Hall of Famers Joe Namath and Don Maynard are generally regarded as the greatest players in New York Jets history. In 10 years or so, they will have to make room on the pedestal for Darrelle Revis, according to Rex Ryan, who believes his All-Pro cornerback will go down as the best of the best.
"One day we're gonna say that this is the best Jet in the history of the New York Jet franchise, I believe that," the Jets' coach told the NFL Network in an interview for its top-100 countdown, a comment that likely will create a backlash among old-school Jets fans. "And I think we're gonna also see him in Canton one day."
Ryan has a well-documented history of gushing about Revis, whom he inherited from the previous coaching staff. Some believe his praise of Revis hurt the team's bargaining position during last summer's acrimonious holdout, which ended with Revis signing a new contract for four years, $46 million.
Since then, Ryan has often joked about watching his use of superlatives for players in contract years, but he can't help himself when it comes to Revis, a three-time Pro Bowl player who finished second to Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson in the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year voting.
"There's a lot of good corners in this league, but there's only one Darrelle Revis," Ryan said in the NFL Network interview. "There's not a better zone (corner), there's not a better man (man-to-man corner) -- you name the defense, he's the best at it."
The network is counting down the top 100 players as voted by players. Revis isn't ranked yet, but they've revealed only 41 to 100.
Maynard, reached by ESPNNewYork.com, declined to comment on Ryan's remarks, saying it's difficult to rate players from different eras.
"Everybody has his own opinion," Maynard said. "It's like a basketball official calling a ball game. When he blows the whistle, he pleases one team and displeases another. I'm not judging any of them. Whatever (Ryan) says is his business."
Asked if he considers himself and Namath the two greatest in team history, Maynard said, "I'll say this: Our credentials speak for themselves. We wound up in the Hall of Fame."
Namath and Maynard, who formed a prolific quarterback-receiver tandem on the Jets' Super Bowl III-winning team, are the only two true Hall of Fame players for the Jets -- inductees that played most of their career in green. Running back Curtis Martin was a finalist this year, his first year of eligibility, and figures to be inducted in the coming years.
Martin agreed with Ryan.
"As far as the best Jet ever, it's hands down," said Martin, qualifying it by saying Revis needs to stay healthy and continue performing at his current level for at least five or six more years. "Myself, Namath, Maynard, I don't think we were nearly as good at our positions as he is at his position. That's my honest opinion."
Martin believes Revis can be an all-timer -- in league history, not just with the Jets.
"It's too early to make this statement, but hypothetically, if he goes the next five years at the level he has displayed, when they do a top-100 of all-time -- not just this year -- he'll be in the top-five discussion," Martin said.
Maynard was so dominant that he once averaged 100 receiving yards per game over the course of a season. He believes that, in his prime, he could have gotten open against Revis.
"Oh, yeah," Maynard said. "It doesn't matter if it was him or anyone else. I had a guy named Namath throwing me the ball. If he goes left, I go right. If he goes right, I go left -- the ball would be there. And I've never been caught from behind. That's why my book is called, 'You Can't Catch Sunshine.' (Revis) is like Deion Sanders. I would've loved to have played against those guys."
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.