The Jets’ biggest rival has turned into just another game on the schedule.
Patriots Week is now Patriots Weak as the 3-7 Jets are fast approaching the indignity of a much needed rebuild and restructuring while New England continues its dominance over the AFC. And so, the juice of a once-great but one-sided rivalry has drained into a Week 12 home date with vultures circling MetLife Stadium.
The electricity of Jets-Pats has dimmed so much that the game was flexed out of primetime because TV producers feel the Broncos-Chiefs AFC West showdown is an easier sell to the nation on NBC.
How far this rivalry has fallen. It seems like a lifetime ago when former coach Rex Ryan was talking about not kissing Bill Belichick’s rings or Tom Brady was saying on the radio how “I hate the Jets” or when Calvin Pryor was spitting fire-and-brimstone soundbites like this:
“We don’t like Tom at all. When I first came here, that was one of the first things I heard about: We hate the Patriots and we hate the Giants. So we hate those guys and I look forward to playing them this season.”
That was all of two years ago. Fast forward to Friday at One Jets Drive and this was Pryor on the rivalry:
“Guys are going to give their all, no matter what’s their record. You know it’s going to be a physical football game and guys are going to bring it. It’s a division game, and that makes it even more competitive than it already is. Guys in this locker room, I’m pretty sure guys in that locker room, look forward to going against each other every year.
“Those guys,” Pryor said, “they’ve been on top of the AFC East for a while now and in order to bring them down, you have to beat them.”
Maybe the Jets don’t want to give the vaunted Patriots anything to post on the bulletin board. Maybe they’re following the lead of understated coach Todd Bowles. Maybe they have enough to worry about within their own organization, but the Jets don’t send shots across the Patriots’ bow these days because it’s apparent New England is on a different level than they are right now. The Jets have been skidding while the Pats have been soaring, and that doesn’t make for much of a rivalry.
Nick Mangold, an optimist, said Jets-Patriots hasn’t lost any intensity over the years.
“I still think it’s pretty good,” he said. “I don’t think it’s gone down.”
It’s nowhere near where it was in the aftermath of Spygate. Or when the Jets knocked the Patriots out the playoffs on the road in 2011 and flew around the Gillette Stadium field in celebration, capped by Bart Scott’s “can’t wait” interview. That may have been the height of this AFC East rivalry, a time long ago.
Even a year ago, when the Jets finished 10-6 and were playing the Patriots in games that had playoff implications, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote about how the rivalry had much less sandpaper in it than years before.
Rob Gronkowskiholds onto the ball and converts a fourth down play against Calvin Pryor.
(Al Bello/Getty Images)
It’s been a slow erosion. That the Jets haven’t been very good this season only dulls Sunday’s confrontation even more.
Mangold was once part of the great Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, which, ironically, also plays out this weekend. That border war, he said, was as nasty as it gets.
“Ohio State-Michigan, that’s a hated rivalry,” Mangold said. “I don’t care … the state of Michigan, I do not care, barely respect them. But with New England, it’s different. You play them twice and you don’t play Michigan twice a year, so it’s always an interesting change to a rivalry, if you will.”
There was a time when the Jets, ever so briefly challenged the Patriots for divisional supremacy. Games against the Pats, through the Herm Edwards era and even the Eric Mangini era (remember the 2006 win in the rain in Foxboro?) were Sundays that were to be circled on the calendar and in the minds of the players. Nowadays, the Jets are playing for pride.
That’s a far cry from the hate that used to fuel this rivalry. Nowadays, the Jets are playing to not be embarrassed by the Pats or to become another notch on Tom Brady’s resume as he attempts to win his 200th game, tying Peyton Manning.
You think he wants to do it against the Jets? Probably. Brady always hated the Jets, remember. But do the Jets still hate Brady?
“Tom Brady, who’s the best quarterback to ever play this game, I highly respect him and I know what he’s done for the Patriots organization is outstanding,” Pryor said. “Going against him, to try to knock him off the mountain top means everything.”
Brandon Marshall refused to engage in questions about the rivalry with the Patriots, saying every NFL game is a tough one and how the Jets are “mathematically” still in the playoff hunt.
“It’s a very volatile sport,” Marshall said. “You go out there with a lack of intensity, a lack of emotion, and you’re going to get your butt whupped and exposed for America to see. We have a saying in the locker room, ‘The eye in the sky don’t lie,’ meaning whatever you do is go 2 be exposed. So whether it’s Week 1 or in the playoffs, not in the playoffs, it’s still the same approach.”
But America won’t be watching.
America could have been watching, but the rivalry with the Patriots just isn’t what it used to be.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News