New York Jets using the Patriots to put themselves back in the spotlight
The Jets history is mired in insecurity.
Whether its living under the shadow of the illustrious New York football Giants franchise within their own city (two Super Bowls the last eight years), or under the boot heel of the New England Patriots within their own division (six Super Bowls the last 14 years) the Jets have always been mostly an afterthought from a national perspective.
When the country is less interested in your team, that means less revenue for your business. Neutral fans in Mississippi likely aren't scrambling to buy Geno Smith jerseys.
Faced with this challenge, the Jets have often looked for ways to insert their franchise name into the national conversation. Some could point to moves like the Tim Tebow trade as an example (the Patriots did the same, let's not forget) but there are better ways to get the country to pay attention.
How about exploiting the now illustrious rivalry with the 4x Super Bowl champion New England Patriots?
Since Bill Parcells and Curtis Martin left New England for New York in the mid-90s, tension between the two franchises has been high. It seemed at its worst when Jets coach and former Patriot assistant Eric Mangini spawned the spygate controversy in 2007 but things really started to pick up steam when Rex Ryan was hired as his predecessor in 2009.
When Bill Belichick re-signed as New York Jets head coach in 2000, the half-hearted sentence he scrawled on a napkin became famous in the Jets-Pats rivalry, "I resign as HC of NYJ". When Ryan was hired as Jets coach, he made another phrase famous, "I didn't come here to kiss Belichick's Super Bowl rings".
Rex Ryan's boisterious attitude escalated the Patriots-Jets animosity to a new level, one that started to gain even more national steam.
It didn't hurt that Ryan had a pretty good team on his hands. The first meeting between the Ryan-led Jets and Belichick's Patriots was a New York victory. It was the fourth time in 15 tries the Jets had beaten the Pats since New England's first Super Bowl victory in 2002. The two would trade off wins over the next several years. If there was one thing you could say about the the early Ryan era - people really cared about Patriots vs Jets.
It was a good story. Rex Ryan vs Bill Belichick. The outspoken upcoming player's coach vs the distinguished sullen curmudgeon. The year following Rex's debut - and his team's trip to the AFC Championship game - the two teams got to showcase their rivalry on a national stage.
Fans around the country weren't disappointed. In November of 2010, the Patriots put their foot down with a 45-3 Monday Night Football trouncing for all the television viewing country to see. Rex Ryan was visibly frustrated after that game, so much so that he buried one of the footballs at the Jets' practice field. The loss was that devastating. The revenge was sweeter.
Traveling to Foxborough as a severe underdog, New York upset the number one seeded Patriots in the playoffs a couple months later. The rivalry was suddenly real. The Jets were riding a high, it looked like they'd bridged the gap.
It wasn't long until things started to crumble.
After the Jets ruined Tom Brady's MVP season in the post-season, the Patriots turned the tide. Rex Ryan's Jets would only win one game against New England the rest of Ryan's tenure - a total of eight more Pats-Jets games. These included the famous "Butt Fumble" game on Thanksgiving night.
Again, the whole world was watching and the Jets were once again embarassed. Literally the butt of a joke, featured on SportsCenter's 'Not Top 10' for 10 months. Since that 2010 playoff upset, the Jets were 26-38. There were no more opportunities for post-season revenge. Rex became much quieter. NBC and ESPN weren't so eager to televise Patriots-Jets anymore.
Things have changed the past month. Rex Ryan has been fired, but the fire of the rivalry is back.
The Patriots won a Super Bowl in 2014 after signing once-Jets franchise cornerback, Darrelle Revis. The Jets let him go two years ago when he wanted a big contract. They stole him back this year, offering him a ludicrous amount of money to return to New York. Did football factor into that decision? Certainly. The Jets had one of the poorest pass defenses in the league in 2014, adding one of the best corners in the game will help that cause. Guaranteeing $39 million to a 30-year old cornerback? That's an all-in move.
Bringing the superstar corner they drafted back to New York hurts the Patriots, helps the Jets, and fans the fire of a rivalry. That's good for business.
Things escalated further last night when the Jets filed tampering charges against the Patriots organization.
This was largely a response to a childish move by New England. The Pats had filed tampering charges against the Jets when Woody Johnson told the press prior to free-agency that his team would love to sign Darrelle Revis back. It was an innocent move on Johnson's part. According to league rules, this is technically tampering with a free-agent. The Pats were being petty.
Revis ultimately did leave New England for New York, as many have done before and vice versa.
For that, the Jets filed tampering charges of their own. The Patriots initial tampering charges were childish enough. Here, two wrongs have made things even more ridiculous - but ultimately harmless. Other than some criticism from the media and the potential for a billionare owner to be fined by the league, there's no real disadvantage for either team. For New York, it actually might be an advantage.
The Jets-Patriots rivalry may have wained in recent years. They haven't played on national television (excluding Thurday Night Football) since 2012. Recent tradition dictates that the previous year's Super Bowl champion host the NFL season opener. Who they should face is a matter always up for debate.
There are plenty of good candidates who could get that slot on national TV facing off against the Champs. Can you think of a more obvious choice than the New York Jets?