Every year, Jets fans look forward to two games the most. The games against the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots. These rivalries go back to their days competing in the AFL. With roots dating back 50 years, it is no wonder fans look forward to these contests. You can see it every game. Fans cheer a little louder, the chants get nastier, and their solidarity while tailgating gets stronger. Even at away games, the Jets fans presence is known. But the upcoming Monday Night Football game between two 9-2 teams seems to be fate. As both teams, with top records in the NFL, battle it out for AFC East supremacy.
In the two clubs’ very first meeting on September 17, 1960. , the New York Titans hosted the Boston Patriots at New York’s Polo Grounds. Al Dorow of the Titans erupted to three touchdown throws and led the Titans to a 24-7 lead in the third quarter. But Butch Songin and 109 rushing yards by Patriots runners clawed Boston back to trail 24-21 in the fourth quarter, then Chuck Shonta finished off the Titans when they fumbled and he ran back the ball 52 yards for the 28-24 Patriots win. Since that first meeting, the teams have fought to many close games and narrow victories.
The record between both teams stands at 50-50-1. The then-Boston Patriots tied the Jets 24-24 at Fenway Park, for the only dead-heat in the rivalry’s history on October 2, 1966. The Patriots led 24-7 after three quarters but two Joe Namath touchdowns and a Jim Turner field goal tied the game. It would also be the last time the Patriots did not lose to the Jets until October 1971. This Monday Night game will decide who will take the lead in this 50 year old rivalry.
Between six stadiums and tens of thousands of yards, both teams never stop giving their all. It never matters what their record is they will always play harder against each other. This rivalry has such a history, that sometimes history repeats itself. In a bizarre harbinger of Spygate, the Patriots hosted the Jets and erupted to a 48-7 third quarter lead, ultimately winning 55-21 on October29, 1978 .
Jets coach Walt Michaels felt the Patriots were somehow decifering his coaching staff’s signals and suspected a rival team had told these codes to the Patriots. Michaels stewed afterward, “This will never happen to us again. I know what they did, but by the time we figured it out, it was too late.” Later that season the Houston Oilers erased a 23-0 gap to beat the Patriots 26-23, and there was speculation the Jets had told Oilers coaches about Patriots codes.
In 1998, after his third season in New England, running back Curtis Martin, the 1995 Rookie of the Year, became a restricted free agent. The Patriots placed the highest possible tender on Martin, that would ensure a first-round and third-round draft pick compensation if they did not match a contract offer from another team. The Jets offered Martin a 6-year, $36 million contract, and the Patriots, low on salary cap space, opted to not match the offer and took the draft pick compensation. The Jets offer was the first example under the NFL’s current Free Agency system of the “poison pill”.
Essentially a different contract for the Patriots than it would be for the Jets. It included a clause that would have allowed Martin could become an unrestricted free agent the following season if the Patriots matched the offer, allowing him to leave New England without the Patriots receiving any compensation. The deal included a $3.3 million roster bonus that would have counted against the Patriots’ salary cap
The Patriots opened the 2001 season with a 23-17 loss at Cincinnati, with Bledsoe as the starting quarterback. Their second game, and home opener, on September 23, was against their AFC East rival, the New York Jets. Bledsoe was again the starter, when in the fourth quarter he suffered internal bleeding after a hit from Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. Bledsoe returned for the next series, but was replaced with Brady for that Pats’ final series of the game. New York would hold on to win, 10-3, and the Patriots fell to 0-2 on the season. But this would mark the start of the Tom Brady era in New England, something Jets fans will always regret.
With Parcells, Carroll, Belichick, and Mangini all acting as coaches on both teams from 1993 through 2008, at least 50 players were also with both teams in the same period. Current Patriots defensive line coach Pepper Johnson was also a player with the Jets under Parcells.
Upon becoming Jets head coach in 2006, Mangini hired former Jets and Patriots players Bryan Cox and Rick Lyle to his coaching staff, as well as former Patriot Sam Gash, and retained former Patriots assistant strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul. Former Patriots wide receivers coach Brian Daboll spent seven seasons with the Patriots before leaving to become the Jets’ quarterbacks coach in 2007. When Daboll left with Mangini for the Cleveland Browns, former Patriots quarterback Matt Cavanaugh was named as Jets quarterbacks coach; ironically, in his playing days with the Patriots Cavanaugh was 0-2 against the Jets.
This rivalry has many twists and turns. Not to mention players and coaches going back and forth over the decades. The only ones who have never changed sides have been the fans. There is too much of a history to go over in great detail. Many fans will recall their own piece of this rivalry’s history. One thing is certain, every time these teams meet it does not matter who wins or loses because the fans always win from seeing a great battle.
Even before the game, fans act like warriors before battle. Cooking some kind of animal over an open fire, sharing stories, and rejoicing of past triumphs. As they toast their brews and feast before the battle, every fan knows it is their team who will come out the victor, and leave the other with their heads bowed in defeat. So as the Jets face the Patriots, raise your mug and celebrate for what is sure to be a great day for all fans. But most of all, Jets fans.