The mystique of Oakland Coliseum — the Black Hole — will always be a part of Jets’ lore: The Heidi Game, Al Davis walking the sidelines, Joe Namath calling signals from yard markers painted across the baseball infield, back-to-back games there to end the 2001 season, the second a stinging loss in the playoffs.
And now, for better or worse, this may be the final time that the Jets play in Oakland.
The Raiders will be leaving for Las Vegas after the 2019 season and, based on the NFL scheduling formula, this would be their last regular-season game here against the Jets.
It’s a sobering thought for some.
“Yeah, I think it is a little weird,” said Jets offensive coordinator John Morton, a former Raider.
Part of the scene in Oakland is sections 104-107, named The Black Hole, where fans dress up as Darth Vader, wear silver and black paint and black football jerseys with skulls on the shoulders. Jets backup quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who is 22, said he was going to look at some YouTube videos of how the fans act in the Black Hole.
The fans in this section are typically loud. Rock and roll music will bleed through the sound system of the aging stadium.
“I can’t wait to go to the Black Hole and listen to that AC/DC music,” Morton said with a laugh. “That gives me goosebumps when you hear that music.”
And on top of everything the atmosphere brings, the Jets are double-digit underdogs on Sunday.
“To be honest, I hate their field,” Jets receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “I can’t stand that baseball part of the field, it comes with it. You’re going to have to tough it up and just go out and play.”
The last time the Jets won here was 2009, a 38-0 shutout, but since then the teams have split the last four meetings. Based on the experience and skill level of the Jets, winning a game against this talented Raiders team will be difficult.
“I don’t worry about that,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “We should use it as our motivation because we lost last week, and no other reason.”
Yes, that Week 1 loss was at Buffalo, a game the Jets were competitive in until it got away from them in the fourth quarter.
Now in Week 2, the Jets face one of the more talented young quarterbacks in the game, Derek Carr, a pair of receivers, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, that are hard to cover and then there is the man known as “Beast Mode.” Oakland native Marshawn Lynch makes his home debut after spending a year away from the game.
The Raiders defense is led by pass rusher Khalil Mack, who had four solo tackles and a pass breakup in the Week 1 victory against the Titans.
“He can wreck a game,” Morton said of the defensive end who totaled 26 sacks over the previous two seasons. “So we have to make sure we account for him wherever he is at.”
When you look deeper at the Raiders, general manager Reggie McKenzie’s rebuild can be simulated as a possible blueprint for the Jets. He purged the roster of highly-priced veterans to clear up cap space and used the draft to select talented players such as Mack, fifth overall in 2014 and Carr, a second rounder in 2014. In 2015, McKenzie snagged Cooper with the fourth overall pick but also built depth and drafted starters in the middle rounds. McKenzie drafted 10 players between rounds four through seven who have started multiple games in their careers The last three draft classes have gone 20-13.
On the field, however, this might be too much for the Jets to deal with on Sunday.
“It’s a good atmosphere as a competitor and as an athlete you want to play in atmospheres like that,” running back Matt Forte said. “I’ve played there twice before and I mean it’s not that big of a deal. To me when you play away games you’re in a hostile environment anyway. Their fans don’t hype you anyway. As a competitor, you want to play in atmospheres like that. That’s what the sport is for being competitive.”
To challenge the Raiders, the Jets could take more deep shots down the field. In the Week 1 loss, Josh McCown attempted three deep passes, completing just one for 25 yards. If the Raiders employ more man-to-man defensive looks, it could open the door for McCown to develop plays down field.
When you’re an underdog like the Jets, gambles are important and in what appears as the final game in Oakland before future trips to a stadium near casinos, it gives you the best opportunity to win.
“If that’s what we are, that’s what we are,” McCown said of being underdogs. “We’re just, in our minds, going in and doing what it takes to win the football game. They’re a good team, a team on the rise, that had an excellent year last year. They have a heck of a quarterback, and so we need to go out there and play good football. To me, it’s less about them and more about us and what we have to do and how we have to continue our process of growing because we’re a young team. We have new pieces everywhere and for us, every week is about just trying to go out and get better and improve on what we’re doing so that we continue to grow and build to what we want to be.”
Some games at Oakland Coliseum that Jets fans would like to forget:
The Heidi Game, Nov. 17, 1968
Raiders scored 14 points in nine seconds to upset the Jets after NBC cut in on the game for the movie, “Heidi.”
Oct. 24, 1999
The Jets led by six points after John Hall’s 43-yard field goal with 1:55 remaining but Rich Gannon ran a 2-minute drill and hit WR James Jett with a 5-yard TD pass with 26 seconds left, and Michael Husted followed with the winning extra point.
AFC Wild Card, Jan. 12, 2001
A week after beating the Raiders in the season finale, the Jets returned to Oakland, where 39-year-old Jerry Rice caught nine passes for 182 yards and a TD to beat the Jets, 38-24.
2002 AFC semifinal
After losing a 26-20 Monday Night game in Oakland, the Jets beat the odds to win the AFC East, then beat the Colts in the playoffs before returning to Oakland, where the Raiders won, 30-10, to advance to the AFC Championship Game.
Oct. 19, 2008
Sebastian Janikowksi ended the game with the longest overtime field goal in NFL history, a 57-yarder to beat the Jets, 16-13.