opponents to respect, and I think we've earned that this year."
Marques Douglas doesn't think so, however, and the defensive end said he's getting tired of the lack of credit the Jets' defense gets, even making sure he relayed the message to NBC sideline reporter Andrea Kremer Sunday night.
The Jets have spent the better part of the stretch run ranked No. 1 or close to it in defense. They finished as the league's top-ranked defensive unit, allowing 252 yards per game. They're also No. 1 against the pass (154 yards) and in points allowed (236). Seven of the touchdowns the Jets allowed came without the defense on the field (on three fumbles, two interceptions and two kickoff returns), which means their defense allowed less than 12 points per game.
"Granted, we don't have some of the more recognizable names in the NFL, but we are the No. 1 group in the league," Douglas said. "It's not Baltimore, it's not Pittsburgh. It's the New York Jets. We're kind of playing how I played my whole career, and that's with a chip on our shoulders. We get tired of being overlooked, we get tired of being analyzed, saying what we don't have.
"Our whole thing is, when is the respect going to come? And last night, hopefully, we got some of it. But I still think that we are far too often overlooked and we just want to go out each week and shore up some of these games that we have let slip by."