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Keidel: Who Are These Guys? Character-Rich Jets Tryin' For Ryan

By Jason Keidel
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Hospitals have been overrun with Jets fans tumbling off the bandwagon. And I implored you to stick with them through Halloween, at which point they may very well have morphed into NFL impostors.

Now you're trying to climb back on after yesterday's heart-thumping win over the Patriots, a game that says less about talent than it does about temerity. The Jets, more recently known as characters, are showing ample character.

And for all of us who declared before the season that Gang Green was gangrenous this year, it's time to munch on our words, and even flash a little gratitude for perhaps the most beleaguered franchise in football. Indeed, the wrong locker in MetLife has life this year.

While the Giants are still trying to bag their first win, the suddenly surging Jets are just one game out of first place in the AFC East, despite their dearth of decent talent on offense, and without the best defensive player in team history.

Darrelle Revis, who was thrilled to flee the Meadowlands for the sunshine, palm trees, and more muted media of the Gulf Coast, is finding the calmer climes far less cozy when he stares at the standings and finds his winless Buccaneers in the cellar and the Jets up in the blue sky of playoff contention.

You would lose more than time trying to figure out why the Jets are actually over .500 after seven games. They don't run the ball that well, they don't pass particularly well, and they don't have Devin Hester dashing down sidelines for a free, quick six.

And sometimes those are the most fun teams to watch, where stats and stop watches be damned. There's something to be said for a bunch of bums deciding they aren't anymore. And some of that spirit befalls the coach.

Rex Ryan is taking pot shots at pundits who penned them for the Jadeveon Clowney raffle. And he's earned it. Fighting for his job, reputation, and legacy, with his puppet GM gone and the only QB he's ever won with on the IR, Ryan has cobbled together a scrappy defense and allowed Geno Smith to play through the pain of a rookie season. He is being rewarded for his faith.

Some of us have never understood campy handles like "player's coach," which often applies to more loquacious coaches like Ryan. In the zero-sum crucible of the NFL, you are judged by productivity, not popularity. You win or lose; labels are applied based on that.

And when you consider that Woody Johnson all but fired Ryan before this year by hiring John Idzik and drafting Geno Smith to replace Mark Sanchez, the formerly corpulent but suddenly ebullient coach is proving that he's more than his hubris.

Behind the arrogance there's a toughness to Ryan, a spiritual membrane that allows him to either forget or learn from the past. There have been no Super Bowl superlatives, no guarantees of any kind. There have been none of the Page Six sidebars that often make his press conferences morph into stand-up comedy. But his audience stopped laughing when the Jets stopped reaching the playoffs.

Frankly, it makes no sense that the Jets are where they are. Sure, they have a rugged front seven and have gotten the serendipity of some last-second penalties, essentially giving them half their wins. But good luck tends to befall good teams.

Maybe the Jets aren't quite that good, but they aren't that bad, either.

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel

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