Jets-Pats rivalry can be about football again

January, 21, 2009
1/21/09
8:15
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Here's one colossal reason why I'm a fan of the New York Jets' decision to hire Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan:

The Jets' long-running rivalry with the New England Patriots might actually be about football from here on out.

Now that Eric Mangini has been dislodged and with many of his Jets assistants cast adrift, much of the catty Jets-Patriots story lines also should fade away.

Spygate, finger-pointing, tampering, whining ...

I'll admit, some of those plots were interesting for a while. When you have two high-profile coaches who despise each other as much as Mangini and Bill Belichick, feuds can produce fascinating material.

But the pettiness grew tiresome. Staring at the field after the final gun to see how long Belichick would shake Mangini's hand was never my idea of captivating football talk.

Also out of New York is quarterbacks coach Brian Daboll, a supporting character in the soap opera. Mangini plucked Daboll off Belichick's staff, much to New England's displeasure, forcing them to change their offensive terminology.

Mangini named Daboll the Cleveland Browns' offensive coordinator. Jets linebackers coach Bryan Cox, who played for Belichick with the Patriots and Jets and spent almost as many years in the AFC East as the Indianapolis Colts did, might head to the Browns, too.

Ryan, however, is not from the Bill Parcells coaching orchard or the Belichick tree. Ryan enters the division his own man, not beholden to any patriarch-turned-peer and not carrying a grudge.

Here's to the bad blood from the Jets-Patriots rivalry flowing from hardcore football, not soap operas, anymore.

That's why I'm excited about Ryan and his defensive approach being a part of the AFC East. Rest assured, Ryan wants to inject that wicked Ravens personality into the Jets' defense.

Stop and think how beautifully brutal that Ravens-Steelers series has become.

Let's hope the Jets and Patriots can move towards that and away from high theater.

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