There may never be a player as good as Darrelle Revis to suit up for the New York Jets, a player who changed and perhaps transcended his position in so many ways. Clouded by holdouts, rumors of holdouts, a trade and off-the-field issues, there is no denying that in his prime, the Jets had the most special player in the NFL.
In “Revis Island,” the nickname given for the way the cornerback would maroon wide receivers with his coverage skill, the Jets drafted a player who changed the look of the NFL.
The retirement of Revis on Wednesday calls to an end 11 years in the league where, for much of that time, Revis was without question the best player at his position. He became the definition of a “shutdown corner,” a player who literally could close off one end of the field by his very presence. Revis was so good that he made it look simple out there, taking on the best receivers in the NFL and routinely shutting them down on a weekly basis.
That he was drafted by the Jets, an organization that all too often botches its picks, makes his rise all the more remarkable. Only twice in his career with the Jets did Revis make the playoffs, a number that is more an indictment of the team around him rather than his own talent. Yet he shined on some pretty bad teams.
In Revis, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and four times an All-Pro, the Jets have an unquestioned Hall of Fame cornerback. No player during his generation even came close to his level of greatness. In fact, it will be a very long time until another cornerback comes along who can play at his level. His ability, his ease in coverage is indicated by the fact that opposing quarterbacks would simply ignore his side of the field.
They very often wouldn’t even check down on the side Revis was on. No matter how bad the Jets were, Revis still played at the highest level possible. He was a constant on a team often mired in (at best) mediocrity.
He was a star, a future Hall of Fame cornerback, on some pretty bad Jets teams. In eight seasons over stints with the Jets, the team managed to win just 48 percent of their games, a total of 62 wins over that stretch. It was a waste of talent for a player universally hailed as the best at his position in the NFL.
A player that other teams tried to emulate.
In large part due to Revis’ ability to stick on a defender like glue, the pursuit of ‘shutdown corners’ became the rage around the league. This past year, six cornerbacks were taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. In Revis’ draft, he was the first cornerback at No. 14 overall and just three were taken overall (the 2007 NFL Draft saw the sixth cornerback come off the board at No. 55).
That cornerbacks are now a premium is in large part due to the success of Revis and the need for a team to able to get a true No. 1 cornerback to make their defense click.
That 31 other teams tried to find another Revis, a player with the athleticism to cover ground, the size to keep up with the growing size of wide receivers and tight ends and the football acumen to read offenses and make smart plays — it proved to be an impossible task. But as Jets fans know all too well, there is only one Revis.
There will ever only be one “Revis Island” and it is all too sad that this franchise wasted the prime years of their best-ever player.
The stay of Revis with the Jets will be marred by his holdout and constant contractual unhappiness as well as that stint with the much-hated New England Patriots. But it was still a thing of beauty to watch Revis, especially during his first stint consisting of six seasons with the Jets, as he was as dominant of a player as there was in the NFL.
There should have been a Super Bowl appearance with Revis in green and white and the Jets did come close twice during his prime, making consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances during the first two years under then head coach Rex Ryan. The lack of a Super Bowl ring isn’t an indictment on Revis as much as the failure to surround this star with talent, in particular on the offensive side of the ball.
But Revis helped change the franchise, in particular during the first couple of seasons under Ryan. The Jets got a swagger back, in large part due to a player who changed how opposing offenses lined up against the Jets each and every week.
There was no way to gameplan for Revis, only to avoid him entirely. He is the greatest Jets player this franchise has ever seen.
And may ever see.