EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — If you’re the kind of person who believes that a singular moment minutes before a football game can have a seismic effect on the end result, what happened as a majority of the Jets were running out of the tunnel for warmups before facing the Raiders on Sunday is your kind of story.
A large contingent of Oakland fans were on hand at the Meadowlands, be it was a group of bored displaced west coasters or the remnants of a long-ago Jon Gruden Hooters cruise that was abandoned at the docks of the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, and they booed all the green jerseys as they started populating the field.
While this is standard fan practice, the combination of steady rain, pre-winter cold and a largely apathetic and slow-arriving Jets crowd gave the entire moment the feel of a road game. And, apparently, to Jamal Adams, it represented something far more significant.
“We felt disrespected,” Adams said, before adding that he came into the locker room and “sparked it up” before the team came back out onto the field for kickoff. He hinted at a raucous airing of grievances before the game actually started.
“I guess cocky, they came in a little too hyped,” Adams said of the Raiders fans. “I think they thought it was just going to be an easy game, let’s put it like that.”
While the rest of that game—a ruthless, 34-3 beatdown of the playoff-contending Raiders that got so ugly Gruden sat Josh Jacobs and Derek Carr among other starters at the beginning of the fourth quarter—seemed to flow nicely from that narrative, maybe it isn’t as simple as a few loudmouthed morning drinkers spoiling the party for Oakland on the road.
If you consider yourself to be more of a pragmatist, think about the game in both the micro and macro sense. Adam Gase not only out-schemed Paul Guenther and created some ideal speed mismatches on intermediate throws, but he also, regardless of whether or not a few Raiders fans screamed at his players before a game, has steadily helped this team emotionally recover from a horrifying loss to the Miami Dolphins a few weeks ago that seemed to signify the rock bottom of his tenure here.
The Jets are now 4-7, with upcoming games against the still-winless Bengals and Dolphins before finishing the season against the Ravens, the Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers and the Bills. There’s a good chance the team finishes off nowhere near playoff contention but an arm’s length away from the hell fire they were projected to find themselves engulfed in at the start of this season.
In the locker room after the game, Gase bounced between Jonotthan Harrison and Trevon Wesco, recounting plays as if they were all in the huddle together. General manager Joe Douglas also made the rounds, having the kind of conversations that seemed less like the prying movements of a distant authority figure and more like someone who was genuinely attune to what was supposed to happen on the field and why it happened that way.
The pair seem to be creating an environment agnostic of the hysteria that typically drives this team and market, which might explain why they were able to be here, in this type of emotional state, after sustaining the kind of public gaffes that normally sink the Jets. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins called it not paying for the sins of the past, before adding that a win over a 6-4 team was really only gratifying for the people who view these things in a larger context.
“For us, not really,” he said.
Put another way: Don’t feel too bad, Raiders fans. It wasn’t all your fault. This probably would have happened anyway.
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