The Jets' core message — delivered by head coach Rex Ryan and by owner Woody Johnson — was well-received by a small group of prospective business partners Wednesday evening at The Core Club in Manhattan. During the small event, hosted by ESPN's Jeremy Schapp, Ryan for the first time talked about reaching out to a Hall of Fame coach who excelled during NFL work stoppages.
"I called Joe Gibbs," Ryan said. "When they went through some work stoppages, the last two times the Washington Redskins won two Super Bowls. So I figured that would be a good guy to call."
After a strike-shortened nine-game regular season in 1982, the Gibbs-led 'Skins captured championship glory when they toppled the Miami Dolphins 27-17 in Super Bowl XVII on Jan. 30, 1983. That's a game many in Jets Nation thought the '82 Jets should have played in, but the Green & White lost to the 'Fins in the infamous Mud Bowl. Then in Super Bowl XXII, Gibbs led the Redskins to a 42-10 destruction of the Denver Broncos in San Diego. A 24-day players' strike reduced the '87 season to 15 regular season contests and Weeks 4-6 were played with replacement players. Gibbs' collection of replacements went 3-0 as the Skins compiled an 11-4 regular season mark.
Ryan told the crowd that he plans to visit personally with Gibbs in a few days and he's already soaked in some of his advice.
"He said take this time to get better," Ryan said of the coaching legend. "Take time to gain an advantage on your opponents and whatever you think that is. He gave me some ideas and I followed them to a tee."
While possessing a healthy confidence in his staff and himself, Ryan takes input from the outside and has a hunger for more knowledge.
"We're bringing in former coaches in this league, the top guys: Tom Moore, the former offensive coordinator with the Indianapolis Colts. We brought in Bobby Jackson, regarded as the top running backs coach for probably 25 years of coaching…," he said. "We're bringing in all kinds of guys to come in here and speak to us and pick their brains. We have Dan Reeves coming in."
Last January, Ryan led the Jets into Gillette Stadium and they shocked many with a 28-21 upset over the Bill Belichick and the Patriots in the divisional round.
"I think that the Patriots game was the best coaching job I've ever seen in my 11 years," Mr. Johnson said of Ryan and company's divisional playoff performance.
But the Jets' championship dreams ended in the AFC Championship Game a week later in Pittsburgh. The Green & White got off to a very slow start on that Sunday in Western Pennsylvania and a problem that plagued them in the regular season — red zone struggles — arose again in the fourth quarter when the visitors came away pointless on an offensive position that had them first-and-goal from the 2.
"I think the biggest area we have to improve is in the red zone efficiency by our offense. For a top team, it doesn't add up. We do everything else well except when we get in the red zone. We absolutely struggled in the red zone — I believe we were 26th in the league in red zone scoring efficiency…," Ryan said. " We are going to change our practice schedule. We are going to practice more red zone and we are going to practice two-minute."
The Moore visit makes perfect sense. Sure you can attribute much of the Colts' success inside the 20 to Peyton Manning, but the latter has said Moore is Hall of Fame worthy and he'll always be indebted to him.
"Over the last six-year period, the Indianapolis Colts have been by far and away the most efficient offense in the red zone," Ryan said. "And this man has been the coach. It was interesting picking his brain, he's really helping us."
Back in February, Ryan delivered his Super Bowl "guarantee" in the exact stadium — Lucas Oil — where the next championship game is set to take place. While he has taken his shots in the media for his bravado, Ryan's boss supports his unique approach.
"It's hard to lead people if you don't tell them where you're going," Mr. Johnson said of his third-year head coach. "If you tell people, 'I'm coming in 15th. Are you with me?' No I'm not with you. I'm not going to sign on."
If the Jets aren't playing in the Super Bowl, Ryan won't sign on or tune in for another one unless twin brother Rob (who serves as the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator) appears in it. Schapp saw Ryan at the Newark Airport back on Feb. 6, exchanged a hello and then was shocked to hear that the head coach had no intention of watching the NFL's title game.
"That's what we want so bad as an organization. We have one goal and that's what we tell our team and that's to win the Super Bowl," he said of the Lombardi Trophy. "We're not afraid to say it… I understand it's one week at a time, I understand all that preparation, but a goal for our organization is to win the Super Bowl. That's the way it is every year. Woody built those facilities to win multiple championships — not to be just an average football team. I look at as this is my responsibility to get this thing done — that's how I approach it."