It was only a few days into Rex Ryan's tenure when he acknowledged what Jets fans have known for years: the team's longstanding status as second-class football citizens in the New York market.
"He told us that clearly this was a Giants town, and how he wanted to turn this into a Jets town with the way we played," tight end Dustin Keller recalled of Ryan's speech. "He said it was important to him to establish some kind of identity, and that started with us believing that we could be just as important in New York as the Giants."
Talk about a Herculean task: In a city in which the Giants have taken center stage throughout their 84-year history, Ryan set his goals higher than anyone could have asked. Forget about just creating a winning atmosphere; Ryan wanted the whole enchilada. He wanted his rightful place in New York's psyche.
"I think of it this way," Ryan told me Friday. "We don't need to be somebody's kid brother. We need to be recognized for who we are."
Two more wins and New York is turned back into a Jets town, or at least the Jets gain more equal footing with the Giants. Two wins and they make this place the way it used to be.
Remember the late '60s, when Joe Namath was all the rage and the Jets captured the imagination of the city? Namath's guarantee about winning Super Bowl III, followed by the Jets' historic upset of the Colts, was one of the biggest sports moments ever.
The win reverberated throughout the NFL, but especially in New York. When the Giants were beaten by the Super Bowl champion Jets, 37-14, in a preseason game at the Yale Bowl in front of 70,874 fans, Giants owner Wellington Mara fired coach Allie Sherman.
That was how big the Super Bowl win after the 1968 season was in this city. Ryan, 6, was on the sideline for that win over the Colts because his father, Buddy, was a Jets defensive assistant. And now, 41 years later, he hopes to get the Jets back to what he believes is their rightful place atop the New York scene.
"We think we're building an outstanding football team," Ryan said. "And we're not going to take a back seat to anybody, the Giants or anybody else."
Safety Jim Leonhard, who hasn't even been with the Jets for a full year, felt the Giants' superiority every time he arrived at one of the team's home games this season.
"You drive in and you see Giants Stadium on the building," he said. "It's our home, yeah, but sometimes it doesn't feel that way. It's like the Giants have this mentality that they own this town. It's different for Jets fans. They're always waiting for something bad to happen. We're trying to change that."
They can change that with two more wins. "It's so special to be Super Bowl champions," Ryan said. "Look at the Yankees. They've won 27 World Series titles. I'll bet you anything it never gets old."
More than anything, a Super Bowl victory would give the Jets something they haven't truly had in this town for more than four decades.
"It's about respect," cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "As an organization, we feel like people don't respect the Jets. We need to break that, and the only way you can do that is by getting a Super Bowl. Look at Yankees-Mets. For the Mets to step up to the Yankees' level, they have to win the World Series.
"Right now, we're not focused on that, but it's there, we know it," Revis said. " . . . If we're in the Super Bowl, we have a chance to shock the world and win it."
They're 60 minutes away from getting that chance.