CORTLAND — Dee Milliner was trying to explain why he would call himself the best cornerback in the National Football League when it isn’t clear whether he’s the best cornerback on the Jets.
“I have confidence in myself,” he insisted Tuesday following a practice at SUNY-Cortland. “I’m not worried about it. I’ve just got to go out and show what I can do and that’s go out and be the best player I can be.”
Milliner’s recent proclamation he’s better than Richard Sherman, Darrelle Revis and Patrick Peterson could be passed off as a simple over-expression of self-confidence. But it was just one of a series of statements coming out of Jets camp last weekend that has you wondering whether the Jets are going back to their trash-talking ways.
Milliner not only called himself the best cornerback in the NFL, but linebacker Calvin Pace reportedly predicted the Jets would have the best defense in the NFL. In addition, Geno Smith said recently he hopes to be among the top five quarterbacks in the league by season’s end.
“We have confidence in ourselves,” Smith said Tuesday. “We understand it takes a ton of hard work and you have to prove it on the field. But we don’t want to sell ourselves short.”
Among those applauding the bravado is head coach Rex Ryan, who said, “It’s who we are, it’s how we feel.”
Wasn’t the arrival of general manager John Idzik supposed to put an end to the self-promoting Jets? Guess what? They’re back. You’ll get no complaints from Ryan.
“You can’t hide in this league so if you’re saying it, that’s great because they really believe it,” the coach said, adding, “that means you’re going to put in the work. You’re willing to do that and you know what comes with it. That’s a good sign I think.”
History suggests it’s not necessarily a good sign when the Jets start patting themselves on the back before the games even begin. We’ve seen this act before and it usually doesn’t live up to expectations.
The Jets were the greatest team in the league during Ryan’s first two seasons as head coach. We know this because he and his players told us so every chance they got. But the swagger and Super Bowl guarantees only got them as far as two AFC Championship games.
Now after barely keeping his job following an 8-8 season last year, Ryan is starting to sound like the coach from 2010 and 2011. So are his players.
Ryan was quick on Tuesday to reference a quote by boxing legend Ray Robinson: “To be a champion, you’ve got to believe in yourself when nobody else will.”
Problem is the Jets haven’t won any kind of championship under Ryan, which makes any discussion of self-anointed greatness seem ridiculous, especially from Milliner. The first-round pick in 2013 missed all of training camp last year because of injury, and was useful for just the final month of the season.
Before proclaiming his greatness, he should focus on proving he can be dependable and durable. Let’s see how he deals with Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Jordy Nelson before comparing himself to the game’s best corners. “I’ve just got to go out and do what I do best,” Milliner said, “go out and make plays.”
The Jets understand they still have plenty of work to do individually and collectively in preparation for the regular season. Even amid their boasts there’s a sense of reality. They are an inconsistent work in progress. A day off on Monday was followed by what one player called “a sloppy” practice Tuesday that was riddled with penalties and push-ups.
“No one is sitting here saying we’ve cornered the market on anything,” Smith said. “We believe we have to put the work in, but if we do, we’ll have a good team.”
Until then Jets, please stop telling us how great you are.
Edited by Bugg, 30 July 2014 - 07:06 AM.