By Rich Levine
All right, pop quiz:
What's the most memorable game of this recent PatriotsJets rivalry?
I'll give you second to think, but first, let me say you're not allowed to pick the Mo LewisDrew Bledsoe game. That was a fluke, and only remembered for one play, which had no bearing on the outcome of the game even if it did drastically alter the course of NFL history.
I'm talking about a real life, legendary PatsJets game.
For instance, if I asked the same question about the Pats and Colts, you'd say "The Goal Line Stand," or "Fourth and 2" or "The Comeback." It's like each game in that rivalry is an episode of your favorite TV show. They're easy to remember. On top of that, you'd also have the playoff victories in '03 and '04, or Vanderjagt's miss to start that '04 season or, now, James Sanders' interception. With the Colts, there's any number of nights that your brain can instantly latch on to. Some glorious. Some painful. But all of them memorable.
Now, what about PatsJets?
Does anything come to mind?
Parcells' first game back? Curtis Martin's first game back? The first game after Belichick arrived? The first game after Mangini left? The first game after SpyGate? The first game after Rex Ryan announced that he was pregnant with twins?
Yeah, I guess there are plenty of games that you can look back on and think: "OK, yeah, I have a pretty clear memory of when all that was going on." But again, that doesn't fit the criteria. You notice how all my Indy examples are about the games, while the Jets are about hype?
I want an actual game where what happened on the field after a week's worth of drama stuck with you. I want one specific game from this rivalry that you'll remember 25 years from now. And on second thought, don't mention Parcells' first game back. It was a great game an OT win but that Pats team was just OK, and the Jets were coming off a 1-15 season. How about a different game?
I don't. In fact, I've been thinking about it all night and can only draw one conclusion:
The game doesn't exist.
And as far as what happens on the field and not in the headlines this rivalry barely exists either.
Of course, the drama has always been there.
And by "always," I mean, since 1997, because even though these teams have been playing since the '60s, this rivalry is about Parcells. He was the Big Bang it wasn't until he left New England for New York that everything evolved. (Although they might not teach it like that in every state.) Honestly, how crazy is that? Who would have thought that 14 years after Parcells snuck out on the Pats, we'd still be living and breathing in the mess that he created? It's nuts. It all stems from The Tuna.
The Jets had only one winning season in the previous nine years before Parcells took over, and even that was an 8-7 season. They were coached by guys like Kottite, Coslet and (ha!) Carroll. They were quarterbacked by guys like O'Brien, Nagle and Reich. But they were no match for the ineptitude of the Pre-Tuna Patriots.
New England had made the playoffs only once in the seven years before Parcells took over. For the better part of those seasons, the Patriots were the laughing stock of the NFL. They were like this year's Bills, only not even that exciting. It was more like a mix between this year's Bills and Panthers, but for a couple seasons in a row. Their games were blacked out all the time. It was pretty depressing.
When I was in fourth grade, I actually became a Giants fan for a few years. It's not something I'm proud of, but I didn't exactly have a choice in the matter. It was impossible for a kid to follow the Patriots back then. They were never on TV, and I was in elementary school, so I wasn't exactly waking up every morning and reading the paper with a cup of coffee. The Giants were on TV every week. I liked Lawrence Taylor. That's what happens. The Pats were a non-factor. As were the Jets.
Both were insignificant, and until Parcells showed up and let's be honest, pretty effortlessly made both teams relevant again, so was their rivalry.
It was nothing until 1997, but again, what's it been since? When have these two heated and hated rivals ever given us a game for the ages? Hell, how about a game for even one single age?
Granted, part of the reason is because they haven't had much of a chance. Those Colts games were so great because both teams were competing at such a high level. However, since 1997, the Jets and Pats have rarely been simultaneously dominant. Only three times in last 13 years has each team finished with double digit wins.
Also, since Tom Brady took over in 2001, the Patriots are 13-4 overall against the NYJ; that doesn't make for a very interesting rivalry. Nor does the fact that of those 17 games, only two have been decided by three points or less.
Honestly, for all the coaches changes, roster incest, signal stealing and trash-talking that goes on, we're finding that more often than not the drama and excitement surrounding a PatsJets game peaks at kickoff, and slowly drain out as the clock moves along.
It's a shame. And until these two teams give us that definitive game; something to last us longer than a Sunday or Monday night. Or even a lifetime. The rivalry will stay that way
Exciting in the headlines, but a letdown on the field.