By Steve Silverman
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It used to be a vicious war with severe casualties.
The thought of the early battles between the Giants and Jets brought about some of the hardest-hitting and nastiest battles of the football season.
It didn’t matter that these battles took place in preseason games. The Jets and Giants wanted to inflict pain on each other.
There were a number of reasons. First, there was the same hatred that was a part of all games between American Football League teams and NFL teams. The AFL was infringing on what the NFL thought was its territory and its teams were fighting for respect.
The NFL teams looked down their noses at teams from the AFL and wanted to put them in their place.
That was the attitude that came with all AFL-NFL games, whether it was the Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears or the Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos.
The superiority factor in New York was even worse with the Giants and Jets. While the Jets won Super Bowl III in 1969 and had beaten one of the most highly respected teams in the Baltimore Colts in doing it, they had been the lowly Titans for years. That was a laughable team that played before a few thousand fans at the Polo Grounds. Ugh.
But it all changed when Sonny Werblin took over the franchise, renamed them the Jets and brought in Joe Namath at quarterback. Suddenly, the Jets hit the big time. They played in spanking-new Shea Stadium, they attracted new fans and they had Namath. They became one of the sexiest teams in sports.
That didn’t sit well with many of the old-time football fans who looked at the AFL, in general, and the Jets, in particular, as punks. That especially didn’t sit well with the Giants, who were about as old-school as you could get.
While owner Wellington Mara was about as decent a man as you will ever find in sports, he wasn’t thrilled with the interlopers.
So when the Giants and Jets met every summer in the preseason, it was a war fought with religious zealotry. The battles were fought in the Giant stronghold of New Haven in the ancient and decrepit Yale Bowl.
The first one was in 1969 and it was as mean and nasty as it got. The Giants wanted to put the Jets in their place and there was little respect for their opponents considering they had won the Super Bowl seven months earlier.
The Jets had years of resentment built up and nobody wanted to win any more than Joe Namath, who knew how much the Giants looked down on the Jets.
It was preseason in name only and the Jets pounded the Giants 37-14. It was a game in which the Jets imposed their will and Namath three TD passes.
The Jets became champions of New York as well as Super Bowl champions. Mara was so angry that he fired Giants coach Allie Sherman just a few weeks after that game and replaced him with Alex Webster.
It was nothing like last night’s Giants victory in which the Jets’ offense was inept no matter who was at quarterback. Mark Sanchez dreams of becoming an elite quarterback but it’s not going to happen when he is on the run constantly.
Tim Tebow? He’s just going to be a target when he lines up behind center. Whatever success Tebow had last year in Denver is unlikely to be repeated in New York. When you can’t find open receivers, you can’t succeed.
Meanwhile, the Giants proceed quietly and efficiently. While many rate them behind the 49ers and Packers in the NFC, they have by far and away the best pass rush in the game and that alone will make them a threat to win most games.
Eli Manning, despite two Super Bowl victories, remains an afterthought. He’s probably never going to have passing totals like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Tom Brady, but who do you want with the ball in his hands when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter?
Manning continues to roll and he continues to grow.
The Giants are perhaps the most under-the-radar championship team the NFL team has seen since the Tampa Bay Bucs took the field in 2003 after overwhelming Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII.
They are not going away and have a great shot to repeat last year’s glory.
Do you think the Giants will repeat as Super Bowl champs this season? Or are the Jets looking good this season? Sound off in the comments section below…