FLORHAM PARK: This isn’t the same song that’s been sung the last six years. This isn’t the tune that’s been playing on repeat, over and over again, since 2009.
As the Jets get set to take on the New England Patriots this Sunday in Act 1 of potentially three, the week leading up has had a far different feel in Florham Park compared to years past. There haven’t been any boastful claims, chest pounding or anything of that nature.
It’s been calm, cool, collected.
It’s been exactly how head coach Todd Bowles wants it.
Since being hired by the Jets back in January, Bowles has preached the same essential message day in, and day out. With New York undergoing a massive offseason overhaul —one that saw former head coach Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik shown the door—Bowles has wanted to change the culture of the locker room. It wasn’t necessarily that the old way was flawed, but, as Bowles said at his introductory press conference, “it wasn’t winning.”
His, he believed, would. And each day since, it’s been about getting everyone to fall in line.
Don’t get Bowles wrong, he still wants his players to be excited, and quite often, they are—Then again, who wouldn’t be a bit pumped about a 4-1 start? But the difference between 2009-2014, and this year, is that when the Jets get amped up, it’s controlled emotion.
In a way, New York’s new mental makeup is a perfect representation of their coach: The Jets are passionate and emotional, but never over-the-top, no matter the situation.
“I don’t know if they’re starting to take on my personality, or if some of them are scared of the backlash,” Bowles joked. “It’s probably a little bit of both, but they’re starting to understand what it takes to try to win.
“We’re trying to win ball games. We’re not trying to win one ball game; we’re trying to win them all. Never get too high, never get too low. It’s a long season.”
That mentality is why this ‘Patriots’ week has felt—eh, actually, sounded—so different. It hasn’t been about making this the Jets Super Bowl. The way Bowles puts it, and the way it’s been parroted by 53 others in New York’s locker room, is that the Super Bowl is played in February…
This game is being played Week 7.
When cornerback Darrelle Revis was asked how big this game is, he said it’s “as big as you want it to be.” When posed the same question, linebacker Calvin Pace shrugged and said, “It’s a big game because it’s the next game.”
There’s been no added hype. ‘Patriots Week’ is suddenly no different than any other week.
“I mean, division games are always important,” Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “So, in that regard, yeah, it’s a division game and those always mean something. But every week you have to put the same focus and energy into the team you’re playing and go out and give yourself the best chance you can to win on Sunday.”
Speaking on Wednesday, Bowles was asked about the sudden lack-of talk leading up to Sunday’s game. Sure, some of it is expected, as there hasn’t been as much built-up-hype with no trash talk. But is that because Bowles himself told his team to keep it PG?
No, not at all. As it turns out, his players aren’t talking because there isn’t anything to talk about.
“I don’t discourage anybody (from talking,)” Bowles said. “It’s not about talking or discouraging or monitoring guys conversations or anything like that. It’s about being mature as a football team and understanding where we are and what we have to do.”
That certainly isn’t how it’s been in the past. And after years of struggles and being a near laughing stock in the NFL, the new direction could be the best one.
The way the Jets have acted leading up to this game shows the drastic change from a year ago. And if the team were to pull out a victory on the field Sunday, it would mark the complete turnaround.
In their last eight meetings, the Jets have beaten the Patriots just once. A win would be big, no? It would mean a lot, no?
“It just means we’re 5-1,” Bowles said. “And we gotta get ready for Oakland.”
This article will also appear in Sunday's edition of The Journal Inquirer