Maybe they should rename it the Green Hole!
If it’s the National Football League season, it means that the schedule makers have sent the New York Jets packing for their annual voyage to Oakland to visit the nasty Raiders and their nefarious fans, dubbed, the Black Hole.
Poor Jets. It must be a like a scene from the movie Ground Hog Day. Except instead of waking up in Punxsutawney, PA over and over again, Gang Green finds itself in the other city by the Bay year after year. And instead of dealing with that varmint, Punxsutawney Phil, they must contend with Tim Brown and Co.
Sunday’s game will mark the seventh time since 1999 that the Jets have traveled to Oakland, including twice each during the last two seasons for regular season and playoff games, with New York winning just once. That lone victory, the first by the Jets on the Left Coast since the franchise was called the Titans, catapulted the team into the playoffs on the strength of John Hall’s 53-yard field goal as time expired.
Oakland’s last visit to Co-Tenant Stadium was Sept. 21, 1997, a game they lost to the Jets, 23-22. Only four Raiders remain from that team – Brown, Adam Treu, Barret Robbins, and Lincoln Kennedy.
Fear not Jets fans. You won’t have to cash in those frequent flier miles for the time being. The Raiders are scheduled to come east for the 2005 season. Thank God!
Meanwhile, the latest confrontation between two of the storied American Football League franchises won’t have the quite the significance of recent years. Both teams are struggling with identical 2-6 records. So it appears this will be last meeting this season, since neither team seems poised to make a playoff push.
While the Jets lost Chad Pennington for six games with a fractured wrist, the Raiders have seen their QB, Rich Gannon, sent to the sidelines with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Our old friend Rick Mirer, he of the pitiful mop-up performance in 1999, will start for the Raiders this weekend after Raiders back-up QB Marques Tuiasosopo suffered a season-ending injury, tearing the medial collateral ligament in his left knee last Sunday at Detroit.
The once Raider scoring juggernaut is no more, ranking 25th in the league in total offense. The Jets, meanwhile, are ranked 18th.
Each team has also spent time in the NFL rushing defense basement. Oakland was ranked 16th in the conference and 32nd in the league prior to last week, with the Jets one place ahead, at 15th and 31st, respectively. Now, the Jets find themselves in the cellar in both categories, with the Raiders just two yards better (1,227 to 1,225).
Stay tuned as it promises to be a close race all the way to Week 16.
The major difference between the teams is that while the Jets have stayed together and not turned on head coach Herman Edwards, the Raiders are experiencing some infighting as head coach Bill Callahan has seemingly lost his club. Several veterans, particularly cornerback Charles Woodson, have publicly lambasted Callahan a year after guiding the Black and Silver to the Super Bowl.
Among Woodson’s comments was this doozy about Callahan: “I think he has to bend a little bit and stop being so stubborn as a person. You don’t know everything. Nobody does.”
Asked if he expected to be disciplined for his vocal approach, Woodson said, “Not at all. It’s the truth. I’m not worried about telling the truth.”
That said Sunday’s game is vital to both teams. Whoever loses will inevitably go into a season long tailspin and lose any hope of salvaging a lost season. One thing is certain: it should be an interesting game. Whether it’s the infamous “Heidi” game from 1968 to the AFL Championship from the same year to Hall’s dramatic kick, Jets-Raiders always is.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear they both played in the AFC West. Callahan certainly felt that way during training camp. When asked about the importance of divisional games, he referred to “Kansas City, Denver, San Diego, and of course, the New York Jets.”
Here’s a look at some of the recent and most significant games in the rivalry (the first six entries courtesy of NFL.com):
Jan. 12, 2003, Raiders 30, Jets 10: Angered by the hype surrounding Pennington after New York blew out Indianapolis 41-0 in its playoff opener, Oakland harassed the Jets quarterback into a 21 of 47, 183-yard passing performance with two interceptions.
Pennington was 7 of 26 in the second half.
"I said all week we'd put a hat on him and see if he's the next Joe Montana," Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski said. "I think we saw he's not."
Dec. 2, 2002, Raiders 26, Jets 20: New York led 10-6 in the third quarter when Tim Brown caught a 6-yard dump-off from Rich Gannon to become the third player in NFL history to catch 1,000 passes. With Oakland facing third-and-10 at the Jets 26, the game was halted for a brief ceremony, including a golf cart driving on the field with some of Brown's family.
During the break, Oakland wide receiver Jerry Porter informed Jets safety Damien Robinson, "We're fixing to score on the next play."
Sure enough, when play resumed, Gannon hit Jerry Rice for a 26-yard scoring pass for a 13-10 lead, and the Raiders never trailed again.
"He had everyone out there -- his aunties, his cousins," Jets defensive tackle Josh Evans said of the Brown celebration. "Play the game."
Jan. 12, 2002, Raiders 38, Jets 24: Forced into the wild-card round the week before by the Jets, Rice caught nine passes for 183 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown, Gannon was 23 of 29 for 294 yards and Charlie Garner rushed for 158 yards as the Raiders win and advance.
"For some reason, when it comes to the playoffs, I know it's time for me to play my best football," Rice said.
Jan. 6, 2002, Jets 24, Raiders 22: Placekicker John Hall hit a 53-yard field goal as time expired in the season finale, giving the Jets their first win in Oakland since the franchise was called the Titans in 1962.
"Football is about extinguishing ghosts," Edwards said. "We killed another ghost today, but there are a lot of ghosts left."
It was Oakland's third consecutive loss in the final seconds as the Raiders lost the home field advantage, first-round bye and had to face the Jets again six days later.
"We'll either crumble or we won't," coach Jon Gruden said.
Oakland won the rematch in the playoffs, but was forced to snowy New England in the second round, where they lost 16-13 in overtime and were introduced to the "Tuck Rule."
Dec. 10, 2000, Raiders 31, Jets 7: The Raiders improved to 11-3 and clinched their first playoff berth since returning to Oakland in 1995.
Cornerback Eric Allen got things started with a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown, igniting a raucous Sunday night crowd. Jets running back Curtis Martin, who gained 203 yards the previous week against Indianapolis, carried 17 times and gained 11 yards.
The Jets, who entered the game 9-4, began a three-game losing streak that left them out of the playoffs. Coach Al Groh resigned after the season to become coach at the University of Virginia.
Oct. 24, 1999, Raiders 24, Jets 23: Trailing 20-3, Gannon and Brown led a comeback that ended in a 5-yard touchdown pass to James Jett with 26 seconds remaining.
Brown's 11 receptions for a career-high 190 yards included a 45-yard TD catch in the third quarter, which cut New York's lead to 20-10. Rick Mirer was the signal caller for the Jets that day.
Oct. 9, 1989, Raiders 14, Jets 7: In a nationally televised Monday Night Football game, Art Shell makes his debut as the first black head coach in modern NFL history.
Jan. 15, 1983, Jets 17, Raiders 14: At Los Angeles’ Coliseum, Lance Mehl preserved the Jets victory with two crucial interceptions, the first by picking off Jim Plunkett at the Raiders 27-yard line with 2:49 remaining, and the second with under two minutes left following Freeman McNeil’s fumble.
McNeil rushed for 101 yards on 23 carries while Richard Todd (15-24 for 277 yards) hooked up with Wesley Walker (7 catches, 169 yards) for a 20-yard score in the opening quarter. The victory sent the Jets to Miami for the AFC Championship game.
Dec. 29, 1968, Jets 27, Raiders 23: Joe Namath hit Don Maynard for a 6-yard scoring strike in the fourth quarter and linebacker Ralph Baker pounced on an errant lateral pass by Raiders QB Daryle Lamonica intended for Charlie Smith in the waning minutes as the Jets captured the AFL Championship game, their first-ever playoff victory.
The win sent the Jets to the Super Bowl, where they upset the heavily favored Baltimore Colts, 16-17, for the lone championship in the star-crossed franchises history.
Nov. 17, 1968, Raiders 43, Jets 32: With the visiting Jets holding a seemingly comfortable 32-29 lead and under a minute to play, NBC cut to a commercial and never aired the remainder of the game. Instead, the network televised the children’s film, “Heidi,” as the Raiders rallied, unbeknownst to the bewildered football viewers.
Dec. 11, 1960, Titans 31, Raiders 28: The New York AFL franchises first-ever victory against the Raiders. It also marks first win in Oakland.
Oct. 28, 1960, Raiders 28, Titans 27: The first-ever meeting between the two teams in the inaugural AFL season takes place at the Polo Grounds. (AFL teams played twice each season).