No quarterback in the NFL has meant more to his team since 2000 more than Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. It is a point their division rivals down the I-95 corridor know all too well.
The Jets have experienced the brilliance of Brady firsthand, but they've also had less than ideal options under center themselves.
The stability afforded by Brady, who has won 141 of his 181 regular season starts with the Patriots, is in stark contrast to the Jets' constant flux at the position. When Geno Smith started Week 1 against the Buccaneers, he became the 17th starting quarterback for the Jets in the past 20 years — as opposed to New England's four during that stretch.
Under head coach Rex Ryan, the Jets have had four different starters, with Mark Sanchez dominating most of the starts but Kellen Clemens, Greg McElroy and now their new rookie also in the mix.
The hope is that Smith, who has understandably been up and down this year, can take the next step and be a great like Brady. The Jets invested a second-round pick hoping he can be that type of player.
Head coach Rex Ryan said he doesn't think about how good his team could have been in the past if they had an elite quarterback.
“It doesn't matter. We're worried about getting our quarterback to that level,” Ryan said. “Obviously every team in the league is trying to get that because you have that, you have a chance to win year after year after year.”
On Sunday night, Brady led a comeback drive for the 38th time of his career — this time against the Saints. The eight-play, 70-yard drive in the game's final 1:13 was capped off by a Brady pass to wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins in the corner of the end zone.
Even with a long field and limited clock, Brady still wasn't down and out. It led one reporter in Ryan's press conference on Wednesday to liken the Patriots quarterback to a vampire, who is never dead until a stake is driven through his heart.
“I thought about doing all that stuff, but I think the league will fine me,” Ryan joked. “But I think I've been fined enough.”
The Patriots have won their last five games against the Jets, all with Brady as the starting quarterback. The average margin of victory in those games is by 13.2 points.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.