Why the Raider Nation should root for the Jets

For the second year in a row, the New York Jets are one game away from the Super Bowl. It has been 42 years since their one and only trip when Weeb Ewbank saw his Joe Namath led team shock the world and change professional football forever.

As a die hard fan of the Silver and Black, I say the Raider Nation should root for Gang Green this weekend.

Before getting to the Jets, there is good news for Raider fans this week that went virtually unreported. While I disagreed with he firing of Tom Cable and was relieved when offensive coordinator Hue Jackson took over, another hire was superb. Al Davis has long coveted Al Saunders to be a part of his organization. Saunders is one of the best offensive coordinators in the business, and he shares the aggressive offensive philosophy Davis has long espoused. Saunders has been with AFC West rivals Kansas City and San Diego, and finally he is the offensive coordinator of the Raiders. Al Davis has made many controversial decisions over the last few years, but this was an excellent hire.

What made the Raiders different during their golden era of the 60s, 70s, and 80s was that they really were different from every other franchise.

“Just Win Baby” was more than a slogan. It was a way of life. The Raiders had two rules written on the blackboard.

1) Show up on Sunday.

2) Stay out of trouble with the law.

At the bottom of the blackboard it was written “If you obey rule # 1, don’t worry about rule # 2.”

Al Davis and John Madden wanted football to be fun, and they thrived in the “us against the world” mentality.

Hank Stram had the Kansas City wear coats and ties to games. John Madden saw Ted Hendricks show up to practice dressed like Sir Lancelot riding a steed. When Mike Shanahan banned players from sitting on their helmets, the players rebelled. When Art Shell took over, sitting on the helmets was allowed. The team responded and won games.

Castoffs from other teams nobody else wanted thrived in Oakland, with Jim Plunkett and many others being rescued from the ash heap.

The Raiders hit hard, played hard, and talked even harder. They also backed it up.

This brings us to the Rex Ryan Jets today.

I love Rex Ryan. In today’s buttoned down culture, Rex Ryan “looks” like a football coach. The guy had lap band surgery and still looks heavy. He doesn’t care what you think of his big gut hanging out. That’s your problem. When a player last week scored a clinching touchdown and received an excessive celebration penalty, Ryan limped on one good foot to get to the end zone. Instead of chastising the player, he joined in on the celebration.

It is hard to think of millionaires as blue collar, but John Madden was a blue collar players’ coach. So is Rex Ryan.

He showed up at his introductory press conference and announced that he “wasn’t here to kiss Bill Bellischick’s rings.”

This was similar to his father Buddy Ryan taking over the Eagles and Cardinals and declaring war on Dallas.

(Buddy was an assistant coach on the 1968 Jets team that won it all.)

In the 1970s the Dallas Cowboys were the heroes. They wrapped themselves in the American flag. The Raiders were the villains, or to be more accurate, the anti-heroes. They flew the pirate’s flag. Dallas had Tom Landry and Roger Staubach. “North Dallas Forty” failed to tarnish their golden squeaky clean image. That movie featured John Matuszak, who played for the Raiders.The Cowboys, at the risk of enraging their fans, were boring. They played well, but they were boring compared to the Raiders.

In the 1990s, it was the San Francisco 49ers playing the role of heroes. They bragged about how “corporate” they were. When Bill Walsh retired, they found the one man even more boring than he was, perhaps the most boring head coach of all time in George Siefert. The Dallas Cowboys were the new Raiders, with Michael Irvin being the main anti-hero. Even Deion Sanders was moderately restrained with the 49ers. He truly exploded from an entertainment standpoint in Dallas.

The 21st century brought the Colts and the Patriots. The problem is both of these teams kept it as vanilla as possible. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady were both corporate. Tony Dungy and Bill Bellichick wanted quiet victory. Tony Dungy was calm, and his successor Jim Caldwell to this day has never made a facial expression. In New England, Bellichick was dull as dishwater. Many would see the Colts as the good guys and the Patriots as the bad guys, but the Patriots were too dull to be bad guys. “The Patriot Way” was just another way of being like the 49ers of the 1990s. It meant winning, but with a degree of being insufferable.

Then along came Rex Ryan and the Jets. Misfits and castoffs came from all over, led by Santonio Holmes. More than one of the guys had scrapes with the law.

(Both Rex Ryan and Marvin Lewis came from the Brian Billick school of winning above citizenship, but Marvin Lewis cannot claim the old Raiders mantle because the Bengals don’t win anything.)

In an eerie coincidence, the current Jets have a Mexican celebrity leading them on the field. Mark Sanchez is a source of pride for Mexicans, as Jim Plunkett was for the Raiders 30 years ago.

Like the old Raiders, these Jets have circled the wagons when scandals hit. There was the awful tripping video, the sexual harassment allegations involving a reporter, and the foot fetish videos involving Ryan and his wife.

Yet like John Madden, Ryan took every distraction and used it as a rallying cry. His players would go through a brick wall for him.

Those players are all shapes, sizes, and stripes. During the turbulent 1960s, Al Davis was breaking down racial barriers, and he would eventually hire Art Shell and Tom Flores, the first black and Mexican coaches in the modern era, respectively. It was never about black, white, or brown. It was about silver and black.

It is of no small note that the biggest and loudest champion of the pasty white Ryan is Bart Scott. Scott is black, but the only thing he bleeds is green and white.

Yet while all of the rest is nice, it comes down to winning.

As one dejected Patriots player said at the end of the Jets game last week, “They talked it. They walked it.”

Ryan takes all of the pressure off of his players by putting it on himself.

Who in their right mind thought that the very team that lost 45-3 would one month later go into the same stadium and win convincingly? The Jets did, because Ryan told them they would.

When the Patriot closed the game to 14-11, conventional wisdom said run the ball and let Sanchez “manage the game.” Instead Ryan unleashed Sanchez, determined to let him succeed or fail on the large stage.

(The aggressiveness reminded me of the Cowboys-49ers classic NFC Title Game near the end of the 1992 season, when Jimmy Johnson repeatedly took bold gambles, as Dallas won on the road on the way to establishing a dynasty.)

The Jets could barely contain their contempt for the Patriots, treating Tom Brady not as a Super Bowl champion but as a pretty boy prima donna (he is both). The Jets wanted to take New England and belt them in the mouth to shut them up and get rid of their arrogance. They turned Tom Terrific into Tom Terrible in front of his home fans.

For those worried that the Jets have lost their edge going into the AFC Title Game, don’t be fooled. Ryan is just being sincere. Unlike Michael Jordan, he does not manufacture enemies. Ryan really was sick and tired of losing to Peyton Manning. The Jets really do loathe the Patriots, from Bellichick on down to Brady and all the fans. The hatred does not exist between the Jets and Steelers. There is mutual admiration and similar playing styles. It would be fake for the Jets to trash talk the Steelers.

(Santonio Holmes for obvious reasons is a delightful exception.)

Also, the rallying cry of being disrespected won’t wash here. The Jets kept losing to the Colts and Patriots. “Nobody believed them” was believable.

The Jets went into Pittsburgh a few weeks ago and beat them. The Steelers respect them and everybody believes in the Jets at this point. Troy Palomalu did not play, but the Steelers under Mike Tomlin refuse to make excuses like the Patriots did in week 2 when Tom Brady sat out injured in a Jets win over them.

Yet don’t be fooled. The Jets know that this is the best shot the team has had in decades to get out from under the shadow of the Giants. Don’t think Rex Ryan isn’t sick and tired of reading that Bill Parcells won with the Giants, not the Jets.

Rex Ryan is the loudmouth guy sitting at the bar talking football, spouting off opinions. He is Joe six-pack.

He is also more than a great football mind. He is a character in what is often called the No Fun League.

So for those who love anti-heroes, root for the Jets this weekend. They will have 70,000 people waving terrible towels  rooting against them this week. They will use that animosity as rocket fuel.

Bill Parcells had the Jets 30 minutes away on the road and fell short during the magical 1998 season. Rex Ryan has the Jets 60 minutes away from greatness.

I can’t take it any more.

Start the game. I am ready for some football.

Let’s go Jets.



NFC Title Game: Green Bay Packers 34, Chicago Bears 17

AFC Title Game: New York Jets 20, Pittsburgh Steelers 17


One Response to “Why the Raider Nation should root for the Jets”

  1. HEAR HEAR!!!

    And next year, my friend, I hope your Oakland team takes their new momentum and return again to the Raida’s of old! Football is always more fun when the Raida’s are out their pillaging!


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