One of the great things about living in New York is that we have multiple teams to root for and follow in all the professional sports leagues. Yankees and Mets. Knicks and Nets. Rangers, Islanders and Devils. And of course, the Giants and Jets.
With football season midway through the crucial month of December and both the Giants and Jets focused on their post-season possibilities, the stark differences in both teams is wildly apparent.
Think back to mid-October. The Jets were literally soaring, with a record of 5-1, having walked through the AFC East with three straight wins. They owned the back pages of the Post and Daily News. Rex Ryan was a genius and funny and tough. Mark Sanchez was the new Broadway Joe. LT was re-born in NY. The Patriots were yesterday’s news as the Belichick/Brady dynasty fell back in the rearview mirror. Talk radio was buzzing as long suffering Jet fans, the players and team management collectively puffed out their chests with proclamations that this was the Jets’ year. Their time. “Watch out world,” they yelled, “here we are and we’re gonna stomp on you.” They placed the bullseye squarely and prominently on their backs….were glad to have it….and they dared other teams to “come get some.”
In the other home locker room at New Meadowlands Stadium, the Giants were busy righting their ship. After a tough start at 1-2 with losses to Indianapolis and Tennessee, and Tiki Barber forcing his way onto the scene by stating that Tom Couglin had lost control of his team, Big Blue had rallied with 3 consecutive wins to post a 4-2 record. They won, but it wasn’t always easy. Eli’s passes were just off the mark and tipped passes became interceptions. Brandon Jacobs was fuming about his secondary role, behind Ahmad Bradshaw. Talk radio callers were concerned about the G-Men’s inconsistency and openly wondered where this season was headed. Giant players and management quietly and steadily focused on the fundamentals and maintained an attitude of confidence despite their struggles.
Fast forward to today….both teams sport 9 -4 records but how things have changed.
The cocky Jets are reeling with two straight losses to AFC East teams, having scored a measly 9 total points in those games. Destroyed by the Belichick/Brady combo, along with Jet-castoff Danny Woodhead, the Jets have gone from “Hard Knocks” to “Soft Taps” in a hurry. While Rex deals with the fall-out from The Trip, he considers benching suddenly inconsistent young Sanchez and throwing veteran Mark Brunell into the mix for good reason…consider this….the Jets have only scored touchdowns against one winning team…the Pats in week 2. They were stuffed by the Packers, Ravens and Pats in their second meeting. If the season ended today, the Jets would be seeded 5th in the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, there’s still three weeks left to sort things out. The once screaming Jet fans find themselves looking backwards at the many past seasons of futility…hot starts and “crash and burn” Decembers. What makes things more painful this time around is all the brash and bold talk they threw around early on.
How different are things with the Giants and their fans? Hasn’t life gotten good? Steadily, quietly, in workman like blue-collar fashion, the Giants are in the thick of things. Winners of 3 straight games, Big Blue has the number 2 ranked defense in the NFL and has been particularly strong against the pass. The offensive line, always a Giant strength, has returned to prominence as injured players David Diehl and Shaun O’Hara return to action. The receiver corps will miss Steve Smith but Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Kevin Boss have stepped up big time. Jacobs has replaced Bradshaw as the lead runner and averages 6.1 yards per carry, while Bradshaw has 1100+ yards to date. All this good stuff happening….all quietly and steadily.
It’s a great lesson…..told again and again over time. Slow and steady often wins in the end while brash and bold fizzles out. And more often than not, nobody minds when the loud guy gets his due. If I were in Vegas, my money would be on the Giants to represent NY in the playoffs while the Jets sit home, quietly, because by then, no one will want to hear them say another word.
THE LAST BITE:
The UCONN women’s basketball team goes for consecutive win #88 tomorrow in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Sq. Garden against Ohio State. The following Tuesday, 12/21, they take on Florida State in Hartford and should they win that game as well, they will break John Wooden and UCLA’s record with their 89th straight win. I’m sad to see Coach Wooden fall from the books but truly admire what Geno A. and his teams have accomplished. Coach Wooden knew this day would eventually come and even predicted it wouldn’t happen in his lifetime. I’ll be at that Tuesday night game with Coach’s grandson Greg Wooden, sitting on the baseline on the UCONN side of the court. It’s on ESPN2….check it out and watch history be made.