At his point in time, the New York Jets are not a competitive football NFL franchise. The ease in which the Dolphins out-manned and out-hustled Gang Green was as mortifying as it was depressing.
Dec 29, 2014; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets chairman and chief executive officer Woody Johnson addresses the media regarding the dismissal of general manager John Idzik (not pictured) and head coach Rex Ryan (not pictured) at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim O
The 34-13 final score so belied the immensity of this blowout loss. The team’s second-straight home game national prime-time TV choke job reflects far more than just a season fallen in the tank. Things have so unraveled that effort and ability are at an all-time low. It’s the same issues, every week, for 15 weeks in a row (including the bye). That points to deeper organizational, almost existential, issues.
How does a team win the statistical game of clock possession, total yards, and first downs, yet get annihilated on the scoreboard? The Jets played physical in the first half and then self-destructed. The fact that Gang Green came out strong in the first half means that they respect and play hard for their head coach. But what does that also say about their second-half production?
In the early third quarter, 21 points in four minutes changed a 13-10 disadvantage to a full-on rout. Matt Moore, playing his first game in five years, with Ryan Tannehill out indefinitely with his MCL torn from his bone — completed 12 passes for four easy touchdown passes.
Seeing the Dolphins players mucking around on the sideline, and hearing their MetLife Dolfans roar, and the visual of a smirking ex-Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum outside the visitor’s locker room, should all bring a sense of shame to this team. But did it?
The Jets are in a bad way as an organization. Who are they building around? Other than Leonard Williams, what other player on the roster is Top 15 in their category? That’s an enormous issue. And here’s an even more depressing thought: Are the Jets worse off now than they were under John Idzik?
In tribute to Phish’s upcoming end-of-year, four-night stand at Madison Square Garden, here are four songs describing a NYJ state of mind — by that band’s greatest influence, the Grateful Dead.
Next: 3. Dark Star
Dec 11, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Leonard Williams (92) celebrates with defensive end Sheldon Richardson (91) after Richardson
3. Dark Star
The Jets’ defensive line, led by Leonard Williams — not by the perpetually tardy Muhammad Wilkerson or Snapchat star Sheldon Richardson — played strong versus the run, smothering the slightly overrated Jay Ajayi. But both the defensive pass coverage and edge pursuit were again abominable.
The Jets’ secondary plays with an shocking lack of technique — and mental miscues on the back end usually lead to TDs. But it’s tough to believe the secondary became so bad so fast. The Jets D just gave up on that the TD by Jarvis Landry, in which he turned a five-yard flea-flicker into a 66-yard end zone sprint. Perhaps it’s time to bench, and part ways with, the ghost of Darrelle Revis, currently the 76th rated corner in the league!
The all-out blitzes got exposed again. Matt Moore shredded Gang Green’s secondary on a perfect 52-yard touchdown heave to Kenny Stills, when he caught rookie fourth-rounder Juston Burris in single coverage with no middle safety to back him. Burris, in his second career start, had his first career INT, but he also got torched on that shocking TD, and whiffed on a second-half opening kickoff return fumble recovery. But he is the team’s best young cornerback moving forward.
This defense still cannot cover a tight end over the middle, short or long. Miami’s Dion Sims‘ two touchdowns outscored the entire Jets team.
On the other side of the ball, the Jets’ decimated offensive line can at least point to injuries. But there were way too many busts in protection. To be fair, they executed solidly in the running game and played decently on many passes. But they got obliterated on the blitzes — and that proved deadly. Ndamukong Suh schooled Jets guard Brian Winters like it was Pee Wee football.
Bryce Petty was quick to point out his own miscommunication on that ill-fated O-line breakdown. And converted center Wesley Johnson deserves blame for his mistimed snaps that almost destroyed the second-year QB outta Baylor. But why did behemoths Suh and Cameron Wake both go completely untouched charging off the edges?
The visual of scrub tight end Eric Tomlinson not reacting to a charging bullrush is another NYJ low point not soon to be forgotten. It was a sickening display reminiscent of October 8, 1995, when Rich Kotite started rookie tackle Everett McIver, an undrafted free agent from Elizabeth City State, against Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, and almost got Boomer Esiason decapitated. But it speaks to Petty’s moxie that he completed that aerial to Robby Anderson.
Bilal Powell had a great day, rushing the ball and catching swing passes out of the backfield. In the first half, he had eight receptions and 112 yards from scrimmage. Over the past two weeks, the sixth year vet out of Louisville has proved the team’s best back in ages.
So the multi-million dollar question is: Are Bryce and Bilal and “The Big Cat” Leonard Williams really among the few Jets of NFL caliber playing with heart? And if so, why?
Next: 2. Fire on the Mountain
2. Fire on the Mountain
There are a few aspects to this particular Gang Green fiasco — team management, the coaches, and the players themselves.
General manager Mike Maccagnan needs to face the music for his two drafts. Other than Leonard Williams — the top-rated player in the 2015 NFL Draft, who literally fell in their lap — and likely 2016 first-rounder Darron Lee, where is all the NFL-ready talent? Over 20% of the current active players were not even on the opening roster. The team’s ugly blend of over-with vets and practice squad projects has brought humiliation to all, from owner Woody Johnson to the beleaguered fanbase.
Week after week, this team makes the same mental mistakes, mis-tackles, broken protection, blown coverages and special teams miscues. But make no mistake — miscommunication is a coaching issue. Here’s a crazy thought: If similar breakdowns in the secondary occur with both the big money starters and the young rookies/UDFAs, perhaps it has something to do with the schemes?
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The Jets have historically been big on hiring head coaches with clock management issues, and brain-locked in-game decisions. There have been more than a few times this season that Todd Bowles has made Rex Ryan or Herm Edwards look like Vince Lombardi — like on Saturday night, calling a time-out, right after an ill-advised fourth-down challenge.
In an unusually brutally blunt post-game press conference, Bowles fell on his sword and took full responsibility for the mess. That means he’s now got the target on his back. It also means that every player on this roster better look in the mirror, and every assistant may wanna consider new places of employment. The fact that the veterans have tanked is on the coaches. One of Bowles’ greatest mistakes has been treating man-boys with respect, like real men.
And once again: Can the special teams get worse? That game-killing early third-quarter punt block returned for a TD, that began the Dolphins’ scoring tsunami, was vanilla beyond words; new Jet Brandon Wilds on the wing simply whiffed on his man-to-man block on Walt Aikens. That head-scratching squib-kick with :40 left in the first half was almost a disaster. And why, after Nick Folk‘s meaningless field goal, down three TDs with 5:43 remaining, not go for the on-side kick? Within 72 hours of season’s end, expect the firing of special teams coordinator Brant Boyer.
Next: 1. Estimated Prophet
Dec 17, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty (9) throws a pass against the Miami Dolphins during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
1. Estimated Prophet
Bryce Petty (20/36 for 235) showed poise and development in his fourth game. He played well early, particularly in the two-minute drive that led to a FG down 13-10 at the half. He certainly made rookie mistakes, but if you put Petty behind that Cowboys O-front, he’d be Dak Prescott-ish. Cameron Wake’s first NFL INT was both an easy read, and a nice defensive wrinkle that even Ryan Fitzpatrick would’ve fallen for.
Petty’s read progressions still need work, and he’s still not a pro pocket passer. But he’s got a gun of an arm, and has developed an explosive chemistry with young Robby Anderson.
Petty’s receivers did him no favors. There were too many dropped balls. Brandon Marshall — for all his big plays and leadership qualities — has had a disappointing season. B-Marsh whiffed on a gimme TD toss, had a huge drop on the two-minute drive, and got schooled all night by rookie Xavien Howard. And it’s not wrong to question esteemed offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s second-half game plan, pitting Petty with low-percentage passes requiring solid pass protection.
Petty’s somehow defied permanent injury on that forsaken Fins jailbreak and ended up just badly bruised. But he better heal fast, because his next test comes this Sunday in Foxboro against the Patriots. Talk about trial by fire!
After the game, Bryce flashed an infectious smile and an honest wisdom beyond his years. After Monday’s CT scan, he is painfully aware that had he lost this job audition, he would’ve never gotten another shot to vie for the 2017 starting position. In terms of statistics, Petty rates average, his 64.4 QBR on par with struggling young quarterbacks like Jared Goff and RG3. But average doesn’t get you far in this league.
Ryan Fitzpatrick looked great on the sideline in the first half, dressed in his warm green warmup jacket. But after he entered the game following the Petty carnage, he could only grin and bear it.
Sure, Fitz was put in an awkward position. But his three times in the red zone resulted in three points and two INTs; true to form, throwing into end zone triple coverage. This is why the $12 Million Man (plus an additional $3 Million buyout) lost his starting job and will never return. The bearded one’s stunning blend of brazen greed, lack of appreciation, and lack of production in 2016 will not soon be forgotten.
The Jets wonder why they can’t always play like that team that came out fired up and focused from the opening whistle. Then they must worry about what team came out dressed in Green-and-White for the second half.
Get ready for a cold, hard winter in Florham Park.