The New York Jets Just Ended Their Season Finally
After a spirited performance against the New England Patriots, last week’s season-ending Monday Night meltdown was another low-point in a legacy of low points for the New York Jets. For anyone who had faith in the trajectory of this organization, the utter lack of effort was tough to stomach.
Dec 5, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Fans react in the stands as the New York Jets are defeated by the Indianapolis Colts 41-10 at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
This was not what the franchise had in mind for 2016-2017. With 25% of the season remaining, the New York Jets are already mathematically eliminated from the NFL Playoff picture. Everyone in the organization is playing for next year’s contract. As they used to say in Brooklyn: who’d’ve thunk?
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On Monday night, the football public got to witness first hand the mess that us Green-and-White fans have dealt with all season long. Monday night’s 41-10 home massacre to the below-average Indianapolis Colts was not even as close as the final score indicated. Rarely will one see such a profound lack of effort from a professional football team.
Head coach Todd Bowles has been big on worrying about his veteran team mailing it in — like when he involuntarily first benched Ryan Fitzpatrick. But when the chips were down, in front of a national TV audience, and after a gritty game versus New England, his players didn’t even show up. Between the Colts’ sloppy fumble on the Jets goal line right before the halftime whistle, and their merciful willingness to take their foot off the gas for most of the second half — not to mention that New York’s only TD came in fourth-quarter garbage time — this was likely the biggest blowout game by any team of this NFL season. It was downright Rich Kotite-like in its nadir.
Attention was rightfully paid to all the empty seats, but can you blame the team’s long-suffering fans from not wanting to deal with the time and expense and foul weather for another afternoon of uninspired football in the Meadowlands swamps? This fanbase always rallies behind a hungry team that fights week after week. But they will not accept millionaire talents not giving their best on the field. Why should they?
In honor of this week’s show by the great concert by Steve Miller at Lincoln Center, here are some of his old titles that best describe the NYJ fan state of mind.
Next: 3. Fly Like An Eagle
Aug 27, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets GM Mike Maccagnan talks with New York Jets Owner Woody Johnson in the 1st half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
3. Fly Like An Eagle
Mike Maccagnan was voted last season’s NFL Executive of the Year — so it’s not like he forgot everything overnight. But the general manager also cannot go blameless for this fiasco. His patchwork of veteran player moves last season that resulted in a 10-win season has not be replicated for 2016. In his defense, to illustrate the bare cupboard he inherited: from 2008-2014, the team’s only drafted offensive starters were “third receiver” Quincy Enunwa and guard Brian Winters (the most improved starter of this lousy season). But it’s not like Mike’s provided tons of new talent either.
Maccagnan’s two drafts need time to be properly evaluated, but there’ve been few home runs. But he did nail it on the first-round picks, with new defensive cornerstones in Leonard Williams and Darron Lee. And he ceded four low-round-picks in order to acquire Brandon Marshall and Fitzpatrick.
This year’s sixth-rounder Aussie punter Lachlan Edwards has had a solid season (ranked #17 in the league), and would greatly benefit from some solid special teams around him. The Jets did not realize how great the defensive line fall-off would be without free agent Damon “Snacks” Harrison, but 2015 seventh-rounder/practice squadder Deon Simon has come on strong of late, and he could likely assume that starting nose tackle role next season.
While not Pro Bowl caliber, the general manager could still have something with a few of these young talents — be it on offense, with quarterbacks Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, receivers Devin Smith and Charone Peake (as well as undrafted free agents gems Robby Anderson and Jalin Marshall), and lineman Brandon Shell (nephew of Pro Football Hall of Fame tackle Art Shell) — or on the other side of the ball with overwhelmed young linebackers Lorenzo Mauldin and Jordan Jenkins, and hard-hitting cornerback Juston Burris.
For the record, Maccagnan caved to organizational pressures on two fan-favorites that he was not anxious to bring back for the price tag: Fitzpatrick and Muhammad Wilkerson. You think the general manager would like that close-to-$100 million back? Then again, he negotiated these deals, and took the credit for it!
Next: 2. My Dark Hour
2. My Dark Hour
Bowles has done just about everything one can do to lose a job. But the truth is, unless Jim Harbaugh steps down from his dream job in Ann Arbor, or Bill Cowher feels a sudden urge to commute to Florham Park, there will likely be no major Jets’ front office shakeups; yet. The first-time coach — not counting his interim head coach status in Miami, succeeding Tony Sparano for the last three games of 2011 — likely gets one more year to prove he’s NFL head coaching material. The Elizabeth, NJ native was hired for his defensive acumen, his game experience, and his strong silent type leadership of a locker-room. But those proclaimed assets have proven to be his most profound weaknesses.
Last season, Bowles won praise for his command and control of the team’s veteran roster. But make no mistake: those 10-6 Jets missed the playoffs because there were too many games that they simply failed to play fired-up football from the opening whistle. Not just in that dismal final game on the shores of Lake Erie, but the brutal home losses to Buffalo and Philadelphia, and road no-shows in Houston and Oakland.
If great men are judged by those with whom they surround themselves, Bowles has not distinguished himself. He deserves credit for recruiting offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who was successful last season in makin’ a “Fitz-Magic” moment that has since been figured out by the rest of the NFL. But don’t be stunned if Bowles’ right-hand, defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, and D-line coach, former Giants legend Pepper Johnson, pay for this forsaken season with their jobs.
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Bowles’ choices of special teams coordinators leave much to be desired. Last season’s special teams coach Bobby April, Sr. got unceremoniously dismissed after the final game. This year’s model Brant Boyer should already be looking for his next position, either in the professional or collegiate ranks.
The Jets lost three games this season directly attributable to special teams: Nick Folk’s whiffed kicks in the opening loss to Cincinnati, the Bryce Petty-started 9-6 loss to woeful Los Angeles, and that mind-numbing meltdown in Miami, with a last-minute, offside-turned-96-yard-kickoff-return after Gang Green had just taken the lead. Just three losses would’ve made this 3-9 team 6-6 — mediocre enough to still be discussed in the playoff picture. Those promising home wins over Baltimore and Buffalo seem like ages ago.
It’s not just that the Jets are losing, but the way they are playing. Blown assignments, mis-tackles, personal fouls, dumb penalties, and simply not showing up with their A-game, are all damning indictments of the coaching and the culture. Even the biggest NYJ detractors thought this team had enough roster talent to win six or seven games.
Bowles may or may not have earned a third season to prove that he can deliver the goods. But he better be ready for anything because Woody Johnson has shown a propensity to cut bait when things crash-and-burn (read: Eric Mangini and Rex Ryan). This Jets’ letdown was a big-time embarrassment to their owner on national TV and in front of vice president-elect Mike Pence, with a reported ambassadorship for Johnson on the line.
That’s why this week’s game against Fidelista Colin Kaepernick and the rock-bottom San Francisco 49ers (1-11) is so important. (Beat-down Jets fans can find small solace in the Niners’ forcing Jim Harbaugh out the door being one of the worst moves in modern sports history.) But if Wilkerson and Richardson and Revis continue to play as if they don’t even wanna be there — and this team finishes the season with just three or four wins — some heads are gonna roll.
Next: 1. Take The Money And Run
Nov 6, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) reacts during the second half against Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins won 27-23. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
1. Take The Money and Run
When Woody finally decides who’s in charge of football operations — there is no organizational hierarchy, as Maccagnan and Bowles both report directly to the owner — there are big decisions that must be made. Over these last four statistically meaningless games, tremendous attention will be paid to those players who fight for every snap of the ball, and those who just mail it in.
To be fair, Bowles had little to start with at quarterback, and that player reported late, in demand of a mega-deal — which has had ripple effects on this entire season. The $15 million that Fitz will make (including next year’s $3 million buyout) is likely the last of the bearded one’s fat NFL pacts.
The Wilkerson situation is every professional sports organization’s worst nightmare. And the reports on him just keep getting worse. The front office was apparently already deeply concerned with Mo’s general tardiness and lack of commitment and felt they’d ironed out such leadership issues before signing that mammoth contract. It’s now come out that he and the boys regularly sneak out to the bars and strip clubs. That explains the habitual tardiness, missed practices, and that game-time brief benching of his partner-in-crime Sheldon Richardson.
Such behavior could help make sense of Wilkerson and Richardson’s inability to penetrate the Colts’ infamously paper-thin O-line — that gets Andrew Luck bruised and battered week after week. This was the only game of the 2016 season that Luck did not get sacked, and look how he carved up the field, with ease. But anything less than an elite effort on this level is unacceptable.
Going into 2017, the Jets must address a host of concerns. On offense, they need to build an o-line (are we witnessing the end of Nick Mangold in Green-and-White?), find a quarterback (are you ready for the return of Geno Smith?), and a tight end (the troubled Austin Seferian-Jenkins has shown flashes, but why does he then disappear?), and determine the future at wide receiver. They need to know if Marshall and Eric Decker are big-time upgrades to Enunwa and the collective promise of Robby Anderson, Charone Peake, and Jalin Marshall. But Brandon has proven to be a team leader, and Decker’s decimating injury seemed to put a kibosh on this entire season.
On defense, the Jets probably cannot get much value in a trade for Wilkerson or Richardson, but they should try — if for no other reason than not to ruin emerging star Leonard Williams. Darron Lee is the team’s only NFL-ready linebacker not named David Harris. It’s time to give up on the Mike Catapano experiment, giving the hulking converted defensive lineman 85% of the snaps at OLB. Another Jets game, another opposing TE runs amok with a highlight reel full of big plays.
Question marks riddle their supposedly stealth secondary. Buster Skrine has proven to be a penalty mill, and average at best nickel back. The battered Darrelle Revis has deteriorated into not much better. Ex-Patriots project Darryl Roberts seems the most promising of the NYJ’s cornerback lot. At safety, they need to decide how much of the problem is the ceiling of Marcus Gilchrist, and how much of it is the on-field acumen of Calvin Pryor and/or his stand-in Rontez Miles. Then there’s the matter of a complete special teams overhaul. So, moving forward, there’s a lot of issues to address.
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Every NFL insider to comment on the Colts-Jets fiasco said something totes effect of that they felt the Jets had all the right match-ups to win the game — and that coming off the team’s gritty performance against New England, they were blindsided by the utter lack of effort they observed on Monday Night Football. Does it really get any worse than that?
The 2016 Jets have given us new meaning to “Just End The Season.”