Joy to the world.
The Jets are done.
So puff out your chests, Patriots fans. Gang Green has gangrene. Head coach Rex Ryan arrived in New York vowing never to kiss Bill Belichick's rings, and he may now leave New York kissing Belichick's feet. Sexy Rexy and the Jets appear headed for a complete dismantling that could begin within hours of the conclusion of the 2012 regular season, and New York now looks like nothing more than a pothole during Belichick's 12-year journey over the AFC East.
Slightly more than a year ago, like the 2011 Red Sox, the Jets were 8-5 and seemingly positioned for a playoff spot. Then they self-destructed in a season-ending losing streak marked by dissension, infighting, turmoil and finger-pointing. New York's answer to its problems came in a man whom most everyone else regarded as a potential problem, the kind of lightning rod who translated into media attention and in retrospect, undue hype.
The Red Sox had Bobby Valentine. The Jets had Tim Tebow.
When you get right down to it, what's the difference?
Each was a bill of goods.
In the case of Tebow, he is hardly to blame for what has befallen the Jets. Like Valentine, Tebow was the pawn in an internal struggle between ownership and on-field operations. One side wanted him and the other did not. In the end, he has become a symbol of everything that is wrong with the Jets, of the kind of organizational dysfunction that can eat at a franchise from within.
And now, just like the Red Sox, there is talk of the jets selling off parts, of trading away Tebow and the wildly overpaid Mark Sanchez, who might be the Jets' equivalent to, say, John Lackey.
In recent Patriots history, we all know the story of The Border War. In these parts, the Jets were largely irrelevant until Bill Parcells broke from Patriots owner Robert Kraft and took over the New York operation. Subsequent spinoffs centered around Belichick and Eric Mangini, the Belichick protege who turned on his mentor. Mangini gave way to Ryan, the kind of rebellion a teenager makes under the weight of overbearing parents.
When the Jets hired Mangini, they told the world they wanted to be more like the Patriots. When they hired Ryan, they told world they wanted to be nothing like New England.
For a time, of course, the Jets played as if liberated. Ryan went 3-2 in his first five meetings against Belichick, one victory coming in the divisional playoffs at Foxboro Stadium. The Jets went to two consecutive AFC Championship Games while the Patriots failed to win even a single postseason game. The team were both 5-3 when the Patriots traveled to the Meadowlands last season for a Week 10 matchup, New England in a relatively fragile state while the Jets had won three straight.
And then, precipitously, everything flipped.
In the time since, beginning with a 37-16 win in New York, the Patriots have gone 20-5 while the Jets have gone 9-13. The gap between the teams now feels as big as it did before Parcells left New England. The Patriots have played in one Super Bowl and look at least as capable this year as any other NFL team, and the Jets are now prepared to cut tied with both Tebow and Sanchez, perhaps Ryan, maybe even general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
Seven or eight months from now, we can only wonder if the Jets and their followers will be talking about a bridge year.
And so now, presumably, Tebow will be gone from New York as quickly as Valentine was from Boston, their roles in the failures of two franchises indisputably clear. Neither man caused the problems on his team. But in some way, shape or form, each made it worse. And lest there be any doubt, neither Valentine nor Tebow deserves as much blame as the people who imported them, the kind of detached decision-making that cannot help but make you wonder whether the people running the franchise had any clue at all.
What happens to the Jets from here is anyone's guess, and the Patriots clearly have their own issues to worry about at the moment. New England has two regular season games remaining on its 2012 regular season schedule and the Patriots are currently the No. 3 seed in the AFC. The playoffs might very well begin in two weeks. The Border is now nothing but a memory, and Ryan looks like simply another man who tried to take at Belichick.
Happy Holidays, Patriots followers.
The New Year may or may not bring another trip to the Super Bowl, but you are far, far better off than the Jets.
Tony's Top 5
NFL story lines in 2012