Rex Ryan didn’t come here to kiss Bill Belicheck’s rings. Respect is one thing, laying down is another. Tom Brady, after hearing Ryan’s comment that the Jets will treat Sunday’s game like a Super Bowl, answered “the Super Bowl..that’s played in February.” It’s Jets Patriots time again. One of the NFL’s most heated rivalries returns to center stage as the battle for sole possession of 1st in the AFC East comes to the Meadowlands in September.
To understand the nature of the rivaly let’s take a look back: The intensity of Jets Pats, dating back to the AFL days, where both franchises came from, became vitriolic after legendary coach Bill Parcells left the Super Bowl Patriots in 1996. Wanting total control and not getting it from Pats owner Robert Kraft, then Jet owner Leon Hess offered it to Parcells. With it the hapless 4-28 Rich Kotite era, ended. “I’m 80 years old, I want results now, ” was the famous line Hess regarding the Parcells coup.
The Patriots however, were furious about the nature of Parcells’ departure. Parcells, had he chosen to step down, was not contractually allowed to coach anywhere else. To circumvent this, the Jets hired then Pats defensive coordinator Belicheck as coach and Parcells was hired in an “advisory role.” This charade continued only brielfy until commissioner Paul Tagliabue helped broker a deal which led to New England obtaining a 1st round pick for their troubles in exchange for Parcells being left free to coach.
Parcells turned the Jets around, taking them to the AFC championship game in 1999, only three years removed from his arrival. When he stepped down that offseason to move into the front office and give the head job to Belicheck , the story took another turn. Belicheck resigned during the press conference, at the podium. This came as both a shock and an embarrassment to fans, Parcells and the Jets organization. The reason being that for Belicheck, he didn’t want Parcells natural hunger for a potential return to coaching hanging over him.
Belicheck then reunited with Kraft and the Pats. Now it was the Jet brass and faithful who were left feeling jilted. During this time , his second head coaching stint (Belicheck coached Cleveland in the early 90’s), he has become a legend, winning four Super Bowls. Recently however, and thanks of course to the Jets, his resume has become controversial.
Eric Mangini, a former top assistant to Belicheck, left New England in 2006, to take the Jet job after Herm Edwards went to Kansas City. “Mangenius,” (his nickname after taking the Jets to a 10-6 season in his first year) was locked out of the Foxboro facilities immediately after taking the Jets job: Anywhere but the Jets, the Pats must have thought to themselves. Then Mangini went on to claim after the 2007 opener, a blowout loss at home to the Pats, that Belicheck and the Pats were using cameras to steal signals from the opposing sidelines. In what has come to be known as “Spy Gate”, the Pats were fined 250,000 and forfeited their 1st round pick in 2008 by comissioner Roger Goodell. the Spy Gate incident has only furthered the hatred between these two clubs.
Fast forward to this week:
The 2009 Jets, fresh off of an inspiring 24-7 win at Houston in the opener, have come to already mirror the cocky tough swagger of their rookie coach Rex Ryan. Fast aggressive defensive schemes coupled with quick decision making by rookie QB Mark Sanchez has the Jets excited and confident about the future.
The Pats, also coming off of a win, albeit a miraculous one that saw them erase a 2 TD deficit in the closing minutes against the Bills on Monday night, come to the Meadowlands looking to regain their championship form. Brady’s throws against Buffalo were inaccurate for most of the night. His mobility is in question. The Pats defense formerly comprised of cerebral stars like Mike Vrabel and Ted Bruschi, ball hawking CB Asanti Samuel, the vicious hitting FS Rodney Harrison, and all pro pass rusher Richard Seymour, are all gone. Add 2nd year rising star LB Jerrrod Mayo to the list after an injury that will keep him out 6-8 weeks, and you here’s what you have: A perenially tough defense coached by a defensive mastermind, with now unproven talent. A far cry from the gelled disciplined crew that hoisted four Vince Lombardi trophies in the air this decade.
So as both teams, with their “Hatfields and the McCoy’s” history, march through the tunnel on Sunday, here will be the three keys to victory.
1-Pressure: Who will win the battle of pressure? There will be tons on Sunday coming from both sides. Expect the Pats to offset the Jets and Ryan’s blitz packages with dump offs to RB Kevin Faulk and slants to Wes Welker.
Expect the Jets to do the same with screens to speedy RB Leon Washington and slants to Chansi Stuckey (64 yds 1 TD against Houston) . In addition, the Jets will look to highlight the loss of Mayo by using TE Dustin Keller (4-94 yards against Houston) in the middle of the field. The team that handles pressure better and can get to the opposing teams’ QB will of course have the edge.
2-Ryan vs Belicheck. We’ve all heard the bravado coming from the mouth of rookie head coach Rex Ryan. It’s rubbed off on the team already. The Jets have a swagger and a personality not seen here in a decade. How that translates into sound game planning for the Pats is another story. Ryan will be tested early in the game and often. Few make better halftime adjustments than Belicheck as well. The Pats HC is one of the best game day coaches of all time. Ryan doesn’t have to match him, but he HAS to live up to his words and maintain the aggression he talks about.
3-Sanchez vs Brady. The rookie with the Broadway Joe intangibles: The looks, the flair, the leadership, the skills. This an assessment of the “San-chize” after just one NFL game under his belt.
The future hall of famer Brady with his super model wife Gisele and the 4 Super Bowl rings. The matchup can’t get anymore more Hollywood than this. As with Ryan, Sanchez doesn’t have to outplay Brady but he has to show that he belongs on the same field as him.
If it’s tied late, the edge will go to the experience and late game abilities of Brady. Ryan has to devise schemes that force Brady to throw on the run, where the rust and effects of coming off of a knee surgery could give the Jet secondary some chances to make some big game changing plays.