The most significant quotes uttered by Jets personnel this past week? Here are two candidates:
Darrelle Revis: "I'm playing on Sunday."
Darrelle Revis: "This is a must-win."
There was no better news for Jets Nation than that the Island is open for business again, that Revis, with his mild concussion from the opener, has been cleared for full contact to go against the Dolphins and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
But there was no more ominous news than No. 24 placing this game between the longtime AFC East rivals in the Gotta-Have-It column. Must-win? In Game 3? So soon?
Perhaps the definition of must-win is morphing over the years in the NFL. In truth, the Jets may not need a win over the 'Fins in the worst way. But they need it bad.
"I know it's an important game, obviously, a huge game for us," head coach Rex Ryan said Friday. "We're trying to be 2-0 in our division, and the only way to do that is to find a way to beat Miami and that's our intention going down there."
Two-and-oh in the division, 2-1 overall will not wipe out the bitter aftertaste of last year's season-finale 19-17 loss at Miami, the first of several final nails in their 8-8 season and playoff hopes. But it would do wonders for their mindset going forward. They will retain at least a piece of the division lead, with a road AFC East victory and those two wins in the division in hand. A favorable outcome will wipe out the discouraging fall-from-ahead at Pittsburgh last week, and set the stage to attack their challenging three-game homestand beginning with San Francisco next week.
But to paraphrase Frank Galvin in "The Verdict," "This is the game. There is no other game. This is the game." If the Jets are still licking their wounds from losses past or looking ahead to next week, they could come up lacking against the rebuilding Dolphins under the hot South Florida sun this afternoon.
On the Road Again
QB Mark Sanchez said the Jets' focus is where it should be.
"No, not at all," Sanchez said about any stray thoughts about January's Miami meltdown. "We're such a different team. There's just a different feeling in this building. Even after the loss last week it was different. We knew we left some plays out on the field, we knew Pittsburgh played really well. We all take it as a lesson and we're ready to move on. I think this is a good group. We're ready to go on the road again and play well."
And that includes several Jets personnel whose performances will depend on their successful disconnection of potential distractions with the visit to Sun Life Stadium.
We wrote about Mike Westhoff on Saturday. Before becoming the Jets' legendary special teams coordinator, Westhoff was building that legend with 15 seasons leading the Dolphins' special forces. And with retirement looming this offseason, barring a playoff return this will be Westhoff's last visit as a coach to the venue that was called Joe Robbie Stadium when he first called it his home office.
Tony Sparano was a Dolphin also, the Miami head coach from 2008 through late last season before he was relieved of his duties. Now he's the Jets offensive coordinator. So was OL coach Dave DeGuglielmo. Revenge, anyone?
Same with Yeremiah Bell, now a Jets starting safety but for eight years a smart, hard-hitting fixture in the Dolphins' deep middle, not to mention WR Clyde Gates, on the 'Fins last year.
And Tim Tebow grew up in Jacksonville, up the road a piece from Miami Gardens, but he played and won high school games in this building, and wouldn't it be somehow fitting if the Jets finally took all the wraps off of the Wildcat package and rode it to victory?
Westhoff admitted there would be a fleeting acknowledgement of some memories spent here. Sparano, not so much.
"It's a business trip, obviously," Sparano said. "We have a game to play. I just told the players this and I practice it: If I want to go to vacation in Miami, then I can go to vacation in Miami. That's not what we're going there for. We're going there to play a game. All that being said, obviously it's a little different. I've been in several places before, unfortunately, and I've heard people say that it's special to go back to places like that. I think when you go in there and you've been a head coach before, it's a little different than when you go back into these places coming from being an assistant coach. It's probably a little bit different that way.
"But it's a business trip and we have a job to do."
"If I know Coach Sparano," Bell replied, "I know he can't wait to get that ball kicked off on Sunday."
Memorable Venue, Cool W's
As for Bell, he said there could be some weirdness for him, but no feelings of retribution for the Aqua & Coral letting him go.
"I don't have any revenge factor," he said. "Sure it'll be different walking into the stadium with a different team. But I wouldn't change anything for all the world. I'm happy to be here with the Jets."
It's Florida, said Tebow, always with a bemused smile on his face, so it's fun coming back here.
"Playing at the stadium is fun," he said. "I've had some good games in the stadium. I won a state championship and a national championship there, had some fun games. So yeah, it's a memorable stadium for me."
One of those fun games was his first start for the Denver Broncos last year, the first in the series of Tebow miracle comebacks.
"I remember that we needed some cool things to happen at the end to get a win," he said. "It was my first start, so there are some great memories from that. It was obviously a pretty cool win."
For an equally cool win today in what is expected to be a steambath with heat-index temperatures perhaps approaching 100°, Sanchez and the offense will have to click as they did two years ago, in their Sunday night win. He'll try to get RB Shonn Greene motoring against Miami's stout 4-3 front seven, then find his receivers — WRs Santonio Holmes, rookie Stephen Hill and Chaz Schilens, but not TE Dustin Keller, who remained home to continue to rehab his hurting hamstring.
Revis and the defense, then, will want to keep pace with the Dolphins' up-tempo pace and set the edge to turn Reggie Bush back inside to limit his yardage after his big day at Sun Life last week against the Raiders. If that succeeds, the D can pin its ears back and come after Tannehill.
Finally, the Green & White special teams will want at least a wash with the Dolphins' top specials performers, and that of course includes Tebow as punter Robert Malone's personal protector. (And more?)
Throw out the Jets' 2-4 record against the Dolphins under Ryan, last year's season finale, last week's Pittsburgh pffft, and all of the Miami business trip storylines that the Jets are bringing into today's game.
Said the single-minded Bell: "I just want to go back and get this win in the division."