Close ties to Law are apparent in Revis’s game
When Ty Law arrived in New York last November, he came in as a five-time Pro Bowler and a former member of the Jets.
He had a history with the coach, Eric Mangini, going back nearly a decade. He could command respect from any teammate.
But there was one thing that Law wouldn’t do: Ask for his customary No. 24.
Darrelle Revis was wearing it, and the veteran cornerback wasn’t about to invoke seniority.
“It wasn’t even a question,’’ Law said. “He’s from Aliquippa. If it was anyone else, there’d be some negotiating. Something would be worked out. But part of the reason he got that number was me. So why would I do that?’’
Aliquippa is the Western Pennsylvania steel town of roughly 11,000 that spawned Revis and Law. In fact, the house at 222 Wykes Street where Law grew up once belonged to Revis’s grandmother.
Call it the Home of the Shutdown Corner.
Eleven years after Law became worthy of that tag, third-year star Revis is earning similar acclaim. In 1998, then-Patriots coach Pete Carroll assigned Law to cover the opposition’s best receiver each week, to follow that man all over the field. Revis has gotten similar marching orders this year.
And just as Law did back then, Revis has delivered.
“It’s damn scary,’’ said Law. “Hell, I looked like he does now. I’d like to say that when I was at the top of my game, I could play with anyone, and Darrelle’s showing that. The stats, mine in ’98 and his now, they’re damn near identical.’’
Hard to compare an ascending third-year player to a veteran who will be in the Hall of Fame conversation? Sure it is.
But after the season Revis has had, his age (24) and experience fade away in a mess of blanketed receivers. Matched with the NFL’s iron - players such as Andre Johnson, Steve Smith, Randy Moss, Roddy White, and Reggie Wayne - the corner hasn’t just been competitive. He’s been dominant.
It’s rare in today’s NFL, given the offensively-tilted rules and proliferation of spread sets, that coaches will simply assign a corner to the other team’s best receiver and have the faith to put that player out on an island. Jets coach Rex Ryan has done that, and Revis has responded by holding every player he’s been matched with to fewer than 70 yards.
Think shutdown corners don’t exist?
“I’m offended by that,’’ Revis said. “I think there are still shutdown corners out there. The defensive scheme has got to put guys in a position to make plays. This year, they’ve done that with me. They put me on an island, playing ‘man’ against the best.’’
As such, he wasn’t happy when the idea was floated that he had help in Week 2 against Moss.
“I think you give respect where it’s due,’’ said Revis. “There’s a lot of stuff that goes on with New England and [Bill] Belichick. I just don’t think they were giving me my credit. So in the second game, I had to show them again.’’
Predictably, he did that, and he has kept things rolling since. Most recently, he held Wayne to three catches and 33 yards through nearly three quarters last week, before Wayne and other Colts prime-timers were yanked.
Through this tour de force season, he says that Smith has been the biggest challenge to cover, with Johnson running second.
But as much as he’s proven to them, Revis may have shown more to himself. Is he the best corner in the league? He believes it’s evident.
“I’d summarize it like this: I’m the best corner because of what I do week in and week out, following the best receivers all over the field,’’ he said. “I’m at left corner one down, right corner the next. Some guys just play just one side, left or right. I move around. I’m versatile enough to play right, left, in the slot, follow the best receiver. That’s why I’m the guy.’’
And that, Law says, is the Aliquippa in him.
He’s big, physical, and athletic like Law. But it’s the competitiveness that really ties the two.
“Hands down, he’s the best in the game,’’ Law said. “You can always pick weaknesses with guys, and he really has no glaring weakness. But more than that, he wants to take the best guy, always.
“I remember when I was in New England, if Bill put me on anyone but Eric [Moulds] or Marvin [Harrison] or those guys, I’d go to his office and tell him, ‘No, I want the best guy.’
“Darrelle does that, and there are very few corners who can.’’
Apprised of Law’s comments, Revis responded, “That’s overwhelming, coming from a future Hall of Famer, a Super Bowl champion, a Pro Bowler. That’s just a guy that knows real football respecting other guys that play the game. I respect Ty to this day. I always will. I learned from him.
“We speak highly of our hometown, we wear it on our back, and we’ll ride until the wheels fall off. Ty is winding down, but for a young guy like me, I know now I’m living a lot of people’s dreams.’’
And so the torch is being passed from Law to Revis.
Law says that Revis is operating at a level as high as he ever did. That’s why, when the 15-year vet finally calls it quits, he will be excited to be like the others in Aliquippa - living that NFL dream through the young Jet.
“I’m going to continue to live and breathe the game through Darrelle,’’ Law said. “We still talk weekly, and I want that to continue. And as long as he’s still out there playing the way he does, wearing that No. 24, the only difference is that the jersey doesn’t say ‘Law’ anymore. I’ll live vicariously through him, and however I can help him, I will.’’
Tomorrow, Snyder is expected to dump Zorn and start the process again. Mike Shanahan is widely presumed to be Snyder’s first and only choice.
But there’s one strong piece of evidence this time that Snyder recognizes his failures: Vinny Cerrato is out of the mix. Outside of being fired by Schottenheimer in 2001 and rehired within a year, Cerrato ran the football operation since 1999. Since 2000, the Redskins have finished 8-8 or worse seven times.
Cerrato’s presence was toxic enough to become a deterrent for coaching candidates in 2007, leading to the elevation of Zorn, hired originally as offensive coordinator after serving as Seahawks quarterbacks coach in 2006. Compounding that, Zorn was hired to run a West Coast system yet he had 2005 first-round pick Jason Campbell, ill-fit for the scheme, foisted on him.
Bruce Allen, installed as GM last week, is expected to help repair this longstanding disconnect between the coaching and personnel sides of the franchise.
Despite his reputation for treating the roster the way a kid handles a train set, Snyder said Allen will have final-say power. Charley Casserly, the GM Snyder inherited upon purchasing the team in ’99, says Allen’s hire is “a step in the right direction.’’
“They’re the fourth-best team in that division, and the talent needs to be upgraded,’’ Casserly said. “It’s going to take a couple of years. It can’t be a quick fix if they want to be a consistent contender.’’
The talent drain in D.C. has much to do with a win-now mentality that has made the draft an afterthought. The Redskins have preferred to deal for veterans (Mark Brunell, Clinton Portis, Jason Taylor, Santana Moss, Pete Kendall) and sign big-ticket free agents (Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Laveranues Coles, Shawn Springs, Albert Haynesworth), and that approach has led them to use just 14 top 100 picks in the last seven drafts.
Finally, at 10 p.m., as the team gathered for its snack, the players could watch the fate of their season unfold.
With Dallas’s win, the Falcons were eliminated from the playoff picture. But if that signified a step back from 2008, the next day showed why the future remains bright. The club went into the cold, windy Meadowlands and came out with a come-from-behind 10-7 win over the Jets.
“The one thing I found out about our guys as a whole is they’re going to play hard and respond to every situation, and most of the time in a positive way,’’ coach Mike Smith said. “That’s very, very encouraging.’’
As Year 2 of the Thomas Dimitroff/Smith regime draws to a close, a few things remain at stake. With a win today in Tampa, the Falcons will have consecutive winning seasons for the first time in their 44-year history. And with continued improvement from the club’s youth, Atlanta is making strides toward its most important goals.
“In 2008, we got experience for our first draft class - five of our rookies started opening day - and 2009 is the continuation of that growth,’’ said Smith. “You don’t learn everything you need to know in one year playing the game.’’
The offense added a major piece in tight end Tony Gonzalez in the offseason but kept the rest of its talented group intact. The defense, on the other hand, was overhauled with veterans like Keith Brooking, Michael Boley, and Lawyer Milloy jettisoned, and half the starting lineup turned over.
Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton was at the heart of the youth movement. The idea is for the defense to be augmented around him, and the offense to ascend behind Matt Ryan.
“[In 2008], we never talked about how many games we were going to win,’’ Smith said. “Our goal has been to be the best we can be individually and collectively. If we continue to do that, we’ll like the outcome we get more often than not.’’
Albert R. Breer can be reached at email@example.com.