You think Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow have a lot on the line this season?
Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan have more.
Oh, Tannenbaum and Ryan have a lot riding on their quarterbacks, no question about that, none. But they have more riding on the whole program, on their program, the one that still operates in the shadow of the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
It works that way despite the early speed of both Tannenbaum and Ryan, whose Jets were making it to two AFC Championship Games in seasons when the Giants had gotten knocked back good after beating the Patriots in Glendale, Ariz.
The Giants, clearly, have their way of doing business, in so many ways becoming the model franchise of the whole sport. The Jets, in Year 4 of Tannenbaum/Ryan, are still trying to prove that their way ó big moves, big noise ó can work, too.
There was a great intersection of all this last Christmas Eve, Saturday afternoon, MetLife, what turned out to be the most important game ever played between the two teams when you add it all up, one that included the most important play in all of Giants-Jets history.
If you donít think so, ask yourself how last season ends, for both teams, if Eli doesnít throw it to Victor Cruz for 99 yards when he does.
But the Giants got the game, got to 9-7 against the Cowboys, got on another one of those Super Bowl runs, four Lombardi Trophies for them now, up in the first class section of the sport. The Jets lose to the Dolphins, the coach doesnít even know whoís in the game, they end up 8-8, miss the playoffs, here they are, an easier schedule than the Giants have, a tremendous opportunity to come out of this season with a better record than the Giants.
This isnít on the quarterbacks, as much as they will determine the Jetsí success this season. This isnít on Tony Sparano, the new offensive coordinator. It is on the players Tannenbaum has given Ryan this season and the way the coach can coach them.
ďI got this, okay?Ē Rex Ryan said after a couple of his players got into it in Cortland and then other players joined in and they all nearly went rolling into the fans.
We find out, starting in September, if he does.
If heís got it and if he really gets it.
Rex Ryan is still as big a star as we have around here in sports, in all the modern celebrity ways, big as ever even after dropping the weight. Rex will always be more Jersey Shore than Eli and the other team in Jersey. But for all the attention paid to Sanchez and Tebow this summer, the way they have been the Jetsí poster boys ó with and without shirts ó this is still more about Rex than anybody else.
We saw how the Giants came back after they missed the playoffs, did it with a better record (10-6) in 2010 than the Jets had in 2011 when they came apart the way they did down the stretch. We saw how Tom Coughlin responded to being hit, and once again hear that he might lose his job if the Giants didnít come back.
Now we see how Ryan comes back. We see if Tannenbaum has given him enough. But we see if Ryan can get to 10 or 11 wins and have his team come into January this time looking like a contender for the championship. We hear all the time about how much players love to play for Rex Ryan. This is a good year to find out how much, and how hard.
Rex talks about being here a long time, and maybe he will. It has mostly been huge fun having him around. He has had as much to do with pro football becoming bigger than it has ever been around here, from the moment he hit town and started talking about how he wasnít here to kiss Bill Belichickís rings.
And he could go a long time without winning the Super Bowl. Andy Reid has in Philadelphia. But at least Reid made it to the big game once. Rex came close: One good half against the Colts in one AFC Championship Game, one rousing second half when his team scared the Steelers to death at Heinz Field.
The Jets donít have to make it to New Orleans this year to validate their program. But they need to make the playoffs. And four years into Tannenbaum/Ryan, they need to be doing something more at the end of the regular season than scuffling for the last playoff spot the way they were last year.
I got this, the coach says.
We always hear a lot from the Jets.
Now we see.
THE NIGHT TEBOW BEAT THE JETS, THE RICH GET RICHER IN THE NBA & TIGER'S PUTTING...
-- Iíll tell you another play from the last regular season that did a lot to change everything for the Jets last season.
That touchdown run Tebow made one Thursday night in Denver.