There is common phrase thrown around football circles: “If you have two quarterbacks, you really have none.”
The New York Jets finally explored life with a shared load between the two signal-callers on their roster and learned a valuable lesson in the process.
The phrase is accurate. The Jets have no quarterback.
After an abysmal first half of football that featured an offense that was painful to watch, Jets head coach Rex Ryan – out of necessity to at least try another option – turned to backup quarterback Michael Vick for a potential spark. As impossible as the odds were, some may argue that Vick actually performed worse than starter Geno Smith. But debating which quarterback endured more failure is as useless as watching the fourth quarter of the debacle.
There was never a moment of Sunday’s game in San Diego where the hometown Chargers felt threatened by the rudderless Jets. The Chargers manhandled New York from start to finish and, had the league ever considered enacting a “Mercy Rule”, Sunday’s game would be heavily featured in the discussions. By comparison, the Chargers pounded the Jaguars one week earlier on the same field. Jacksonville’s 17-point loss would be largely preferred to what the Jets suffered.
Make no mistake, however good or bad the Chargers end up, they have been one of the league’s best teams in the early portion of 2014. The previously 1-3 Jets should not have been able to travel to San Diego and win the game, but they should have been competitive. In reality, they didn’t even make the trip at all.
Despite the perceived notion that the AFC East is ‘wide open’ – this false common theory is largely the effect of the Patriots’ crushing defeat in Kansas City, which has since been erased by their victory over the Bengals – the Jets won’t factor into the race. For starters, the Jets are now two full games behind the Patriots and Bills, and, with their only win coming against the 0-4 Raiders, New York is easily the worst of the four teams in the division.
Oddly enough, all preseason scenarios for a possible playoff run included the Jets struggling out of the gate. With games against the Packers, Bears, Lions, Chargers, and Broncos within the first six weeks of the season, most people expected a 3-3 record, at best. This was when those same people actually believed in the team. Now that it’s easy to see those projections were wildly off-base, a 1-5 record after six games is a lot more believable.
Assuming the world tilts on its axis, lightning strikes MetLife stadium (probably twice), Derek Jeter returns from his retirement to play quarterback (and cornerback) for the New York Jets, and they somehow find a way to beat the Broncos in their upcoming matchup, the Jets still have no realistic chance to make the playoffs. While the second half of their season does not feature the same level of difficulty as the first, the Jets would likely have to play 8-2 football (9-1 in the more likely case that they lose to Denver) over their last ten games to reach the ten-win watermark usually associated with postseason hopes.
It isn’t happening.
There are only so many ways to dissect the same frog and find new areas to explore. In the end, it all points to the same body. In the case of the New York Jets, they are an unevolved organism ill-suited to live in their current habitat.
The NFL heavily subscribes to the ‘survival of the fittest’ mantra, and there are distinct classes naturally dividing the organizations. Franchises like the Patriots, 49ers, Steelers, and other multi-time champions with perennial winning teams tend to lead the pack season after season, with the occasional ‘off-year’ springing up every once in a while. Teams like the Raiders, Jaguars, and Browns frequently find themselves picking at the top of the NFL Draft every April. Despite coaches and players changing over the decades, the culture of the teams largely remains intact due to their ownership and the methodologies passed down from the top.
Between the high and low classes of the NFL sit the rest of the league: a fluid, morphing group of teams that fluctuate with the tide of a given season. One year the Ravens will ride the wave towards a Super Bowl championship; the next, they miss the playoffs.
It doesn’t happen often – mainly because ownership changes so rarely – but occasionally teams shift from one class to the next. Or, when a team cannot actually improve its standing, it acts as if it has.
Such is the case of the New York Jets.
The Jets rarely miss an opportunity to remind the world of their back-to-back AFC Championship appearances in 2009 and 2010. They live off this history as a former high school star recalls his past: “But I threw five touchdowns that one Friday night in October when the other team’s bus broke down and they had fans suit up on defense.”
In the ‘What have you done for me lately?’ world of professional sports, no one cares.
Long forgotten are the winning ways of Rex Ryan and the ‘ground-and-pound, punch you in the mouth’ New York Jets. In fact, ask San Diego how their mouth feels. The Jets probably can’t, as they were the ones who left Qualcomm Stadium with a broken jaw.
Fans can only put up with so much for so long, and we have now reached the end of our rope. While it is despicable and unacceptable to sit through another season without any real chance for a playoff appearance, it would be far worse for Jets fans if the team went on a small run that netted a few meaningless wins.
At this point, the only potential for a brighter future is for the Jets to continue to crumble, and then explode altogether.
When the Jets miss the playoffs this year, it will likely cost Rex Ryan his job. But that ‘likely’ turns to ‘definitely’ if the Jets remain along their current path of pathetic football and finish the year with only four or five wins. This is the worst case scenario for Ryan, but is the only thing that would satisfy the fanbase, long-term.
Another miss on a mid-first round pick – how’s that secondary looking, Milliner and Pryor? – and the Jets will only dig their hole deeper. They need an impact player on the offensive side of the ball – not a second round Geno Smith that fell into their lap, and did so for a reason – and those are rarely found as the first round drags on. At least, not by the Jets. They must draft in the top seven or eight picks of each round in 2015 in order to offset the lack of wasted value from recent years.
Furthermore, a season that ends with a record as indicative as the embarrassing play we have been forced to witness offers ownership the best opportunity to make wholesale changes. If the Jets finish the year 4-12, the organization should consider changing everything except the team colors.
After all, we’ve all learned ‘what it means to be green’ – we have successfully been made nauseous on a week-by-week basis by the promises we have been force fed followed by the gruesome scenes we have to witness.
Whatever we believed the season could become has long since been forgotten, capped off by the drudging in San Diego. This single game did nothing to change or sway the outlook for the remainder of the season, but instead put the final nail in the coffin as early as a team could possibly be buried. Finally, it also confirmed – through the unimaginably poor play of two quarterbacks – that help is not arriving any time soon. If the cavalry existed on the Jets’ roster, it has since been slaughtered.
The Jets may be returning home for their next matchup, but they left a lot more in San Diego than just the stench of poor play. They have, effectively, removed all hope from the 2014 season. With that, fans can turn to yet another commonly used phrase.
“There’s always next year.”