How Low Can Jets Go?

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Oct 17, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson (91) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets’ Christmas Eve 41-3 meltdown to New England was the low point in a season of low points.  It was so non-competitive that Bill Belichick showed mercy on his hated rivals.

It was tough to fathom things getting worse than previous recent losses — last week against Miami or that Monday Night Football meltdown versus Indianapolis.  But the New York Jets’ situation further devolved on Christmas Eve in New England.  This particularly brutal effort will stand as a hideous reminder of one of the worst seasons in Jets history.

Bryce Petty — who’d never played an official football game in the rain (!) — had no shot executing precision passes in the frigid Boston sleet.  Which leads to so many key questions:  Why such play-calling in the first place?  Where was the sustained running game?  Why can no one catch a big pass?  And that’s just the offense.  The decimated defense would’ve allowed 60 points if The Hoodie hadn’t taken his boot off their collective throat, and handed the reins to Jimmy Garoppolo.

Unfortunately, the Jets are in free-fall, and things can get worse.  In Rex Ryan’s final crushing loss to Miami, the former HC of the NYJ evoked the worst of his MetLife boneheaded moves; failing to properly call a timeout on Andrew Franks‘ game-tying 55-yard field goal that sent the game into overtime, and then having just 10 men in formation when Jay Ajayi busted up the middle for 57-yards to cement the game.  The Buffalo fanbase tuned out Rex, and he lost yet another personal battle with a general manager.  But did Ryan perform any worse this season than Todd Bowles?

For the Jets to get outscored 116-26 in past three games, with the trappings of an elite defense will test the mettle of any pro sports owner.  Woody Johnson was wise enough to use Christmas as an excuse to miss that mess in Massachusetts.  But he’s got huge decisions to make, and soon.

In tribute to this week’s show by NYC punk kings The Dictators at Bowery Electric, here are a few songs that relate to the current Jets state of mind.

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Oct 2, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Quincy Enunwa (81) catches the ball during pre game against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

4. Faster and Louder

The Jets’ lack of offense production continues to plague this franchise.  What was their last explosive offensive passing combo? Chad Pennington to Laveranues Coles?  Vinny Testaverde to Wayne Chrebet?

A few questions about the receivers.  Should they bring back Brandon Marshall?  The 11-year veteran wins praise for his gritty play and locker-room leadership.  But what does that all mean if budding star Sheldon Richardson has zero respect for how B Marsh handles himself, especially in-uniform.  Maybe the Chicago Bears were correct to disapprove of the mouthy receiver’s weekly Inside The NFL gig, and unload him on Gang Green for a bag of footballs.  Remember, the longest-running veterans to have never sniffed the playoffs, are Brandon Marshall and his “bro” Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Quincy Enunwa (53 receptions) has recently muffed his fair share of gimme receptions and has clearly hit a wall.  Eric Decker‘s season-ending injury has certainly contributed to stunting the development of the 2014 sixth-rounder as a lethal slot receiver/H-back.

Going into the season, the Jets gushed over their crop of rookie receivers — none of which has particularly distinguished themselves.  Undrafted free agent Robby Anderson (38 receptions) looks like a keeper. But he’s gotta hit the weight room, as NFL secondaries throw the 6’3″, 195 lb. long threat around like a rag doll.  Charone Peake (17 receptions) has proven himself a marginal project befitting of his seventh-round draft status.  Training camp sensation Jalin Marshall (13) has been injured of late, but he’s also sat a few games as a healthy scratch on this four-win team.  Last year’s underwhelming second-rounder Devin Smith has come back from knee surgery, with hustle on special teams, and one nice, albeit meaningless, late-game catch.

The running game does not strike fear either.  Bilal Powell is a stud, but what kind of confidence do we have that the 2017 Jets will make him a focal point?  Likewise, what confidence can the Jets have in Powell’s ability to stay on the field injury-free?   Khiry Robinson injured all season — the one who caused Petty’s dislocated shoulder, with that brain-locked fumble scrum on his first carry of the season —  is like Chris Ivory without the resumé.  The once-great Matt Forte will be one year older.

For these Jets, the song remains the same.

3. Stay With Me

One reason that Buffalo fired Rex Ryan less than a week before “Black Monday,” was general manager Doug Whaley’s insistence on starting his former first-round pick, EJ Manuel.  Ryan wanted to beat up on his ex-employers, but Bills ownership wants to see what they’ve got at quarterback, with Tyrod Taylor likely to flee in free agency.  If the Jets don’t win this game, they should be ashamed of themselves.

With Bryce Petty out of action till next season, Ryan Fitzpatrick has ended up back in the driver’s seat.  Fitz, as terrible as he’s played, is a gutsy quarterback auditioning for yet another organization.  If he does get another big contract, it’s an indictment of the value of a Case Keenum/Josh McCown-type under center.

Christian Hackenberg will suit up for his first NFL game.  But it would be shocking if Hack sees field-time; the organization has its collective fingers crossed that he doesn’t have to play.

There is good reason to play Hackenberg.  Yes, there a faction in the building who already think he’ll never be good enough to play for the team.  The second-round pick should certainly be more ready to play than he is, and he has many physical barriers to overcome.  But there are others who wish to give Hack a chance to see what he has heading into the offseason.

Everyone likes the former Nittany Lion’s football acumen and mental makeup. So it’s not like he’s gonna mentally break down after a public beatdown.  Why not give him a full week of preparation as a starter, to know what it’s like to be an NFL quarterback?

What is there to possibly lose in the last game of a lost season?

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Oct 30, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Jets won 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

2. Exposed

In retrospect, it was obvious that Damon Harrison was the glue that held together Gang Green’s top-flight defensive line.  But if we all understand that, how did Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan whiff on the decision to not match hungry Snack’s $24M and instead give $86M to the satisfied Muhammad Wilkerson?

The financial commitment to Big Mo’s long-term (and now unmovable) contract, has really boxed in the Jets.  Sheldon Richardson easily has the highest upside of the two linemen, but he’s also the odd man out.  That somewhat explains the Missouri mauler’s particularly ornery behavior this season.  Now, with all the public scrutiny, they’ll be lucky to get a second-rounder for someone, who in the right spot, could become a superstar.

Darrelle Revis can accept his $6M guaranteed to stay and play free safety or return to MetLife post-retirement for his inevitable induction into the Jets Ring of Honor.  Buster Skrine is another goner.  Last season’s rising star Marcus Williams was another major flameout.  Fourth-rounder Juston Burris has all the tools and intensity, and at this point is the team’s most promising cornerback.

What happened at safety?  They played terribly even before Marcus Gilchrist‘s season ended on injured reserve.  Calvin Pryor, a 2014 first-round choice, is a ferocious hitter but displays alarmingly poor football acumen and marginal-at-best tackling skills.  Rontez Miles was expected to make major strides in his third full season, but that has yet to materialize.  Head-hunting practice squadder Doug Middleton has made some nice plays and some terrible mistakes in his first action, but he may be a big contributor in 2017.

David Harris is still a legit inside linebacker, but he’s slowing down before our eyes. Erin Henderson‘s substance-abuse issues that landed him on the Reserve/Non-Football Illness list left this team exposed inside, especially against tight ends coming over the middle.  First-round pick Darron Lee has a legit shot, but he needs lots of work.  Same goes for third-rounder Jordan Jenkins at outside linebacker.  Lorenzo Mauldin is a great story but a marginal NFL-level edge pass rusher.

So, now how do you feel about the Jets’ defense moving forward?

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Dec 17, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles coaches against the Miami Dolphins during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

1. Slow Death

Todd Bowles has pains to address beyond his health concerns — kidney stones and gallstones, for which he will thankfully fully recover.

It’s difficult to support Bowles, as this past month has been beyond ugly.  Year One was one of overachievement, and they got a career year out of Fitzpatrick.  Year Two became of exaggerated expectations.

So, Todd did a nice job in the first year and a terrible job in the second.  But do you fire a coach because he has a bad season with ravaging injuries and no real quarterback?  Any NFL insider will tell you that it almost doesn’t matter who the coach is if you don’t have a quarterback.

For Woody Johnson, this will be a huge decision in terms of the future of his franchise. Throughout their history, the Jets have not been patient enough with coaches — although Rex Ryan was given six years to basically destroy the organization.

Heading into Year Three, things don’t look promising.  Where is the positive momentum?  What about all these draft picks?  They have so many holes, one can’t imagine a successful season next year either.

For those who believe Bowles deserves another opportunity, what do hang your hat on for 2017?  As a defensive guru, what exactly is his area of expertise — play calling, scheme-creating, tackling technique, team control, leadership, or motivation?  If anything, the team needs to find a real defensive coordinator, and not have Bowles call the plays.  And kicking that field goal down 41-0 late in the fourth quarter in Foxboro was beyond embarrassing.

It’s a damning indictment that Bowles reminds many old-school Gang Green fans of the bad ol’ days of Rich Kotite, field general responsible for the two worst seasons in franchise history (4-28 combined in 1995-96).  That team was so poorly run that a consummate professional like ex-quarterback Boomer Esiason still never misses a chance to lambast his one-time boss.  If this year is not Kotite revisited, it’s close.

Hiring a first-year general manager and first-year head coach at the same time was probably not a great idea for the New York market.  One day, both men may become NFL greats.  But why are they learning on our dime?

There were many mistakes along the way.  This is an aging roster with bloated contracts.  They’ve had so many injuries, the offense has just three starters from opening day.  Those backups filling in on both sides of the ball are just not of NFL caliber.  Few players have displayed the requisite intensity or intangibles to distinguish themselves or to offer promise for a beat-down fan base.

It’s not a great sign in terms of talent that the injury-ravaged roster includes early camp cuts (Jason Vander Laan, Claude Pelon, and Kyle Friend), and two current players from that football hotbed, West Texas A&M (Khiry Robinson and Craig Watts).  Last week, they signed second-year tackle Donald Hawkins, now with his seventh team.  Most recent edition outside linebacker Corey Lemonier is playing for his fourth team this season and his third team in two weeks.

There are currently thousands of other bruised-and-battered supporters and season ticket holders, like this blogger, who as parents are seriously considering sparing their children this life of agony as a Jets fans.  Why buy season tickets when others are dumping like biohazard their game-day tickets for $6-10?  The hierarchy at One Jets Drive in Florham Park better be taking notice.

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