Welcome to a season on the brink.
A season that began with a future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback and “Hard Knocks” hysteria and sky-high expectations is now in peril.
It is an eight-game season.
A Put Up or Shut Up season.
Forget about that lonely Lombardi Trophy inside the Jets Atlantic Health Training Center that Aaron Rodgers mentioned when he first arrived. That is a bridge too far.
But the chance to make history, to be remembered fondly by Jets fans, isn’t dead.
The chance to be the first Jets team to reach the playoffs since Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez made it to the 2011 AFC Championship game after making it to the 2010 AFC Championship game … if only as a wild card.
Don’t blow it.
Don’t blow this chance and live the winter of your discontent in regret.
It is time for the Jets to answer this question:
Are you contenders or pretenders?
“It’s our team, it’s our legacy, it’s our opportunity,” Tyler Conklin said. “I think the main thing for us is just gonna be unity. We gotta come together as a team and say, ‘What the hell do we want this offense to be? What do we need to do to fix this offense? What do we need to do to go on a run here?’
“People act like it’s the end of the world, we’re 4-5, right? Every team has to go on a run to make the playoffs at some point. … As a unit and as a team, we just gotta really come together and make a decision, right? Are we gonna sit here and throw in the towel and act like it’s the end of the world, or are we gonna come together as a team and stop making excuses or whatever the hell’s going on from game-to-game, play-to-play and get it fixed? Knowing the guys we have in this building, I got a good feeling that that’s something we can do. I got a good feeling we can come together and be what we want to be.”
What is anyone who has followed this team to think other than this has the earmarks of a sinking ship that is throwing Rodgers’ Improbable Dream overboard?
And yet, the Jets are still no more than two games behind every AFC playoff contender other than the 7-2 Chiefs and 7-3 Ravens.
“We all want to be great and create a legacy and win a Super Bowl and make a bunch of money,” Conklin said. “And none of us can do that if we don’t do it for each other every single play.”
You’d have to be blind not to see a defense that is being wasted and deserves so much better.
“All the times they talked about like the ’85 Bears and the 2000 Ravens and stuff, they’ve lived up to all that talk,” Conklin said. “If we can’t figure it out, it is in a sense wasting a really special, special defense. It is on us now to come together as an offense and make sure we don’t waste a special group that we have on the other side of the ball.”
Robert Saleh must fix the self-inflicted wounds (17 penalties the past two games) that he cannot stop talking about. Discipline happens to fall under his job description.
When you field an offense that cannot score touchdowns, and a quarterback who try as he might and fights as he does, does not throw touchdown passes, you have virtually no margin for error.
“We’re just looking at things with regards to schematically,” Saleh said. “We’re looking at some different personnel changes, which I’m gonna keep here with me. We’re looking across the board to see if we can find a way to generate some offense.”
Saleh is in his third year as HC of the NYJ and it not enough for his team to be a tough out, not enough that his players play hard for him. It is troubling that his Jets too often do not play hard and smart. He is not the defensive coordinator. He is the coach of the entire team.
A year ago, the Jets beat the Bills at MetLife and were 6-3. And won one damn game the rest of the way.
Wilson (5 TDs, 6 INTs in 308 passing attempts) is better than he was last season, but we are talking low bar here and better is still not good enough. Just not bad enough to turn to Trevor Siemien or Tim Boyle.
“It is hard to make changes just to make changes just to pacify something, especially when someone’s not deserving,” Saleh said. He also said: “Zach is actually playing pretty good.”
Saleh is a good man and popular with the front office, players and media. There are extenuating circumstances mainly related to quarterback that is the main reason why his career record stands at 15-28. The offensive line, which will be buoyed by the return of left tackle Duane Brown, has been bitten relentlessly by the injury bug, and Garrett Wilson is the only receiver who scares anyone.
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett may be revered by Rodgers, but his Hackett Bowl triumph over Sean Payton seems like an outlier right now.
“We’re just looking at things schematically,” Saleh said.
How about tactically? Breece Hall, the only other offensive piece who causes defensive coordinators sleepless moments, must be incorporated into the passing game more.
If the Jets lose the next two and fall to 4-7, the long-shot carrot of Rodgers returning becomes a moot point. There will be no season for him to save.
Put Up Or Shut Up.
Don’t blow it.