Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Thurman Thomas, Don Shula, Victor Cruz
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Jets X-Factor ranks the New York Jets’ greatest all-time rivals, which includes players, teams, and talking heads over the last 60 years.

Robby Sabo

Merriam-Webster defines “rivals” as “one of two or more striving to reach to obtain something that only one can possess” and “one striving for competitive advantage.”

The Vince Lombardi Trophy certain classifies as that something only one can possess and the New England Patriots absolutely comply with one striving for a competitive advantage. Coincidence for the New York Jets? I think not.

The Jets have had so many rivals through the years diehard hockey fans often get them confused as an NHL organization. Wait a second… (see the Winnipeg Jets).

Seriously though, the football Jets’ rivals over the last six decades easily mirror what the New York Rangers or Islanders have gone through when dealing with the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils or each other.

From the early days of the AFL to that guy who now quarterbacks the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jets X-Factor ranks the New York Jets’ greatest all-time rivals.

Notables

The Jets have loved taking on the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers in the playoffs (2-0 against both teams). The Pittsburgh Steelers are a different story (0-2). These three teams qualify for the notables section if only to represent teams the Jets have taken on more than once in the tournament.

The Houston Oilers make the cut not on the strength of the 1991 wild-card game, but rather due to the AFL dominance they put up during the Titan years. The Oilers won the first three AFL championships (1960-62) and then again in 1967. The Titans finished second in 1960 (three games back of Houston) and second again in 1967 with a young Namath, just one game behind the division-winning Oilers. George Blanda, who led the Oilers behind center, used to kill the Titans in the early days before moving over to the Oakland Raiders to help relieve Daryle Lamonica when necessary.

Willie Lanier and Willie Brown are self-explanatory, but Victor Cruz‘s inclusion is an interesting one. Remember, it was the Snoopy Bowl (Jets vs. Giants) in which Cruz broke out during the preseason, and his 99-yard score in 2011 officially put the final nail in the coffin of the mighty Rex Ryan (winning ways) era as the Giants went on to win the title.

O.J. Simpson may be the all-time leading rusher against the Jets, but it came during a time when the Jets were horrid. Not much of a rivalry there.

14. Mike Francesa

From 1997 through 2000, WFAN’s Mike Francesa was a huge fan of the New York Jets. Most avid listeners of WFAN through the years understand why.

Other than Bill Parcells’s brief tenure (and yes, we’re including his executive duties as well), the Mike in “Mike and the Mad Dog” has really torched this organization. From the incompetent John Idzik rant to the infamous Darrelle Revis interview, Francesa hasn’t allowed the Jets to breathe.

It’s unfortunate; the popular opinion on the airwaves is what used to drive the New York sports narrative. (Not so much these days.)

No worse example hit home than in 2009 when Francesa took prideful glee in the idea the Jets were “lucky” to get into the playoffs after the undefeated Indianapolis Colts pulled their starters in Week 16.

What’s Rex Ryan supposed to do? Francesa’s sheer bluster in saying “there is not a chance in the world the Jets would have beat the Colts if they played” cements his status on this list.

“You’re 8-7 on a gift. You’re in the playoffs on a pass.”

The Jets would go onto win the Week 17 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals to cap off Giants Stadium history and their first two playoff games to reach the AFC championship game.

He just couldn’t take any Ryan-led success. It made his stomach curl.

13. Peyton Manning

New York played Peyton Manning not once, not twice, but three times in the playoffs, coming away with a 2-1 record. For some reason, despite the fact he left the division early on, the Jets couldn’t get rid of the man.

12. Thurman Thomas

A lot of fans forget just how torturous Thurman Thomas was to the Jets. Taking handoffs from Jim Kelly, the Buffalo Bills superstar running back destroyed the Jets for years in the five-team AFC East. He ranks behind O.J. Simpson as the man with the second-most rushing yards for an opponent in Jets history.

11. New York Giants

Always lingering, there are those New York Giants. No, playing a team once every four seasons doesn’t exactly constitute a rivalry, but playing home games in your big brother’s place (Giants Stadium) for so many years and again sharing a stadium (MetLife Stadium) with a franchise that’s been around for nearly 100 years makes things a little sticky.

10. Kansas City Chiefs

What could have been? If only Joe Namath and the Jets could have solved the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1969 AFL tournament. They could have gone back-to-back.

Playing in Shea Stadium despite having one fewer win than the Chiefs, the Jets could muster just six points to the Chiefs’ 13.

Down 6-3 in the fourth quarter, the Jets had the ball at the Chiefs 1-yard line. They were stuffed twice by the Willie Lanier-led defense and threw an incompletion before they had to settle for a game-tying field goal.

From there, Len Dawson hit Otis Taylor on a 61-yard chunk which set up a 19-yard touchdown to Gloster Richardson for the go-ahead touchdown. For many Jets fans, this remains the most painful loss in history.

The all-time series is tied at 19-19-1 and no franchise reminds Jets fans of their own more than the Chiefs. That was prior to the Chiefs’ most recent triumph. Prior to last February, both fanbases had been tortured while representing the two AFL organizations who helped move the merger along the most.

The Chiefs were probably the Jets’ (and New York Titans) greatest old-time AFL rival (edging out the Raiders by just a bit).

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9. Indianapolis/Baltimore Colts

First, it was Super Bowl 3. Then, it was the AFC East after the Colts moved over to the AFC with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. These two franchises have squared off four times in the playoffs with the Jets getting the better of three of those games (including Super Bowl 3).

8. Buffalo Bills

The Bills first show up by completely wrecking a tremendous 1981 season—the organization’s coming-out-party after remaining stagnant for over a decade. Their 31-27 win at Shea Stadium hurt the Jets fan. Then, from 1988 through 1995, Buffalo took the division crown six of eight seasons including four-straight from ’88 to ’91. They simply dominated the Jets in the early ’90s. He once racked up 214 yards against New York in a September affair in 1990.

Hatred towards the Buffalo Bills just isn’t there for the average Jets fan like it is for the Pats and Dolphins.

7. Oakland Raiders

Yes, the Oakland Raiders rank ahead of the division-rival Buffalo Bills. They’re an original AFL team (like the Bills) but they’ve also faced the Jets in the playoffs four times, tied for the most of any team (Colts are the other team with four). From the Heidi Game in the old AFL days to the Jets playoff shocker in 1982, to Jon Gruden’s two-year dominance over Herm Edwards‘s squad, this rivalry has had legs for 60 years.

6. Tom Brady

Tom Brady at No. 6? You better believe it.

Part of what makes a rivalry a rivalry is that both teams need to see at least a little bit of success. While the Jets can claim the 2010 divisional round shocker, there isn’t much else. Brady holds almost every passing record against the franchise and has tortured them silly since Mo Lewis hit Drew Bledsoe.

5. Don Shula

If Don Shula doesn’t turn his field into a mud pit prior to the 1982 AFC championship game, perhaps the Jets are two-time Super Bowl champs. Shula not only coached the Miami Dolphins from 1970 to 1995, but he was also the head coach for the Super Bowl 3-losing Baltimore Colts.

The Jets got him early, but Shula eventually wore them down.

4. New England Patriots

The New England Patriots have to rank ahead of Tom Brady for a couple of reasons. They’re an original AFL team (the Boston Patriots) and also stung the Jets in 1985 when they knocked off a really good 11-win team, 26-14, at Giants Stadium.

3. Dan Marino

Dan Marino‘s name will forever rank high on this list. In addition to his on-field play, the mere fact the Jets had a chance to draft him as he flew down the first round of the draft and instead opted for Ken O’Brien made the situation that much more fascinating.

He and O’Brien put up a ton of shows, including Week 3 of the 1986 season that featured four Wesley Walker touchdowns.

It is, of course, the fake spike NFL fans remember most about the time this man and the Jets spent together.

2. Bill Belichick

Such a script couldn’t be conjured up if the best writers were hired from every continent. To coach the Giants behind Bill Parcells, go to Cleveland, fail, follow Parcells to New England, then follow him to the Jets but first be named head coach while the Big Tuna worked out his stuff with Robert Kraft, only to be the longterm plan for the Jets but abruptly leave for the Pats instead and go on to win six rings is something so fictional it’s not worth repeating.

The man was named “HC of the NYJ” twice and never coached a single game.

The mere fact the 2000 offseason is so foggy regarding the circumstances of Belichick’s departure just makes everything about his reign of terror over the Jets so ridiculous. Sure, Parcells and Belichick’s work in three years took a franchise that made the playoffs just seven times in 37 seasons (1960-1996) to a team that made the playoffs seven times in the next 14 seasons (1997-2010), but it’s completely overshadowed and shattered thanks to what the evil empire has done up north.

When thinking about individuals, there is no greater Jets rival than Bill Belichick. He hates the organization with a passion and the feeling is reciprocated. Yes, Belichick has also dominated the Jets, but the hatred on both sides is too real to ignore.

1. Miami Dolphins

As it relates to the Jets’ greatest team rival, it’s the Miami Dolphins.

Admittedly, it’s close. The race between the Dolphins and Pats is close, but the Jets have simply enjoyed more success against the Dolphins through the years and the consistency (the roller-coaster ride from season to season) was there in the 1980s and ’90s. With New England, the only roller-coaster ride transpired in January of 2011.

Strangely, the Jets and Dolphins have only met once the playoffs (the 1982 AFC Championship Game, the A.J. Duhe game). Nonetheless, the regular-season games this matchup has put up is some of the best stuff the NFL has to offer. From the Marino-O’Brien shootouts to the fake spike game, a Super Bowl 3-losing head coach out for his revenge to the 1983 NFL draft storyline, this rivalry has it all. It even has the greatest Monday Night Football game of all-time, the Monday Night Miracle when the Jets overcame an absurd 23-point deficit in the fourth quarter and went on to score 30 points in that final frame.

Younger fans may not understand, and that’s OK; but while the Pats-Jets rivalry has dominated the last two decades, the two decades prior featured the Jets and the Dolphins with fantastic classics and storylines intertwined.

The Jets currently lead the all-time series 55-53-1.


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