Someday this finally will be over.
Someday you won't wake up on game day for Jets-Patriots and have that knot in your stomach, knowing what's probably about to happen. You won't get to the MetLife Stadium tailgate to break bread -- and perhaps enjoy a few liquid refreshments -- with your friends and family, only to be reminded that Bill Belichick isn't your coach and Tom Brady isn't your quarterback.
The sad reality of Jets-Patriots -- at least from the Jets' perspective -- is the unrelenting truth that this competition isn't really much of one at all. With meaningful victories over New England so few that they can be counted on one hand, the 14-year run of Belichick & Brady has been Jets fans' version of a monster that never goes away.
But someday it will.
Someday the 37-year-old Brady finally will give up on his dream of playing forever because time simply won't allow it. And someday the 62-year-old Belichick will have had enough of coaching and walk away to await his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Sadly for the Jets and their fans, that day might not come for another few years, so the pall that the coach and quarterback cast on the Jets' franchise will continue to loom no matter how hard they try to close the gap.
It once looked as if Rex Ryan would be the one to break the spell, that the bellicose coach with the same swagger and strategic smarts as his dad would break do it once and for all. Ryan told the world that he didn't come here to kiss Belichick's rings, and for a while, it seemed as if he could reshape the narrative.
Ryan's first game against Belichick in 2009 was a 16-9 win, and he beat the Patriots again in their first meeting in 2010. And after being humiliated in a 45-3 rout on Monday night in Foxborough in that season's rematch, Ryan pulled off the biggest shocker of all: a 28-21 win in the divisional round of the playoffs that launched the Jets into a second straight AFC Championship Game.
But it has been a lopsided matchup ever since.
Brady and Belichick have won six of the last seven meetings heading into Sunday's game at MetLife Stadium, and Ryan is facing his nemesis for what likely will be the final time as the Jets' coach. Team owner Woody Johnson, who has mostly adored all that Ryan has provided over the years, is expected to show him the door after a fourth straight season without a playoff berth.
Ryan has carried himself with a commendable spirit of optimism as he trudges toward what appears to be his inevitable fate. His players still adore him and still want him back next season, although they soon will find out that their votes don't count. And despite the hopelessness that goes along with a 3-11 record, Ryan's team will play hard against the Patriots, who are 11-3 and in good position to play in yet another Super Bowl.
Who knows? There still might be one more upset win in Ryan, although the oddsmakers suggest otherwise.
"I can sit back and say, 'Well, it's not . It's just another opponent.' But no, it is [special], because they've won six division championships in a row, so that's the one to beat," Ryan said.
"I don't care what our record is now. We never played one in this type of situation. Yeah, you've got a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback and a coach, so yeah, you want to mark yourself up against the best. They've been the best in our division clearly and so I think that's special.
"Obviously, the results, we're 1-6 and that sounds terrible, but I know it's competitive. Believe me, they're not looking at us as a 3-11 team, I can promise you."
And even though, as Bill Parcells always says, you are what your record says you are, Ryan doesn't look at his Jets as a 3-11 team.
The Ryan bravado has been turned down a notch, to the point that Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis used the word "sad" to describe his old team. But make no mistake: Ryan will coach this game as if it's for the AFC championship. Even if it is only another brutal reminder of just how mind-numbingly difficult it is for Jets fans to cope with it.
There will be plenty of "penalty towels" waving to implore Johnson to fire general manager John Idzik, and there will be plenty of boos if the Jets fall to the Patriots again. More sad reminders of just how futile the team's pursuit of Brady and Belichick has been over the years.
Belichick himself once was looked to as the coach who would save the Jets, but his tenure lasted only a day in January 2000 because he knew he wanted to work for Robert Kraft in New England instead of Johnson. Less than four months later, with the 199th pick in the draft, Belichick took a skinny quarterback out of Michigan to back up Drew Bledsoe.
The next season, after Jets linebacker Mo Lewis knocked Bledsoe out of a Week 2 game in Foxborough, Brady took the field for the first time. It would be the beginning of the greatest coach/quarterback partnership in NFL history -- and the continuation of another long-running string of futility for long-suffering Jets fans.
Someday . . . someday.