Since the Miami Dolphins joined the American Football League in 1966, they have been division rivals with the Jets. Despite the distance between New York and Miami, the teams have developed a heated rivalry that feels close in proximity. South Florida has a large population of transplants originally from the New York area. As a result of their success in the 1970's, the Dolphins developed a bandwagon following. While it pales in comparison to those of the Cowboys, Steelers, and Raiders, you can find a lot of Dolphins fans almost everywhere, including the New York area. If you live in Miami, odds are you know Jets fans with ties to the New York area. If you live in the New York area, odds are you know an out of market Dolphins fan. In turn, it is not unusual to see a lot of fans of the visiting team when the Dolphins and Jets meet. This familiarity along with some bitterly contested games have fostered a heated rivalry. When the NFL realigned before the 2002 season, the Dolphins stayed in the AFC East even though there were much better geographic fits for the division. That decision was in part due to how good this rivalry is.
The one player who symbolized the rivalry was Jason Taylor, who had three different tours of duty with the Dolphins. For over a decade, Taylor did not insult the Jets organization. He constantly made verbal slaps at Jets fans through the media. He said Jets fans take the "cl" out of class. He called Jets fans ignorant. He even said the reason fans chant J-E-T-S at the stadium is that is the only word they know how to spell. He said Jets fans were "not the ones working on Wall Street," with the implication Jets fans are not among the financial elite, or not high class, or something. Ironically, Taylor ended up playing on one of the best Jets teams ever in 2010, falling one win short of the Super Bowl, which did a lot to repair the wounds between player and fans.
Some memorable moments:
1982: The Jets and Dolphins met in an AFC Championship Game now known as the Mud Bowl. A multi-day rain storm hit Miami the week of the game. In a move that was either underhanded or smart depending on your perspective, the Dolphins did not cover the field in an attempt to slow down the Jets offense. It worked. Miami won 14-0 on a muddy field and advanced to the Super Bowl.
1983: The Jets shockingly pick quarterback Ken O'Brien in the first round of the NFL Draft over Dan Marino, a move surprising at the time. Miami took Marino three picks later. O'Brien had a decent career with the Jets, but Marino went on to become one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and tortured the Jets on many occasions.
1986: O'Brien outduels Marino in an epic display of offense. The Jets beat Miami 51-45 in overtime on a 43 yard pass from O'Brien to Wesley Walker. O'Brien throws for 479 yards and 4 touchdowns. Marino throws for 448 yards and 6 touchdowns in a losing effort.
1994: The Jets blow a 24-6 lead at home, losing to the Dolphins 27-24 with first place in the AFC East on the line. The comeback is capped in the final minute as Dan Marino brought the Dolphins up to the line signaling he would spike the ball to stop the clock. He faked his spike and hit Mark Ingram who had gotten open against sleeping rookie cornerback Aaron Glenn. The Jets did not win again in 1994. In hindsight, we know this game started the Jets on a terrible path. They finished 6-10, head coach Pete Carroll was fired, Rich Kotite was fired, and the Jets went 4-28 in the next two years. To put it another way, the Jets lost 33 of their next 37 games.
2000: The Jets achieve some measure of payback for the fake spike game. On a Monday Night in October, the only off night of the 2000 World Series between the Yankees and Mets, the Jets stage one of the most incredible comebacks in NFL history. Trailing 30-7 in the fourth quarter, the Jets storm back with 23 unanswered to tie the game at 30. After Miami scored a touchdown to reclaim the lead, the Jets tied it again and forced overtime on a touchdown catch by offensive lineman Jumbo Elliott on a tackle eligible play. At 1:08 a.m. John Hall connected on a 40 yard field goal to give the Jets an incredible 40-37 victory.
2001: In Miami's first trip back to the Meadowlands after their Monday Night collapse, lightning strikes twice. After jumping out to a 17-0 lead, the Dolphins watch the Jets score the final 21 points of the game in another comeback victory for the good guys.
2006: Playing in monsoon-like conditions on Christmas Night in Miami, Leon Washington takes a screen pass 64 yards with under 2:00 to play to set up a game-winning 30 yard field goal by Mike Nugent. The Jets won 13-10 to keep their Playoff hopes alive. They clinched a Wild Card with a home win against Oakland the next week.
2008: The Jets trade for Brett Favre during the preseason, leading to the release of longtime quarterback Chad Pennington. Pennington signs with the Dolphins, who had won just one game the year before. Pennington has a magical season, finishing second in the MVP vote and leading Miami to a ten win improvement and the AFC East Championship. To make it even sweeter, the Pennington and the Dolphins clinch the division title in New York in the final game of the regular season, defeating Favre and the Jets on their home field.
2009: Jets head coach Rex Ryan and Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder get into a bizarre trash talk war through the media in training camp. Miami sweeps the season series from the Jets, winning both games in dramatic fashion. The Dolphins average only 2 yards per play in the second meeting but win with the help of three non-offensive touchdowns. This was a small bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for the defending division champion Dolphins as they finish 7-9 while the bitter rival Jets make a surprise run to the AFC Championship Game.
2010: In the second half of a December Miami road win, Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll is tripped while covering a punt by Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi. Alosi was suspended for the rest of the season and fired after it by the team, likely as a result of the incident.
2011: The Dolphins cap off a disappointing year in style, defeating the Jets in Miami in the final game of the regular season to end New York's Playoff hopes. Jason Taylor almost scores a touchdown in the final game of his career before it's called back. Mark Sanchez throws three interceptions in check downs, and Santonio Holmes is removed from the huddle late in the game, leading to an offseason of turmoil.
2012: During a Jets overtime victory in Miami, Darrelle Revis tears his ACL, setting into motion a chain of events that leads to the All Pro cornerback being traded to Tampa Bay.
The rivalry in focus:
Just reading about those games makes my blood boil.
If you started following the Jets in the 2000's, odds are the Patriots have always been the team you have hated most. If you started following the Jets in the 1980's or 1990's, odds are the Dolphins either are or were at one point. Growing up in a Jets fan household in the 1990's, I was always taught the Dolphins were the team that was to be hated above all others. This series has all of the elements of a heated rivalry. We have seen a number of important, heated games where the Dolphins have yanked the carpet out from under the Jets and vice versa. Although, the "memorable moments" profiled above are mainly Miami successes, the Jets have had long runs of dominance against the Dolphins and some huge triumphs. Proximity also breeds contempt. Jets and Dolphins fans constantly come across each other in the New York and Miami areas. Odds are you know a Dolphins fan. A good friend of mine in grade school was a big Dolphins fan. He never shut up about how terrible the Jets were in the Kotite years. That was until the Jets got one of their three wins in 1996 against the Dolphins. That was awesome. So were the other great wins the Jets have scored over Miami.
For most Dolphins fans, the Jets are still rival number one. In the eyes of many Jets fans, New England is now the most hated rival, but there is still plenty of hate to go around for that team from Miami.