If you are a Jets fan from the 1980's or 1990's, you know how heated of a rivalry the team has with the Miami Dolphins. If you are a Jets fan from the 2000's, you know how heated of a rivalry the team has with the New England Patriots. Well, if you are a Jets fan from the 1960's, you know how heated of a rivalry the team had with the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders were the Jets' original rival. They played a series of brutal, meaningful, and memorable games in the American Football League. The AFL schedule guaranteed the teams played each other at least once and sometimes twice every season. Near the end of the decade, both teams emerged as contenders, leading to some incredible moments when they met.
There might be a tendency to dismiss the idea that the Raiders were a rival to the Jets on par with the Dolphins and Patriots of more modern times. Don't take my word for it. Just read what Pulitzer Prize winning, long-time New York Times sportswriter Dave Anderson wrote about the rivalry.
But when the Jets and the Raiders were young and restless in the old American Football League, they often played each other twice a season. Their rivalry was real. And sometimes vicious.
Vicious enough that, just as a hunter puts a stuffed moose head on the wall, Davis once put ''the photo'' on the wall of the stairwell leading up to his office at the Raiders' headquarters -- an enlarged Oakland Tribune photo of Jets quarterback Joe Namath, his helmet flying, sprawling to the ground after being mugged by defensive end Ben Davidson.
When the Jets went to Oakland in 1968, that photo on the Raiders' wall symbolized the rivalry as well as Coach Weeb Ewbank's distrust of Davis. Whenever a helicopter flew anywhere near a Jets practice the week before a game against the Raiders, Ewbank would look up and shake his fist. He just knew Davis had somebody spying on the Jets. On a trip to Oakland, he once suspected a spy as the Jets practiced near a junior college's high-rise dorm.
This stuff makes Belichick-Mangini look tame. These teams despised each other.
Some memorable moments:
1966: Emerson Boozer runs 47 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, and the Jets convert the two point conversion as the Jets escape Oakland with a 28-28 tie.
1967: The Jets hand the Raiders their only loss of the regular season at Shea Stadium, jumping out to a 20-0 lead and never looking back in a 27-14 win. The Raiders get revenge in the rematch in Oakland later that year. Oakland won 37-24. The Raiders hit Joe Namath everywhere they could as frequently as they could. Ben Davidson broke Namath's cheekbone on a play that raised the bad blood between the sides. Namath stayed in the game. He threw for 370 yards and three touchdown passes in the losing cause, but the Jets fell out of first place in the Eastern Division with the loss and would finish second.
1968: In a wild game, the Jets take a lead 32-29 with just over a minute to go on a 26 yard Jim Turner field goal. NBC leaves coverage of the game to show the made for TV movie Heidi. Fans do not get to see two Oakland touchdowns in the final minute of the game as the Raiders win 43-32. This was a landmark moment for sports on television. As a result, sports leagues contractually require television broadcasters to carry games to their conclusion. The game was not only memorable for the broadcasting. It also featured a controversial ejection of Jets safety Jim Hudson for arguing a call. He gave the Oakland fans the middle fingered salute as he left the field. Hudson's replacement was beaten for the winning touchdown.
After the game, the Jets were furious.
How angry were the Jets after the game? An assistant coach, Walt Michaels, and the team orthopedist, James Nicholas, still irate over Hudson's banishment, banged down the door to the officials' room.
The Jets were headed to San Diego after the game. They left their uniforms behind to be shipped, and they suddenly disappeared from the locker room, never to be found again.
Six weeks later, the teams met in a classic AFL Championship Game at Shea Stadium. Joe Namath's third touchdown pass of the game from five yards out to Don Maynard late in the fourth quarter gave the Jets a 27-23 win. They advanced to Super Bowl III and would upset the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in a game that would give credibility to the AFL.
1982: The rivalry was renewed in a Playoff game this year. The Raiders called Los Angeles home by now, but the hatred and paranoia between the sides was as high as ever. The Raiders win the game 17-14. Michaels, now the head coach of the Jets received a call at halftime from somebody pretending to be owner Leon Hess. Micahels accuses Al Davis of being behind the call to distract him.
1993: A week after blowing a 21-0 lead in a loss to the Eagles, the Jets blow a 17-0 lead at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Nick Bell punches in a touchdown from the one yard line with four seconds left to give the Raiders a 24-20 win. There was some suspicious work by the timekeeper in the final minute as the clock did not start before the second to last play. The officials noted the problem and took twenty-five seconds off the clock. The clock, however was supposed to start once the ball was set on the final play. It did not start until the ball was snapped, giving the Raiders time to get set.
2001: John Hall hits a 53 yard field goal in the final minute of the regular season finale to give the Jets a 24-22 win over the Raiders in Oakland. The game was originally scheduled for Week 2 but was postponed due to the September 11 tragedy. The win earned the Jets a return trip to Oakland for the first round of the Playoffs. The Raiders got revenge 38-24 as a Charlie Garner 80 yard touchdown run with under two minutes to go sealed the win for the Raiders.
2002: Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown records his 1,000th career catch in a late season Monday Night game between the Jets and the Raiders. Oakland stops the game for a lengthy ceremony that annoys the Jets. The Raiders acknowledged after the game the stop gave their linemen needed rest and a chance for the coaches to work with the team. The teams meet in a rematch in Oakland in the Playoffs, a heavily anticipated game. The Raiders are the top seed in the AFC. The Jets are the hottest team in the league coming off two straight blowout wins against Playoff teams. Oakland blows open a 10-10 tie in the second half, bottling up a Chad Pennington led Jets offense and shredding the Jets' secondary en route to a 31-10 win.
2008: Brett Favre leads the Jets 61 yards from their own 5 yard line with 1:24 left to set up a 52 yard Jay Feely field goal to send the game to overtime. Oakland wins it, however, in the extra period on a 57 yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski.
2009: The Jets rush for 316 yards, the second straight game in which they break the 300 yard barrier on the ground in a 38-0 rout of the Raiders.
The rivalry in focus:
The rivalry has cooled since its height in the 1960's. The teams now do not play every year. With Al Davis' passing, the key figures who made these contests so heated are now all gone. The Raiders have been so poorly run over the last decade that it has been tough to work up too much hatred. If you have a sense of history, though, there still is something special about these teams getting together. The Raiders call the same stadium home they did during those legendary games in Oakland in the Namath Era.
When the Jets and Raiders get together for a big game, there is something special about it, and there always will be.