In the run up to the Jets/Colts game last week, Rex Ryan said it was personal between him and Peyton Manning, who has always gotten the best of him in the past. As a Jets fan, I didn’t feel the same way about last week’s game, even though they had beaten us last year in the AFC title game, but I understood where Rex was coming from. To be perfectly honest, I was looking past the Colts. Assuming the Jets got past the Colts, we knew who we’d get next: New England. This one is personal.
Living in Houston, I was an Oilers fan until the very end, which was the ’96 season. I vowed I would not follow them to Tennessee, so I needed a new team. I chose the New York Jets, a team that had combined to win four games the previous two seasons. I was drawn to them because of Keyshawn Johnson, who was drafted #1 overall in the ’96 draft out of USC. After his rookie year when the Jets went 1-15, he wrote a book called Just Give Me the Damn Ball. I thought it was hilarious, putting the word damn in your books title, what middle schooler isn’t going to love that? It didn’t hurt that with Keyshawn and Bill Parcells that the Jets immediately turned things around, narrowly missing the playoffs in ’97 and getting within a half of going to the Super Bowl the next season. I was hooked then, and still am.
In my early Jet years, I was pretty indifferent about the Patriots. I just treated them like a normal division rival. Maybe it was because being in Houston I was disconnected from the whole Boston/New York rivalry. I knew they didn’t like us because we had taken Parcells and Curtis Martin away from them, and they immediately declined to where they were irrelevant for a couple of years. For me, the hatred was all for the Miami Dolphins, or as I referred to them for a while “our little bitches”. Up until the last couple of years, we have owned the series with them, and its always fun watching them lose, even now, despite the fact that they are about as relevant as the Bills. I’m not sure when I started to hate the Pats, but the hate has grown year after year.
Let’s face it, the Jets are responsible for the decade of Pats dominance. Bill Belichick resigned as the Jets coach because the Hess family, who had just given him a million dollars to remain defensive coordinator with the promise of being named head coach when Parcells left, sold the team to Woody Johnson, and wound up taking the Pats job. Then in week 2 of the 2001 season, with all of New England wanting Belichick fired, Jets linebacker Mo Lewis leveled Drew Bledsoe and collapsed his lung, which awoke the long-haired monster known as Tom Brady. The Jets won that game, but have beaten the Pats very few times since.
There have been some big games between these two teams in that span, and seemingly every win has gone their way, and many of those have been blowouts. Both teams were 5-0 when they met in Foxboro in 2004. Pats won. They crushed us in a big battle week 16 that season at the Meadowlands. The won the only playoff game between the two teams in this era back in the 2006 season, and there was the 45-3 embarrassment in December. Sure we have some wins over them in that span, but it seems like they have answered every time in a bigger game. That was the case in 2006, and that was the case this season. Today, the Jets have the chance to answer, and wipe the smug smiles off the face of Brady, Welker, and the rest of them. This time its personal.