Analysis after another mind-numbing loss by the Jets
That dissonant drone you heard all the way from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens will resonate for the remainder of this disappointing season of the New York Jets.
This was a game the New York Jets had to win. Everyone — from the front office to the coaching staff to the 53-man roster — knew that any last chance to make the playoffs was on the line. That a road win over the surging Dolphins would require 60 minutes of focused, error-free football.
Gang Green’s 27-23 loss to the Miami Dolphins was not as close as the score indicated. Many fans will point to Kenyan Drake‘s crushing 96-yard kickoff return that poured dirt on the grave of head coach Todd Bowles‘ second season. But call this game a mercy killing.
It’s tough to point to the Jets’ fatal flaw; this was an organization-wide meltdown. The veteran offense proved down-right offensive; the defensive play was defenseless, and the special teams were supremely un-special. New York needed to display some palpable sense of grit and resilience and mental toughness, but there was precious little to show.
New York could’ve and should’ve, stolen this game. Former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum runs a supremely overrated Dolphins team, who were more than ripe for the taking. But the Jets were once again plagued by their usual, weekly personal demons. This was another bleak afternoon of overall football dysfunction.
Miami’s overpaid quarterback Ryan Tannehill performed average at best, and at every turn, the home team acted like welcoming hosts, desperately anxious to give the game to New York. The Jets proved rude guests, totally unwilling to accept such a gracious gesture.
In tribute to Elvis Costello’s recent, stirring Beacon Theater performance, here are five songs of his that best describe this woebegone Jets’ schedule to date.
5. Less Than Zero
There’s no defense for what’s going on with this supposed top-notched defense. Having the league’s top-ranked defense against the run means little when you’ve also got one of the lowest-ranked passing defenses in the NFL.
In a season-defining game, stud defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson sat out the first quarter due to coach’s decision, due to regular lateness and unexcused absences for practice and meetings. When asked to face the music after the game finished, both players left the locker room. Really no excuse for any of that.
The entire defensive side of the ball displayed a supreme lack of poise. Immature multi-millionaires Wilkerson and Richardson had to play catch up for three-quarters. Foolish, costly personal fouls abounded once again, be it secondary starters Calvin Pryor and Buster Skrine, substitute inside linebacker Julian Stanford or the troubled budding star Richardson.
Darrelle Revis has regressed beyond recognition. But give him real credit for taking Fins star receiver Jarvis Landry out of the game, whenever he was on #24’s side of the field. Pryor and Skrine still make the same mind-numbing mistakes, based on a lack of control, lack of comprehension, and lack of communication.
Rookie outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins always seems out of position, and his blatant muff of a gimme-TD INT early in the 4th quarter affected the game’s final outcome. Whoever decided to convert slow-footed Mike Catapano from rugged defensive lineman to rangy outside linebacker needs to seriously have their head examined.
Another week, another opposing tight end took the Jets’ outside linebackers to school. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
4. Accidents Will Happen
Ryan Fitzpatrick has devolved into one of the worst veteran quarterbacks in the league. It’s difficult to disagree with Jets Post Game Live host Ray Lucas, pleading to bench the bearded one, on the plane ride back to Newark if necessary. His third-quarter knee injury opened the door, albeit briefly, to intriguing second-year stud outta Baylor, Bryce Petty.
Fitzpatrick is clearly losing his presence in the locker room, demonstrated by his “bro” Brandon Marshall chewing him out on the sideline, late in the second quarter. Fitzmagic proponents will say that he only threw two interceptions. Fitztragic detractors can point to his errant throws and his rookie-like backbreaking interceptions that no veteran gunslinger should ever commit. His dreadful 63.5 quarterback rating speaks for itself.
It’s impossible to determine which of The Amish Rifle’s two interceptions were more costly — his horrific telegraphed pass in the shadow of his own endzone to unsuspecting 6’6″ 335-lb. defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (likely the only interception of his NFL career), or the one Fitz threw directly to the Dolphins secondary, for yet another of his league-leading red-zone giveaways.
For the quarterback’s sprained MCL, a large share of the blame goes to right tackle Breno Giacomini, who got manhandled by Miami’s Cameron Wake all game long. Expect neither multi-million-dollar veteran to return in 2017.
What is going on with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey? Sure, Quincy Enunwa made a terrible first-half gaffe, but did the team’s second- or third-best offensive threat really merit just one complete pass? Is running back Matt Forte (12 carries for 92 yards, including an impressive 31-yard touchdown dash) really a second-half dud, or does Gailey abandon the rushing game in key situations? The Jets throw on 3rd and 1 more than any team in the league — enough said!
Jalin Marshall might have had his best game as a pro; one muffed punt not withstanding. His 18-yard touchdown catch late in the 4th quarter should’ve been a game winner, were it not for the opposition kickoff return that lost this contest. Robby Anderson shows nice flashes of talent.
In the end, the Jets’ offense squandered so many opportunities, they deserved to lose.
3. Mystery Dance
Jets fans can scapegoat Antonio Allen all they want for last week’s kickoff return that sealed their fate. But he’s the least of their special team’s problems.
The big talk of training camp was the enthusiastic verve of special teams coordinator Brant Boyer, prodding and cajoling his squad to excellence. How has that worked out?
An entire blog post could be devoted to that likely playoff-killing final kickoff return. Allen can complain all he wants about being “sick” over his offsides call. Try being a Jets fan watching that acidic implosion. Talk about grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory!
It was yet another gut-wrenching play that will go down in the annals of franchise history of failed playoff contention. How does a supposedly credible franchise — leading with 5:22 to go, and everything on the line — face itself in the mirror?
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NFL statistics indicate that re-kicks usually result in big returns. The Dolphins also knew from watching films that Nick Folk likes to kick to the right side of the field. So they simply stacked right and shifted left. Once Drake shrugged off a few flailing tackle attempts, he darted past Gang Green’s slow-as-molasses kicker, and saw clear daylight, with no Jets in safety coverage for a game-saving stop.
Since Mike Westhoff retired after the 2011-2012 season, the Jets have had a different special teams coach every single season. Expect Boyer to join a lengthy list of one-and-dones along with Ben Kotwica (2013), Thomas McGaughey (2014) and Bobby April (2015). The new guy just hasn’t done enough to justify another year at the helm.
2. Sneaky Feelings
The pressure is clearly getting to Bowles, as his 3-6 squad falls deeper into the AFC East cellar. Gone is the Mr. Clean-smooth, radiating, athletic, strong silent type, leader of men. On the sideline and at the podium, he’s looking scruffy, paunch, aggravated, and lost.
Many of the veteran players have played unfocused; which is unforgivable. The young starters seem to lack the gridiron IQs necessary to excel on game day. The entire unit seems allergic to tackling —which any coach will tell you, all comes back to effort.
The locker room does not fear him and is starting to tune him out. No one is being held accountable. Look at the first-quarter suspensions of Wilkerson and Richardson due to “coach’s decision.” Bowles could’ve made a stand by calling out the knucklehead behavior of his two defensive stars. Instead, he buried the message in vanilla coach-speak.
While we’re at it, how does Wilkerson’s $37 million signing bonus look now? To be fair, the reason Mo’s getting pushed around in the running game, and blocked by tight ends, is that he’s not fully recovered from offseason surgery, and shouldn’t even be out there. But tardiness has always been an issue with Wilkerson, and that was a bone of contention during contract talks. The Jets need Mo to be a defensive leader, but at this point, he doesn’t take his job seriously.
The blind reliance on a fading Revis is a troubling sign of miscalculation and desperation — and a stinging indictment of leadership. It’s time to stop drinking that Kool-Aid because this is a potentially toxic situation.
1. No Action
What will these final seven games hold?
Veteran squads tend to fold in bad seasons — and these guys already packed it in once before on national TV against Arizona. The seismic frustration was embodied by Brandon Marshall taking 20 seconds to answer a post-game locker room question about Fitz’s passing accuracy, so as to not throw his boy under the bus.
Next Sunday, the rebranded Los Angeles Rams come to MetLife to take on Gang Green. The L.A. fanbase is clamoring for Jared Goff, #1 pick in the 2016 Draft, who is receiving increased reps in practice. Luckily for Jets fans, coach Jeff Fisher seems committed to Case Keenum and more mediocre quarterback play.
For the Jets, Fitzpatrick’s left knee sprain gift-wraps an opportunity for Bryce Petty to play this week. TV commentator Rich Gannon said Chan Gailey told him that Petty’s recent return from preseason injury caused concern about his game-readiness. And Fitz does deserve maximum respect for being tough-as-nails. But wouldn’t it make more sense to try Petty against the reeling Rams, and if he falters, then rest Fitz’s knee this game and the bye week, before taking on New England?
The Rams are on a three-game losing streak, but with lethal weapons like Todd Gurley, Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin, they’ve got the firepower to leave East Rutherford with a victory. But even a New York win means relatively little in the scheme of things. How excited are you about the prospects of viewing a battle between the NFL’s two most intercepted quarterbacks?
Tell us the truth: Was anyone really ready for a 4-12 or 5-11 season?