Commentary

Peyton's pull too much for Jets to resist

The one thing Woody Johnson can do to answer Eli's success? Bring in his older brother

Updated: January 24, 2012, 5:30 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

The month started with the embarrassing meltdown in Miami on New Year's Day, and it hasn't gotten any better for the New York Jets. They've gone from disarray to dissed.

Their blood rival is headed to the Super Bowl, so is their next-door neighbor, and nothing burns the Jets more than seeing the New England Patriots and New York Giants get to the great football place they haven't visited in more than four decades.

It was only five weeks ago that Rex Ryan was boasting how the Jets were a better team than the Giants, how they owned the town. Maybe they owned it for a minute in each of the previous two Januaries, but now they just have a serious case of the Big Blues.

And we all know how owner Woody Johnson copes with that. He'll try to make a splashy move in the coming weeks to get people talking about his team again -- it's in his DNA -- and there's only one thing out there that can accomplish that.

Peyton Manning.

Even though the Jets are insisting that Mark Sanchez will be their starter in 2012, you'd have to be na´ve to think they won't make a play for Manning -- if he's healthy and available.

Hey, if you can't be the big brother in New York, why not import The Big Brother?

There's a lot of buzz about the Jets' potential interest in Manning, and Johnson didn't slam the door in an interview last week. When Lawrence Tynes' game-winning field goal sailed through the uprights at 10:35 on Sunday night, it probably strengthened Johnson's resolve to do something big. Imagine if he's forced to stomach another victory parade on Broadway.

[+] EnlargeManning
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireIt seems highly likely the Jets would want Peyton Manning. But does Peyton Manning want the Jets?

We've seen this before. Four years ago, the circumstances were eerily similar. The Jets were coming off a disappointing, non-playoff season, and the Giants were everybody's darlings, having defeated the Patriots in perhaps the most famous Super Bowl of them all.

By the time they got to training camp, Johnson had discovered a way to strike back -- Brett Favre. He developed a man crush on Favre and, even though he kept telling fans and the media, "No, no, no," he gave the "yes, yes, yes" marching orders to his football people.

So in came the iconic quarterback, who didn't succeed on the field but managed to grow the Jets' popularity at a time when they needed to sell PSLs and fill a new stadium.

That's one of the fundamental differences between the Jets and Giants. The Jets sell the product, the Giants let the product sell itself.

A healthy Manning would improve the Jets' product, that's for sure. You think having an all-time great in the huddle would improve team chemistry? You bet it would. He would change the locker-room dynamic, the culture, the offense, everything. Manning doesn't work for organizations; he becomes the organization.

But there also would be several potential hurdles, such as finding cap room, deciding what to do with Sanchez and trying to make a marriage with new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. The Jets might be willing to move heaven and earth for Manning, but it's doubtful that he'd want to be their shining star.

It's hard to imagine Manning picking a cold-weather team that plays in the same town as his kid brother -- a town that finally has fallen for Eli. No, the Jets aren't a Manning kind of team, and Ryan isn't a Manning kind of coach (not buttoned-down enough for him), but it's probably not going to stop them from giving it the old college try.

That would be some way to fire back at the Giants, who tweaked the Jets on Monday with a tweet that said: "Some teams are really happy getting to Conference Championship games, but #ImReallyGoodAt winning them! 5-0 all time! #ALLIN"

The Jets are fixated with the Giants. In Ryan's book, released last spring, he devoted an entire chapter to overtaking the Giants in terms of popularity.

"When people ask me what it's like to share New York with the Giants, my response is always, I am not sharing it with them -- they're sharing it with me," Ryan writes, adding, "I know it's going to piss off every Giants fan to hear this, but here you go: We are the better team. We are the big brother."

He doesn't stop there, claiming the Jets are "going to remain the better team for the next 10 years. Whether you like it or not, those are the facts and that's what's going to happen."

Uh, not exactly. But, hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em at the Manning dinner table.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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