After a decade of being in the doldrums, the New York Jets and New York Giants are reviving football — and hope — in the Big Apple.
It’s been a long, miserable decade of New York football.
One filled with a new, ugly stadium, private seating licenses and a ton of losing.
Yet the lack of aesthetic charm and a rising cost to attend games on windy Sundays in the Meadowlands wouldn’t hurt so much if the product didn’t feel like a cheap knockoff. For years, that’s what fans in New York — and yes, New Jersey, also fans of New Jersey — have endured.
In the 10 seasons from 2012-21, the New York Jets and New York Giants combined to go 116-206 with one playoff appearance, zero postseason wins and eight head coaches. They’ve suffered through 19 different starting quarterbacks — 13 of them for Gang Green.
But suddenly, and unexpectedly, things have turned.
Through six weeks, the Jets and Giants are both in playoff position. They’ve combined for a 9-3 record.
Big Blue has been turned around seemingly overnight by first-year head coach Brian Daboll, who built a terrific staff with a blend of youth and experience.
On offense — Daboll’s side of expertise — he hired a first-time coordinator in Mike Kafka. Kafka came over after serving as Patrick Mahomes’ quarterbacks coach with the Kansas City Chiefs, and is seen around the league as a head coach in waiting. Then there’s veteran defensive coordinator Wink Martingale, brought over from the Baltimore Ravens.
Martindale’s philosophy matches his new city: aggression. The Giants are first in blitz rate (42.5%), sixth in hurry rate (10.3%) and ninth in pressure rate (24.8%). It’s working, as New York has been able to get key stops late in wins over Baltimore, Green Bay, Tennessee and Carolina.
With the Jets, the story is largely about a rookie crop which has transformed a previously lacking roster.
New York stockpiled first-round picks and used three of them this April on corner Sauce Gardner, receiver Garrett Wilson and edge rusher Jermaine Johnson. In the second round, general manager Joe Douglas selected running back Breece Hall from Iowa State.
It’s early, but the quartet appears to have star potential, giving the Jets a much-needed influx of talent. Hall has already amassed 609 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns, while Wilson has 24 receptions for 290 yards. Defensively, Gardner has been a shutdown corner on the outside, while Johnson has 1.5 sacks to begin his career.
For New York, and both fanbases, seeing competitive football on a weekly basis in the same stadium isn’t just refreshing, it’s incredibly rare.
Since the Jets came into existence as the New York Titans with the American football League in 1960, Gotham has claimed both for 62 professional seasons. Only in 1986 have both reached the Divisional round. In fact, they’ve only both made the same postseason on five occasions, doing so in 1981, ’85, ’86, ’02 and ’06.
In the 1970s, both teams were horrific, while the Giants were homeless. Booted out of Yankee Stadium in the middle of the ’73 season, they played home games at the Yale Bowl in Connecticut for two seasons before sharing Shea Stadium in ’75, waiting for Giants Stadium to be completed the following year.
From 1971-80, neither the Jets nor Giants had a winning season. Furthermore, the former went from ’69-81 without winning a playoff game, while the latter saw its stretch of futility span from ’59-80.
So what are the chances both reach the playoffs for the sixth time in their shared histories?
According to 538’s model, the Giants have a 72 percent chance of reaching the postseason, while the Jets check in at 37 percent in the more competitive AFC. Breaking it down by game, Daboll’s club is projected as a favorite in four games, while Robert Saleh’s squad gets the same respect in three tilts.
Of course, most remaining skepticism for either team is due to the quarterback play.
Daniel Jones hasn’t been an impediment for the Giants, but he’s also not a driving force in their success. Jones ranks 24th in passing yards, 26th in YPA, T-23rd in touchdown passes and 14th in QBR. The plus side? Only two interceptions after years of being a turnover machine.
As for Zach Wilson, the second-year man from BYU has only made three starts after injuring his knee in the preseason. It’s been an uneven beginning to the year, with only a single touchdown pass against two interceptions. Wilson is completing just 56 percent of his throws, and despite winning 27-10 in a surprise victory over the Green Bay Packers last Sunday, threw for 110 yards.
If the Jets and Giants are going to continue their stunning rises towards playoff contention, they’ll likely need more from their young quarterbacks.
Regardless, this is the first time in forever where either team has felt anything other than shame and embarrassment as the leaves fall in the Northeast. By this point, people in the Tri-State area are usually already focused on hockey, the impending Knicks disaster or the Yankees threatening for another title.
Yet in 2022, things are different.
The stadium is still ugly, the seats are still expensive, and the wind is still whipping.
But suddenly, it’s all worth it.