The Jets are 5-6 and facing a critical home game on Sunday against rival Miami. This is a de facto elimination game as far as playoff chances go because the loser of this game would be 5-7 and would have to win out to be over .500. The Jets are even more desperate because with only two conference wins they will not win many tiebreakers at the end of the season. With changes happening to the roster and possibly the coaching staff happening after the season there is a huge importance on keeping their hopes alive and playing well down the stretch. There are two paths the Jets can take as a result of Sunday and the impact the team and organization both now and for years to come.
The first path is the ideal one. They beat Miami and regain their confidence, holding off the buzzards beginning to fly overhead. They continue to be what they have been all year which is a good home team and a terrible road team. Currently the Jets are 4-1 at home and 1-5 on the road. If they continue the trends they will be 8-7 heading into the final game in Miami which will probably give them a chance to make the playoffs because the middle of the AFC is terrible. Behind an offensive line that is able to protect at home the running game gets going and with a full complement of receivers Geno Smith is able to make easier, quicker reads which leads to more accuracy and more confidence. Smith shows enough in the final month to get the first shot at the starting job next year, competing with a veteran but now armed with a full off-season both watching tape and in the strength and conditioning program. With Smith showing enough there is no need to wreck his development with a coaching change either at coordinator or head coach and the team builds around Smith giving him weapons for next year. The year ends either 8-8 or 9-7 with a chance for a playoff berth. The future is bright with 12 draft picks and $30+ million in cap room for 2014 and beyond.
The second path is tragic. The team loses and cannot stop the free fall. Geno Smith’s confidence is shot both from his play and the fact that the coaching staff is marginalizing him in the game plans showing him they don’t believe in him. With Oakland at home next week and desperate to save his job Rex Ryan listens to the media and fans and gives Matt Simms the start. Simms is exposed and flames out giving the team no chance at winning. With Carolina on the road the following week a 5-4 team could be 5-9 and 6-10 could be a distinct possibility. With Geno Smith not showing himself to be the immediate answer at quarterback, John Idzik decides to start over with his own coach, using the draft picks and cap room to build around a newly drafted quarterback. The rebuild is pushed back a year or more as new offensive and defensive systems are put in place and a turned over roster learns to mesh. The future is murky.
Two paths, two futures and decisions that will shape the franchise for years to come. A lot on the line on Sunday and in the month to come and I can only guarantee one thing, it won’t be boring.