Jets hit bye-week break with lots of uncertainty, fan unrest
NEW YORK (AP) — By the time Todd Bowles walked off the field at MetLife Stadium and disappeared into the tunnel, many New York Jets fans figured that was the last time they'd see him on their team's sideline.
Not quite. Not yet.
An embarrassing 41-10 loss to the equally lowly Buffalo Bills last Sunday brought out the venom from Bowles' biggest detractors — the number of whom has quickly multiplied over the past several weeks. They hoped the bye-week break would bring about a change at the top in response to the team's miserable 3-7 start.
Owner Christopher Johnson instead opted to not fire Bowles right now — much to the dismay of a large portion of the fan base.
"I understand," wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said. "Everybody is frustrated. I understand the fans are frustrated. We're frustrated. It's understandable. We're going to stick together. We're going to stick with Todd. We're going to have his back.
"And, we're going to take the bye week, regroup and try to figure this (stuff) out."
The Jets have six games left and will be hard-pressed to even match the 5-11 records they put up in each of the past two seasons. New York has two games against New England, including a home matchup out of the break, and meetings with Tennessee, Buffalo, Houston and Green Bay — no gimmes in the bunch.
The general feeling is that Bowles' fate is, in fact, sealed and the Jets will embark on a coaching search as soon as the regular season ends.
"We have to own it and have a week to live with it," Bowles said of having the bye after such a brutal loss. "They get some time off, make sure they rest up and get healthy. We're going to come back and try to win six games, one at a time, and see who wants to play."
The one player everyone's eyes will be on is rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, whose right foot strain kept him out of the debacle against Buffalo. Bowles said the No. 3 overall pick is also now out of the walking boot he was in last week during practice, a positive sign that he could perhaps soon return.
Darnold's development will again be at the top of the list of priorities, regardless of the job status of Bowles and his staff. The former USC star has thrown a league-leading 14 interceptions and struggled in three straight losses before his injury.
"I think it's just me, at some moments in the game, getting in my own head," Darnold said. "I've just got to stay true to my progressions, stay true to the confidence that I normally have and just go out there and sling it."
Darnold has shown some positive signs, making some impressive plays while also receiving rave reviews from his coaches for his ability to mentally digest the game.
He has made lots of mistakes, too, as he struggles through rookie growing pains. But Darnold is far from the only one having issues.
Jeremy Bates' sluggish offense ranks 29th in the NFL and has been inconsistent. Injuries to receivers Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa haven't helped, neither has the shaky offensive line play. The running game has also been mostly grounded the past few games since gaining 323 yards against Denver in Week 5.
"Right now, we're not scoring touchdowns," Bates said. "That's my responsibility to get our players to score touchdowns and I'll do a better job at that."
That's the resounding feeling all around the facility, from the coaches to the players to general manager Mike Maccagnan, whose spotty record in the draft and free agency has contributed to a lack of roster depth.
While first-rounders Leonard Williams, Darron Lee and Jamal Adams — and even Darnold — are starters and major contributors, only 12 of the 22 players drafted from 2015-17 remain on the roster. The bulk of the crop from those draft classes should be major depth pieces now, namely wide receivers ArDarius Stewart (third round, 2017) and Chad Hansen (fourth, 2017). Instead, the Jets will look to make a big-time splash in free agency next offseason with about $100 million in salary cap space.
"This is an offseason we feel really good about," Maccagnan said. "We've done a lot of work already and we're going to do a lot more work on the pro free agency."
Staying patient is a tough task for most Jets fans. After all, they've been doing that for 50 years, since the franchise's one and only trip to the Super Bowl.
Anger and frustration are the prevailing emotions right now among the team's most dedicated followers. And, the Jets insist they're right there with them.
"Imagine if it's your job, how much more upset you are," quarterback Josh McCown said. "So I think that's the case for us. I think that's what I would say, is that we feel the same way. We're probably even more so than them because it's our livelihood and this is the game that we love. So when you go out and play like that, we're upset about that and it's unacceptable.
"We want to find a way to make it different. That's the main thing."