Unlike most New Yorkers, and a good portion of the ESNY staff, I am not a Giants or Jets fan when it comes to football. No, my loyalties lie straight down I-95 with the Ravens by Baltimore’s inner harbor. My reasons are another story, but I digress.
The real story is how for over a decade at this point, New York City’s football teams have been, in a word, awful. Forget the two Super Bowls where Eli Manning and Big Blue got hot at the right time. Forget their beating Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the mighty New England Patriots machine twice. We can look back on both and call it now as it was then: Great luck.
Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills, the Jets’ AFC East neighbors over 360 miles to the north, are enjoying their best run since the ’90s. Furthermore, they actually play in the Empire State while the so-called New York Jets and Giants share MetLife Stadium…right across the Hudson River, in New Jersey.
What a sad, sad state of affairs, particularly for the Jets. One Super Bowl appearance out of the upcoming 58th to be played, and a major upset immortalized by Broadway Joe Namath’s infamous “guarantee.”
Since then, the Jets are little more than their rhyming baseball neighbors, the New York Mets. Years upon years of draft mistakes, bad decisions named Brett Favre, and wondering if the hope once inspired by Bill Parcells and Rex Ryan will return. A torn Achilles from Aaron Rodgers later, those odds look bleak.
The sad part is that for the Jets, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The NFL has gradually become more of a scoring league in the last decade-plus, and the Jets are still living on the other side of the ball. Gang Green has hired exactly two supposedly offense-oriented coaches since 1995: Rich Kotite and Adam Gase, who combined to go 13-51 in a combined four seasons.
So much for the Jets taking off into the future, even if defensive guru Robert Saleh occasionally rallies the troops. Not even semi-regular playoff runs under Herm Edwards and Rex Ryan save them from being perennial NFL bridesmaids.
As for the Giants, the only real difference is Super Bowls. They’ve won four in the land where the Lombardi Trophy is king. Two with Parcells, two with Tom Coughlin. And the Tuna, unlike his former assistant, only lucked into one of his championships as opposed to both. As Scott Norwood’s heart suddenly skips a beat up in Buffalo.
But hey, at least both teams have some upside now, right? The Jets’ defense showed out without Sauce Gardner and handed the mighty Eagles their first loss. That’s two major upset wins on the season compared to four losses. Why worry with a defense like this, right?
The same goes for the Giants, who have stepped on the regression rake harder than anyone expected after last year’s playoff run. That O-line isn’t getting any better, even when healthy. That they nearly beat Buffalo on Sunday with backup Tyrod Taylor speaks volumes.
Such is the state of the NFL in the Tri-State Area, ladies and gentlemen. The bar for success has fallen to stealing wins and moral victories on defense. The only difference is, unlike the Jets, the Giants are trying to evolve. They get that having a strong offense matters and are just trying to push the right buttons to make it work.
Even more frustrating? Neither team’s general manager is to blame. Neither Joe Douglas nor Joe Schoen have made objectively bad roster decisions. Their draft moves and free agent signings all made sense at the time and some, namely Gang Green’s Zach Wilson, just haven’t worked out.
Unfortunately for all involved, no Steve Cohen-esque white knight is coming. Neither Woody Johnson nor John Mara will sell their team. The only way the Jets and Giants will get better is by playing out of their respective years-long funks.
Meanwhile, the fans are only getting more restless and loyalties are more strained. Tense. Maybe close to breaking in some cases.
In which case, I hear the Bills Mafia throws one hell of a tailgate.