Since moving from Shea Stadium to the other side of the Hudson River to play their home games at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, for the previous quarter of a century, playing in the shadows of the New York Giants have been their little brother, the New York Jets.
Beginning in 1983 when the Jets drafted Ken O’Brien instead of selecting hall-of-famer Dan Marino, thru the 2008 season when the Jets began the season 8-3 and failed to make the playoffs, Jet fans have always found themselves waiting to have their hearts ripped out, as each season was ending in heartbreak and disappointment.
The Jets consistently found ways to collapse down the stretch, but during last season, the younger brother who’s been unable to gain his own identity, as the Jets organization remained the “New York” Jets mirroring the decision made by the Giants to keep “New York” as part of their name, despite playing in a different state and playing in Giants Stadium, finally matured with an appearance in the 2009 AFC championship game. Although their season ended with a loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Jets sent a message to the league indicating they are no longer the Giants’ little brother, but are becoming a threat to win the Super Bowl every year.
The label of same old Jets was now removed, as a new era in Jets football was born.
Since the fiery Rex Ryan took over as head coach, whether it’s Ryan’s controversial comments or adding more talent to their roster, the Jets have been making headlines both on and off the field. While the Giants, since Super Bowl hero Plaxico Buress was sentenced to two years behind bars for violating New York’s gun laws and for their dissapointing playoff appearances, have failed to make a splash in the news.
For years, the Giants prided themselves on flying under the radar, because this organization went about their business in a very discrete, but successful manner. Not caring if they were on the front page of the newspapers or the top story of the sports news, the Giants never cared about being on the front page. But over the past two seasons, the Giants are making headlines because of their inabiity to acquire a major acquisition during the off-season or have successful drafts Giant fans can commemorate.
Many of you may feel, general manager Jerry Reese’s time with the Giants should be celebrated, since all eight rookies who were drafted during the 2007 draft, played a role in the Giants’ stunning run to the Super Bowl championship. But please, don’t enlighten me by saying he was responsible for the greatest Super Bowl upset of all-time, when the Giants beat the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, because I don’t want to hear it. Former general manager Ernie Accorsi was responsible for putting together that championship team. He believed Eli Manning was a star talent, and he was correct. He was responsible for drafting stars such as Osi Umenyiora, Chris Snee, Justin Tuck, Matthias Kiwanuka, and Brandon Jacobs. And for signing through free agency Antonio Pierce, Kareem McKenzie, and Burress. Then, in 2003 after the dismissal of Jim Fassel, Accorsi hired current head coach Tom Coughlin, who is on the hot seat heading into this season.
Since 2007, Reese and owners John Mara and Steve Tisch must share the blame for their failure to sign players that are difference makers, and to draft players based on positional needs instead of a player’s value (See 2010 NFL draft). And Reese, who I blame for the hiring of defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, has brought a losing philosophy to Big Blue.
Their new philosophies are driving the Giants organization into the ground and the blame is squarely on their shoulders. While Jets’ owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum have so much confidence in Ryan’s people skills, they allow Ryan to run the shows, and let’s face it. Although there is tremendous amount of pressure on Ryan to coach and simultaneously, manage the locker room with the 101 different personalities, he has done one heck of a job running the Jets, and should be congratulated for it.
And since Reese’s inaugural draft four years ago, Reese has become more famous for his disappointing free agent signings. A list that doesn’t include any future hall-of-famers, but instead Rocky Bernard, C.C Brown, Aaron Rouse, and Chris Canty, while the Jets have acquired Antonio Cromartie, LaDainain Tomlinson, Jason Taylor, and Santonio Holmes. Although Tomlinson and Taylor are now role players instead of superstars, the Jets are tying to improve their team, and certainly are succeeding.
The Jets have improved on both sides of the ball, and improved via the draft by adding depth to a position that is already the strength of their defense, when they drafted CB Kyle Wilson. And as much as it hurts, there is no denying the Jets have become the better football, and are en route to becoming the next New York “football” team to win the Lombardi Trohpy as Super Bowl champions.
Ryan has brought a new philosophy to the Jets which everyone is buying into. How could you not? With a rookie quarterback, and as a rookie head coach, he led the Jets to the AFC Championship game. That was just the start of a dynasty, as we prepare to watch Ryan’s team become one of the NFL’s elite, while Reese’s team will be selecting in the top-15 during the 2011 draft.
While most NFL teams consider a trip to the AFC title game a success, Ryan’s goal is to end each season with a championship. When Ryan came on board, a new era in Jets football was beginning, while the Giants franchise is heading in the opposite direction as they finished the 2009 season, with a record of 8-8.
Reese has yet to make any significant improvements to the Giants roster, leaving the Giants fan base shaking their heads, as they head into this upcoming season. As the Jets continue to improve, a Super Bowl appearance will soon be a reality, instead of a bizarre dream.
We are all witnessing a changing of the guard, as the Jets are becoming the new team of New York, and it’s happening right before our very eyes. Then again, I’d be hesitant to say that it hasn’t happened already.
Because it sure seems like the changing of the guard has already taken place.