The League

Mark Maske
Staff Writer

Mark Maske

Writes the NFL News Feed blog

This One Is Personal

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I'm not one who really believes much in rivalries in today's NFL. Players and coaches jump from team to team and from city to city with such regularity that the continuity needed for them to sustain the intensity of a rivalry is lacking.

It's the fans, not the participants, who feel true disdain nowadays for one particular opponent, for the most part.

But it's different with Patriots-Jets.

It is personal, and that's because of the coaches.

Eric Mangini broke into the business with Bill Belichick as his mentor. He worked his way up from being a coaching nobody to being Belichick's defensive coordinator in New England, and then he drew Belichick's ire for leaving for the Jets. The relationship between them had turned frosty even before the Spygate scandal was hatched in the opening game of last season with the Jets on the sideline opposite that of the Patriots at Giants Stadium. Many people in the league assume that the NFL caught the Patriots doing their illegal videotaping of opposing coaches' play signals because they'd been tipped off by Mangini.

If that's true, Mangini's whistle-blowing not only resulted in Belichick and the Patriots losing a big pile of money and a first-round draft pick. It also resulted in them losing what had been an untarnished legacy of greatness, with three Super Bowl triumphs. Now, there always will be a "Yeah, but..." portion of the conversation when Belichick's coaching accomplishments are discussed.

So tonight's game clearly will mean something to the two head coaches on a personal level, which probably means they'll make it mean something to their players on a personal level.

There's that.

There's the presence of Brett Favre.

There's first place in the AFC East at stake.

As I mentioned, I generally don't believe that true rivalries exist in today's NFL. But this is an exception and it should be a pretty good spectacle.

By Mark Maske  |  November 13, 2008; 12:30 PM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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