This was right around the moment when archaeologists and sportswriters discovered and named Revis Island, January 2010. Darrelle Revis had just finished his first year as an All-Pro, and it seemed that week by week he had gotten better and better, to the point you could hardly wait to see what next week brought.
The Jets would make the AFC Championship game, in Indianapolis, and a few days before they flew there someone asked Rex Ryan — who, you may have heard, can talk a little about defense — just how good Revis was, and how good he could become.
“You always want to be careful getting too far ahead of yourself when you’re talking about a player, especially a young player,” Ryan said before breaking into a wide grin. “But this kid, he does things that make you shake your head. You’ve probably seen ’em before. But in the moment, it’s hard to remember.”
That’s the way you should remember Revis today, as his second tour with the Jets nears an end, the Jets announcing on Tuesday they’ll release him March 9. That’s the player you should recall, the player who captains the all-time Jets defense every bit as much as Joe Namath leads the all-time offense.
This wasn’t the smoothest ride of all time, of course. Just six months after Ryan spoke so reverently about him, Revis began a long summer holdout, engaged in a heated negotiation, every nook and cranny of which were captured by HBO’s “Hard Knocks” cameras. He returned at summer’s end, got beat on a post pattern by Randy Moss on which he popped his hamstring, missed a couple of games, still made All-Pro because he was simply that good.
He blew out a knee, left the Jets for Tampa, then won a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots. When he came back wearing New England’s enemy vestments he wasn’t greeted warmly by Jets fans, but when the Jets brought him back in 2015 all was forgiven and all was forgotten, especially as he played well in helping lead the Jets to the brink of the playoffs.
In the movies, that’s where you roll the credits.
In real life there was 2016, a horrible season for the Jets, a humbling one for Revis, where he looked old and slow and beaten up, where there were an awful lot of times when you wondered if he’d forgotten how to tackle — or simply had grown disinterested by the task. It happens. Pro football is a young man’s game, and no position is as daily a reminder of that as cornerback.
“My body’s breaking down,” he admitted in October, and when a cornerback starts talking like that it’s only a matter of time. And when it’s a cornerback with a ticket already punched for the Hall of Fame, who played the position on his best days as well as anyone who’s ever done it … well, that’s something else.
So Revis’ time as a Jet ends, even if his legacy will be unbroken.
Some day they will add Revis’ No. 24 to Namath’s 12, and Don Maynard’s 13, and Curtis Martin’s 28, and Joe Klecko’s 73. It is good company to keep. He may never have had the Jets moment that Namath and Maynard had, trotting off a field as a world champion. But for a time, he was as good as anyone ever was. He was his own island.
Soon enough, that’s what you’ll remember. Amnesia will wipe away the holdout and the first departure, and the off-field incident last month eventually will be a footnote no matter how it plays out. What you’ll have left is the memory of Revis Island. He really did make you shake your head.
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