The decades-old animosity between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots reared its ugly head again this week, as reports surfaced that the Jets, due to play at Gillette Stadium, requested Sunday that their locker room be inspected for possible bugs that could be used for spying.
The rumor was floated by Boomer Esiason, prompting Pro Football Talk to contact the Jets, who had no comment, although one source asserted that the claim of a Jets’ request was false, but the locker room had indeed been swept for bugs.
The Patriots and the NFL would not comment.
In September, Sports Illustrated reported, “At least five teams have swept their hotels, locker rooms or coaches’ booths in New England for listening devices, sometimes hiring outside professionals.” A source told PFT that the Patriots themselves want the locker room inspected because they worry another team may plant bugs and accuse the Patriots of spying.
But the NFL allegedly found no such listening devices on Sunday, and the Jets again lost to their AFC East rivals 30-23.
The enormous antipathy between the two teams dates back decades.
After the 1997 Super Bowl, in which Green Bay defeated New England 35-21, then-Patriots coach Bill Parcells slammed owner Robert Kraft. Kraft would not reach a deal with the Jets for the rights to Parcells as head coach, so the Jets hired his top assistant, Bill Belichick, as their head coach for a year, and said Parcells would function as a consultant and eventually run the team. Kraft, furious, called the move ”a sham” and said he would ask the NFL to review the deal. One week later, the teams worked out their disagreement, allowing Parcells to become head coach with Belichick as his assistant. Three years later, when Belichick was named head coach, he resigned after one day, writing his resignation on a napkin and heading for the Patriots.
The animosity exploded in 2007, when the Jets initially made allegations that the Patriots illegally videotaped the Jets’ defensive signals during the first game of the season. A staffer pointed a camera at the Jets’ coaches from across the field, a practice Commissioner Roger Goodell later revealed Belichick had used since he became the coach of the Patriots in 2000.
In early 2015, former Jets director of operations Mike Kensil, now director of football operations for the NFL, gave ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen false information that 11 of 12 footballs had been deliberately underinflated for the AFC Championship Game. Kensil worked for the New York Jets for nearly twenty years; his father served as the team’s president. During the game, Kensil taunted a Patriots equipment manager: “We weighed the balls. You are in big f—— trouble.”
In April 2015, the NFL fined Jets team owner Woody Johnson $100,000 for comments made about Darrell Revis while he was still a member of the Patriots. Revis had resigned with the Jets on the first day of free agency, causing Robert Kraft to accuse the Jets of tampering. The allegations of listening devices in Foxboro mark the latest, but likely not the last, in the tit-for-tat for between the two franchises.