Can there be anything sweeter than seeing those transplanted Jets fans walk out of Sun Life Stadium, heads bowed, swallowing hard over a loss to the Dolphins?
Joe Philbin gets it. He knows all about rivalries from his years in Green Bay since the Packers and Bears have had a nice little rivalry going since, well, about 1921. While Dolphins-Jets can’t match that for longevity, it can certainly match it for intensity.
This game this year is important to the Dolphins for many reasons. Both teams are 1-1 so I guess you can make the case that it’s for first place in the AFC East. And AFC East games always carry a little bit more significance.
What’s more, it is another chance for the Dolphins to continue their home field resurgence. Counting last season, the Dolphins have now won five of their last six at home. Not worth headlines quite yet, but still a step in the right direction.
And then there’s the added element of what Tony Sparano and Tim Tebow bring to the Jets offense. Sparano is now offensive coordinator of the Jets, and one thing he did was bring the Wildcat offense he introduced to the league during his Dolphin days to his new team. And that offense now includes Tim Tebow, who is about as good at running it as anyone.
The Jets have played the Wildcat pretty close to the vest in the first two games. Mostly vanilla stuff. Just a feeling, but I expect to see the whole package on Sunday against the Dolphins. That means every intricate detail. Would they have waited three games just to unveil it against the Dolphins? What do you think?
Had the Dolphins not played so well against Oakland, this game would still have significant meaning. But with the decisive victory over the Raiders, with quarterback
Needless to say, I’m sure Tannehill isn’t caught up in all the excitement. His version of a heated rivalry is probably still Texas A&M vs. Texas. But give him time. He’ll adjust. He’ll see all those Jets’ fans in the stands here just as he’ll see all those Dolphins fans in the stands when the two teams play at the Meadowlands on the last Sunday of October. He’ll learn to understand that this just isn’t one of 16 games. Never has been. Probably never will be.
When I think of Dolphins-Jets, I think of some of Dan Marino’s greatest games. I think of high-scoring shootouts. I think of the New York Sack Exchange and I think of A.J. Duhe and those three magical interceptions in the AFC Title Game 30 years ago. Could that have been 30 years ago? I think of some great comebacks, some tense thrillers and some nasty words among veteran players who knew all too well what this rivalry means.
But this is 2012 and the Dolphins are filled with young players, many of whom are still trying to figure out why they even call them the Jets. This game this Sunday will have its own identity, its own unique script.
For the Dolphins, this is a team trying to win two in a row, something they only did one time last season. This is a team trying to establish a dominant home field advantage, a team with, in the words of Philbin, “a million things we still need to work on.”
For the Jets, this is a team that is trying to figure out exactly who they are. Are they the team that routed Buffalo in the opener or the team that struggled so badly against Pittsburgh? Is Mark Sanchez the answer at quarterback or are there simply still too many questions? And how does Tebow fit into this equation? Is he no more than a versatile ornament or can he be a major contributor in that offense?
These two teams will be playing Sunday for the 94th time. The Jets hold a 48-44-1 advantage. But all those past meetings are for the history books. That the Dolphins would love to beat the Jets Sunday has more to do with today’s AFC East standings and what type of springboard this game could provide to the winner.
This season is still young. No team resides in a must win environment. But you got the Jets coming to Sun Life Stadium for a 1 p.m. game in September and those of us who have experienced this rivalry for years and years will tell you that it will always have added significance.
For the players. For the fans. For all those who are well aware of the how New York and South Florida are connected at the hip in so many ways.
Dolphins vs. Jets. Yes, Sunday can’t come soon enough.