In 2006, the Mets steamrolled through the National League only to fall just short in the NLCS. The atmosphere around the team wasn't one of devastation but instead filled with hope for the next season. "2007 will be the year we take that extra step and go all the way," was the team's mantra. Well, we all know how that turned out. And between the moment Carlos Beltran stood frozen at the plate on that fateful October night at Shea Stadium staring at Adam Wainwright's curveball and the last game of '07 when Tom Glavine cemented his place in Mets infamy, the team did a lot of talking. And as it turned out, it was all misguided and woefully inappropriate. "Tell Jimmy Rollins we're the team to beat," a smiling Beltran chirped in spring training. Say it ain't so, Carlos.
Fast forward to Rex Ryan's Jets. They didn't plow through the regular season in dominating fashion last season like the Mets did in 2006, but instead squeaked their way into the playoffs and almost made it to the top of the mountain. (So I guess that makes the '09 Jets the 1973 Mets, Tug McGrawing their way further than anyone expected; and then the '68 Jets would be the '69 Mets - or is it the other way around? And who are the 1996 Jets? The 1993 Mets? And would Hard Knocks be Kiner's Korner? No, probably not. Now I'm just confusing myself.) Bragging, trash-talking, Super Bowl predictions - they're all a part of the new Jets' identity, much like the Mets couldn't help themselves, making bold pronouncements any time a reporter stuck a microphone in front of them during spring training of '07. The Mets' National League East rivals savored every victory over the Amazin's, and were licking their chops at any chance to embarrass the trash-talking team. The Jets find themselves in the same situation today, with everyone from present-day Patriots and Dolphins, former opponents, ex-coaches and TV analysts lining up to announce their outright hatred of Rex Ryan's crew. So are the Jets setting themselves up for a 2007 Mets-like fall into disgrace? The season hasn't even begun to play out yet, so we have no idea if they'll flame out like the '07 Mets did, which was, of course, made doubly painful because of all their nonsensical chattering.
But what if the Jets are more 1986 than 2007 Mets? The '85 Amazin's announced to the rest of the NL that they were now a franchise to be reckoned with (as the Jets did last season). Winning 98 games, they fell just short of the playoffs (though if the Wild Card existed back then, they would have qualified that year, as they would have for five consecutive seasons in the mid '80s). The following spring training, manager Davey Johnson gave a fiery speech to the team with the theme of not just winning but dominating the league. A pre-Rex Ryan Rex Ryan moment if there ever was one. And dominate they did, barreling, fighting and curtain-calling their way through the NL for 108 wins. And they backed up their chutzpah by beating Houston and Boston to win the pennant and World Series (though it surely wasn't easy).
Ryan and the Jets don't care if they're hated, loved, respected or loathed - just like the '86 Mets, who reveled in their infamy. But the Jets have to back up their words with success on the field. Besides being extremely talented, the '86 Mets played harder, out-hustled and were tougher than any other team in the majors that season, which is a blueprint for this season's Jets. Every opponent will be out to get them, so they'll not only have to out-talent the other team but out-tough them as well. The Jets have the swagger and the confidence down pat, but will winning follow?
Are the Jets setting themselves up for a giant letdown with all their bravado, a la the '07 Mets? Will a still-learning Mark Sanchez and new cast of characters on offense prove to be their downfall as the bullpen was for the Mets that season? Will the boasting prove to be nothing but hot air? Or will the Jets live up to their crowing? Will they be football's answer to the '86 Mets? With the Jets of the past, there wasn't much to hate. They were a vanilla franchise with the personality of Eric Mangini (oh how the room would light up if the Penguin and Art Howe ever assembled together). But one thing we can say about Rex Ryan's Jets - they're actually worth hating now.