It's no secret that Boston and New York don't get along very well, particularly on the playing field. While the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry will always be the crux of the malice between the two cities, the Patriots and Jets have an underrated history in terms of their own rivalry.
Both franchises originated in 1960 out of the AFL, spawning a twin antagonism that has only intensified throughout the years. Despite holding a decisive 19-9 edge in the 21st century, the Patriots only lead the overall series 54-52-1, signifying that the contests between the two teams have been more closely contested than many may believe.
And of course, the off-field vitriol has been just as strong, from coach-poaching to player-swapping to backstabbing among former colleagues.
To understand why "J-E-T-S" is the most egregious four-letter word in Boston, let's look back at the Patriots' history with their hated Gotham rivals.
The first meeting between the Pats and the then-New York Titans provided an ominous look into New York's future. After the Titans opened up a 24-7 lead, the Patriots stormed back and closed the gap to make it 24-21. It looked like the Titans would hold on, needing only to get away a clean punt on the final play of the game.
Alas, punter Rick Sapienza fumbled the snap, allowing Chuck Shonta to scoop up the loose ball and rumble into the end zone for a play that surely would have broken Twitter, had it existed back then. The Patriots won 28-24, and the tone was set for the next 50 years of Jets football.
Unfortunately, that was the high moment for the Pats in the early renditions of the rivalry. Joe Namath, the Jets' famed quarterback, went 15-4-1 against Boston/New England, largely neutralizing Tom Brady's current 17-5 career mark against the Jets.
Though the Jets held a 24-15-1 edge after the first two decades, neither side really had much to brag about, apart from New York's Super Bowl victory in 1969. Both teams were in the bottom half of the league in terms of winning percentage, and the two combined for a grand total of three playoff wins during this time.
1980s: Patriots Rise
Beginning in the 1980s, the Pats became the first of the two to rise from decade-long doldrums into legitimacy. In 1985, the year of New England's first Super Bowl run, the Patriots went into Giants Stadium and earned their first playoff win since 1963, a 26-14 triumph over the Jets. The Pats would finally win a decade's worth of matchups between the two teams, 12-8.
Sadly, New England's rise to the top was brief. The Pats stumbled after their Cinderella 1985 run, bottoming out with just nine wins in one three-year period to start the next decade (1990-92). The two teams were once again among the worst in the league in terms of winning percentage between 1986-1993.
After that, though, the rivalry began to take off, beginning with new Patriots owner Robert Kraft's successful Tuna catch.
1990s: Jets Poach Back
After some rough times, the Patriots' hire of Bill Parcells turned the sad-sack franchise into the winners we know them as today. The Pats won five in a row with Tuna at the helm, and the Foxborough faithful rejoiced while the Jets floundered with the likes of Bruce Coslet and Rich Kotite at the helm.
But once again, New England's trip to a Super Bowl in 1997 would be a fleeting view of the NFL mountaintop. Rumors about Parcells' departure may have sabotaged any hope for the underdog Pats, an episode Parcells has openly lamented since.
But as old phrase advises, the Jets kept kicking the Patriots while they were down. After pulling off arguably the biggest coaching upgrade in league history by obtaining Parcells in a controversial move, New York also stole running back Curtis Martin from New England, a player who would go on to have an amazing career.
The Jets' clever manipulation of Martin's contract essentially made it impossible for the Patriots to keep him, as it was the first institution of the "poison-pill contract" in the NFL. Essentially, the deal allowed Martin to opt out after the first year of a five-year deal, with no provisions for future franchise tags. Without long-term security and being unwilling to pay such an expensive deal, the Pats had no choice but to let their star running back leave after just three seasons.
The clandestine contract still chafes Kraft to this day. Fortunately, the Patriots struck back with their own sneaky acquisition.
2000s: Belichick vs. Mangini
When Kraft shipped away a first-round pick for Belichick in 2000, many in Foxborough wondered why the owner was so intent on hiring a coach that had failed in Cleveland just years earlier. Of course, that transaction was arguably one of the two best moves in franchise history.
The 2000 season was the turning point in New England history, as the other best transaction, Tom Brady, also came into the fold that season. Since the turn of the century, the Patriots have largely commanded the rivalry between the two teams, owning a 19-9 edge in the new millennium.
However, the handful of Jets' victories have actually been quite significant, both on and off the field. Also, it was bad enough that the Jets hired away Eric Mangini, the Patriots' defensive coordinator at the time, but Mangini's whistleblowing on Spygate ranks as one of the top backstabbing incidents in NFL history.
To this day, Patriot-haters cling onto the incident as their one interminable thread of criticism against one of the NFL's model franchises, despite numerous contentions from media sources that the videotaping provided a minimal advantage at best.
That doesn't excuse Belichick for breaking the rules, as Kraft concedes to this day, but when you hear talk about the Patriots' success being overrated, you can blame Mangini for their existence.
Fortunately, the Pats didn't let Mangini's antics get the best of them on the field, owning a 5-2 advantage over the Jets during Mangini's tenure as head coach, including a 37-16 Wild Card round triumph in 2007.
However, though the next Jets' coach would prove just as irritating, his team actually backed up the relentless bombast.
2010s: Rex Yaps On
Rex Ryan has never been one to mince words—a huge understatement, to say the least. Upon his hiring, one of his first statements was his assertion that he "was not here to kiss Bill Belichick's rings."
Ryan's opening shot has set the tone for one of the most bitter rivalries of the new decade. Ryan's tactics have needled the Pats enough to cause some uncharacteristic slips, like Brady's candid admission of his hatred for the Jets and Wes Welker's infamous foot innuendo.
But what really escalated the venom was how closely contested the games were, particularly how the Jets defense consistently flummoxed Brady. Gang Green actually owned a 3-2 advantage in Ryan's first two seasons, including a 2011 playoff victory in Foxborough that ranks as one of New England's most devastating defeats.
The tide has shifted back the past two seasons, though, with the Patriots winning four in a row. Undoubtedly, the most satisfying game for Patriots fans was the Thanksgiving Day massacre this past season, highlighted by Mark Sanchez's signature moment:
The play was so satisfyingly symbolic, a proverbial shoving of Ryan's words up his you-know-what. The Jets are down right now, though a promising draft and a potential new franchise quarterback in Geno Smith has New York hopeful again. Given Brady's age and the Pats' own off-field turmoil this offseason, no one can be certain when the momentum will shift again.
But regardless of what unfolds in the future, at least Foxborough will always have this: