The Jets and their fans have endured 48 years of pain without a Super Bowl, made worse by 12 years without a division title and now six straight years without a trip to the playoffs. It has to hurt more that the dominant team of this era is from their own division, led by a coach (Bill Belichick) they once had for one day in 2000 and a quarterback (Tom Brady) they, like everyone else, passed over in the 2000 draft.
So watching the Patriots' epic comeback and 34-28 overtime win in Super Bowl LI on Sunday night had to be especially painful.
But don't worry: There's a good chance the pain is going to get much worse.
After 16 years of utter dominance and putting a vice lock on the division with 14 AFC East titles, it doesn't sound like Brady is going anywhere. He dismissed the mere notion that he's even thought about retirement in a pre-game interview that aired on Fox. And there are even reports that the Patriots are willing to offer a contract extension after the season.
That extension could be anywhere from three-to-five years.
In other words, even though Brady is 39 years old and he solidified his place as the greatest quarterback of this generation -- if not the greatest ever -- with his fifth Super Bowl championship and fourth Super Bowl MVP … well, sorry Jets fans, he's still not thinking about walking away.
"Hell no," Brady said in that interview. "There's no way. I'm having too much fun now. This is the time to capitalize. I've worked too hard to get to this point."
Brady's words make it sound like he thinks he's in his prime, and after the way he played this past season, he might be right. Despite missing the first four games of the season due to his DeflateGate suspension, he still threw for 3,554 yards while completing 67.4 percent of his passes and tossed 28 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
He capped it off by leading the Patriots back from a 28-3 deficit in Super Bowl LI, where he completed 43 of 62 passes (69.4 percent) for a record 466 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, despite being sacked five times and taking a beating all game long.
"We all know he's one of the best guys to ever put on a football uniform," Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. "We all know that."
Nobody knows that better than the Jets -- and, really, the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills. Not that those franchises have done much to help themselves in the last 16 years, but almost any progress they've made has been hampered by the brick wall they keep running into in New England. The Jets came the closest to getting over that wall, reaching back-to-back AFC championship games in 2009 and 2010.
But the Jets, thanks mostly to the Patriots, haven't had a home playoff game since 2002.
And now that Brady wants to come back for more, it's hard to envision the Jets -- fully into rebuilding mode now and still without a viable franchise quarterback -- being anything but also-rans in the near future.
Brady (and Belichick) have a knack for reinventing themselves from season to season (if not game to game). They bring in overlooked free agents, castoffs from other teams, and a slew of often-brilliant draft picks -- and with Brady at the helm it always seems to work.
So if Brady really wants to play well into his 40s and gets a contract extension that lasts until he's 44, does anyone really think there'll be a drop-off? The Patriots have won double-digit games in 14 straight seasons and 15 of 16. Even if age catches up to Brady in the short term, they're still so far ahead of the other teams in the division it's hard to see them finishing with less than 10 wins.
Sure, things could change. The Jets could be the lucky team that finds the next great quarterback deep in the draft or elsewhere. There's always the chance that they rise above their station like they did early in the Rex Ryan Era and make a run around -- or even through -- the Patriots to the AFC championship game or beyond.
But the Patriots remain the ultimate obstacle -- perhaps the biggest, most insurmountable obstacle in the history of the NFL. They've hovered over the Jets and any signs of growth for 16 years now, and they're going to continue to hover over the regime of GM Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles.
Maybe someday Brady will actually slow down. Someday he'll even retire. But not today, not tomorrow, and not anytime soon. He's going to be the most dominant figure in the NFL for at least a little while longer -- which means he'll continue to be a very large thorn in the Jets' side.