FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Six months ago, when his football team resembled a half-completed jigsaw puzzle, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson tossed out the P-word.
"Be patient," he told reporters at an NFL symposium in Philadelphia, sending a message to his fan base.
With a new general manager, a seemingly lame-duck coach and a star-less roster, the Jets were the epitome of a rebuilding team. Nine games into this season, the narrative has changed. So has the message. That became apparent Thursday with the acquisition of Canton-bound safety Ed Reed. Once again, it was a P-word.
Without uttering a word, the Jets announced themselves as a legitimate contender. You don't sign a 35-year-old safety, whose career is running on fumes, if you're in rebuilding mode. At 5-4, the Jets are in the thick of it. They're going for it, a decision that wasn't lost on the veterans in the locker room.
"All our chips are going to the middle of the table," guard Willie Colon said. "It's either now or never."
This move is akin to trading for a proven closer at the start of a pennant race. Obviously, Reed isn't what he used to be, but his mere presence in the middle of the field is bound to have an impact on how teams attack the Jets' defense. They will think twice before throwing deep.
Nine Pro Bowls, 61 career interceptions and 1,500-plus return yards buys a lot of respect in the NFL. Reed can roam center field, doing his thing and helping the Jets' suspect deep-ball defense. They've allowed seven completions of at least 45 yards, uncharacteristic of a Rex Ryan defense.
"Let 'em throw it there now," boasted Ryan, who reached into his Baltimore Ravens past to help secure his present and future.
There's no downside to signing Reed. The cost was minimal, probably the veteran minimum salary, and he won't affect the salary cap beyond this season. It will mean less playing time for Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett, the second and third safeties, but we're talking about a couple of unproven players.
Allen, who made one of the biggest plays of the season (a pick-six against Tom Brady), might be a terrific player one day. The Jets don't want to wait for one day. It's a win-now mentality.
"When you're in the situation we're in right now, if you have a chance to add a piece you feel can help you, we'll do that," said defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman, who coached with Ryan in Baltimore when Reed was in his heyday.
Ryan scoffed when it was suggested that Reed's arrival represents a go-for-broke philosophy, but the deed spoke louder than the words. Make no mistake, Ryan was on cloud nine. You half-expected him to roll up his sleeve and reveal a tattoo of Reed.
"We signed a safety today, a guy named Ed Reed," he said at the top of his news conference, trying to play it with a straight face -- but failing.
Ryan is on a remarkable run. Less than two weeks after beating his twin brother, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, he landed one of the greatest players he's ever coached. Clearly, he still has plenty of influence within the organization.
A lot of people figured he'd be a puppet under John Idzik, but the slimmed-down Ryan still carries a lot of weight. Think about it: They signed a couple of his old Ravens in the offseason (safety Dawan Landry and pass-rusher Antwan Barnes) and they used their two first-round picks on defensive players. Either Idzik is afraid to say no to Ryan or he's making a genuine effort to help his coach succeed -- the coach he awkwardly inherited.
Ryan said Idzik was smiling when he walked into his office Tuesday, when word broke that Reed had been released by the Houston Texans. Idzik, expecting Ryan to make a pitch for Reed, already had instructed members of the personnel department to evaluate tape of Reed's seven games this season.
"He had already beat me to the punch," Ryan said of Idzik.
Eventually, Idzik signed off on Reed, but it was Ryan who was the driving force. Yes, he has a blind spot when it comes to his former players, so there’s always a chance that Reed has nothing left. But this move feels right for the Jets.
Reed all about it: The Jets are serious about winning. This season.