The New York Jets (5-9) got officially eliminated from the playoffs for the seventh straight year, after a tough 31-19 road loss to Drew Bees’ highly favored, NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints. Like so many games this 2017 season, the Jets played hard yet came up short.
Head coach Todd Bowles displayed control of his locker room, and his New York Jets played hard for him. But there is no denying that this is a team in free-fall, having lost seven of their last ten games. 2017 will be remembered as a season of mindless penalties and missed opportunities — and for ballers falling to make plays when they had to or needed to.
Prognosticators chuckled at the thought of Gang Green at the Superdome without their offensive and defensive stars (the injured Josh McCown and de-activated Muhammad Wilkerson). The Jets came into this game staggering 16-point underdogs. Radio legend Mike Francesca, in his final NFL picks for WFAN, predicted a 24-point defeat. But for most of this contest, the Jets were never down by more than ten points down — trailing 17-10 at halftime, and 24-19 with thirteen minutes left to play.
In the end, the game was another epic Gang Green fourth-quarter meltdown, allowing two touchdowns in the final seven minutes. They failed to deliver on clutch plays when it counted. Four dominating tipped passes by Saints lineman Cameron Jordan may have been the ultimate difference.
In tribute to one of rock music’s greatest losses of 2017, here are five songs by Soundgarden, with poignant lyrics by the late Chris Cornell. Such titles apply to the long, strange trip of Gang Green, in 2017 and beyond.
Next: 5. Hands All Over
5. Hands All Over
The Jets defense played a solid game, despite absorbing 31 points. But how is that even possible?
Gang Green’s defense caused three turnovers. But in those big moments, they generated just three points — after Leonard Williams‘ INT on New Orleans’ eleven-yard-line. Before Mark Ingram‘s game-changing late fourth-quarter TD scamper, the Saints had less than 100 yards rushing.
But it doesn’t mean a lick of difference if the backfield covers every one of its assignments because this D-line gets zero penetration. Even the most mediocre NFL gunslinger can look like Tom Brady with five-six seconds to throw the ball. That’s exactly what happens to the Jets every single week.
The other trademark downfall of a Todd Bowles defense is secondary members out of position, allowing too many big plays. That was the ultimate difference in this contest.
The cornerback situation is rearing its ugly head. Buster Skrine has improved week-by-week, and Morris Claiborne has proven himself as an almost-shutdown corner. But those men are free agents pushing age thirty. As for young talent, Darryl Roberts has plateaued, while projected starter Juston Burris has disappointed mightily. Are you ready to back them up in 2018 training camp with some mix of unproven Derrick Jones, Jeremy Clark, Xavier Coleman and Rashard Robinson? Didn’t think so!
Next: 4. Fell On Black Days
4. Fell On Black Days
Offensive Coordinator John Morton knew the Saints inside-out from his years with the organization. And he was correct in his game-plan to shield Bryce Petty from tossing long-ball miscues. But his play-calling was so vanilla that New Orleans’ D was literally sitting back in zone coverage, waiting for the Baylor product to implode. The Jets had nothing to lose in this game, yet every snap call was so conservative, dialed-back and “close to the vest.” The “dink-and-dunk offense.” made no sense, given that both Morton and Petty (19-39, 179 yards) have so much to prove, with so little time to impress.
Such lack of dynamics also points to Morton’s inabilities to adjust on the fly. The erratic O-line came out to play this week but were never given a fair opportunity to take advantage of their game-time aerial bombardier edge. Instead, the Jets ran the ball 28 times amassing a so-so 128 yards (4.4 per). Elijah McGuire‘s Louisiana homecoming provided Gang Green’s most exciting moments, averaging 6.0 per on just four carries — and three receptions, including a two-yard TD and 38-yard midfield stomp.
According to CBS announcer Rich Gannon, the Jets lead the league with drafting eleven quarterbacks over the last 18 seasons. That is a damning indictment. The 17th of those gunslingers selected was Petty. Bryce deserves his chance to compete as an NFL backup, with a re-signed McCown — who displayed tools of his future trade as an NFL coach, on the sidelines with clipboard firmly in hand.
Next: 3. Hands All Over
3. Hands All Over
The Jets special teams are really not all that special. They have solid kickers, adept coverage men, and a below-average return game. In terms of situational football, there is nowhere to go but up.
Lach Edwards had to punt the ball seven times on Sunday, averaging 45.1 per, with two nailed Inside the 20. Chandler Catanzaro continues to do what’s asked of him, with two 29-yard PATs and a few nice kickoffs. These booters failed to dominate, but neither were they taken advantage of either.
Jojo Natson had the finest game of his young NFL career, with a 15-yard end-around and a nice 19-yard reception. After a few initial hiccups, the 5’7″ Akron Zip has unleashed his most dynamic best ball-return game. Natson has certainly earned a Summer 2018 training camp invite in Florham Park.
It felt very strange to see Jets Special Teams coach turned SNY announcer Mike Westhoff on the New Orleans sidelines, as a special adviser to Saints coach Sean Payton. It would not at all be surprising to hear of Westhoff’s major role in this week’s game-plan.
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The Jets had one final chance with three minutes remaining. Catanzaro laid down an excellent onside kick, directly at Saints star Michael Thomas. The ball should’ve been recovered by recent acquisition CB Rashard Robinson. But the 22-year-old former Niner penalty machine completely whiffed on a gimme fumble recovery that Thomas skillfully knocked out of bounds, to effectively end the contest.
Next: 2. Blow Up The Outside World
2. Blow Up The Outside World
GM Mike Maccagnan has much to address during the offseason. But between high draft selections, numerous compensatory picks, and boatloads of cap space, expect a very different 2018 Jets roster.
It feels like every season the Jets invest big-time in their defensive line and edge-rushers, and they come away with less than stellar results. This offseason will be no different.
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Any overhaul begins with a decision on Muhammad Wilkerson. There wasn’t a Gang Green diehard who didn’t back Big Mo’s demand to get paid. But what kinda knuckleheads earn untold riches to be a superstar athlete leader of men, and responds with laziness, immaturity, and unprofessionalism?
You can’t make someone care. You can’t fine Wilkerson cuz he makes nearly a million bucks per game. But to lose out on over $50 million due to tardiness and unexcused absences defies logic. Wilk will reportedly file an injury grievance against the Jets if they cut him in March. But no amount of ankle pain results in three years of missed workouts.
And speaking of playing one’s way off an NFL roster, New Orleans blew out the score after yet another mindless fourth-quarter third-down personal foul by nose tackle Mike Pennel. Most anti-NFLers point to a blue-collar realm of behemoth men with limited mental capacity. The 6’4″, 340 lb. Colorado State-Pueblo grad gives credence to such assessments. A huge part of playing hard is playing smart.
Next: 1. Black Hole Sun
1. Black Hole Sun
The Jets are playing competitively, turning the corner and definitely getting close. Such inspirational talking points offer a promising bridge over troubled waters to gridiron greatness in the not-too-distant future. But what about the present? After all, one can only bask so long in moral victories. These Jets have shown they can compete on a national stage. In a tough losing effort, they seemed utterly unfazed by 73,000 screaming Cajuns, stuffed on gumbo and drunk on Super Bowl aspirations.
This Sunday the Jets close out their home schedule at MetLife Stadium against the Los Angeles Chargers. This week’s foe has undergone a strange season, from league laughingstock leaving San Diego, to beloved Cinderella overachievers. Now, after Sunday’s 30-13 road dismantling to Kansas City, the Jets have an excellent chance to knock the Chargers out of contention. If you know anything about Chargers history, it’s that they’re so Jet-like in their uncanny ability to grab defeat from the jaws of victory. Even in their darkest days, the Jets have been able to rally enough to knock the stuffing out of a supposedly superior Chargers squad.
Gang Green is in a funny situation these last two games. If they lose to the Chargers and New England Patriots, they’re guaranteed a Top 10 draft pick. which will get them a solid QB prospect like Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson. However, if the Jets either split or win-out their final two contests, they will likely miss out on the biggest goal of this rebuilding season: an elite franchise QB. That would be so Jet-like!