FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Win one. Lose one. Win one. Lose one. And, repeat.
That’s how it has gone during this puzzling season for the New York Jets. Ten games with five wins and five losses — all in alternating weeks.
Playoff contender or frustrating pretender? That’s what the Jets need to figure out, and soon.
“We have six games ahead of us,” quarterback Geno Smith said Monday, “that we have to go out and get some wins.”
Coming off a bye-week break, the Jets were stunningly flat in an embarrassing 37-14 blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Going in, it was considered a statement game by many fans and media who figured the team would show whether it was for real.
“We didn’t play anywhere close to where we thought we would,” coach Rex Ryan said. “Obviously, we know we have to play better. That’s not hard to figure out.
“We know our fans deserve better, and we certainly are going to play better.”
Smith, benched in the Jets’ last two losses, will remain the starting quarterback this week against the Baltimore Ravens. He insists he isn’t worried about his job security or running out of time to prove himself despite one touchdown and eight interceptions in his past five games.
“I haven’t seen a timer on that, so, no, I don’t have any concerns,” he said.
Wide receiver Stephen Hill, who hasn’t caught a pass in two straight games, may not be so lucky. Ryan said he’d consider taking the starting job from the 22-year-old.
“It’s frustrating to him, to all of us,” Ryan said. “We’ve been expecting bigger things from Stephen and, quite honestly, it just hasn’t happened.”
Jets fans have been on a roller-coaster ride all season. One week, they are cautiously optimistic about Smith and the team’s postseason chances. The next, some are already moving on from the mistake-prone rookie quarterback and thinking about next year’s draft.
That’s the kind of swing you get from yo-yo performances from week to week. After all, they’re the first team since the 1970 merger to alternate wins and losses through its first 10 games.
“We’re a good team,” tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. said. “But then, we could be a bad team. That’s how practice goes. Some days we have good days, and some days we have bad days. If we practice better, I think it’ll be better for us.”
Yet, the Jets still somehow control their playoff destiny despite how far off the postseason seems. They are tied record-wise in the AFC with division rivals Miami, which New York still has to play twice, and a game ahead of a pack of teams with 4-6 records. One of those is Baltimore, the Jets’ next opponent and Ryan’s former team which has struggled after winning the Super Bowl last season.
Smith has eight touchdown passes and 16 interceptions. With his four lost fumbles, the rookie leads the NFL with 20 turnovers.
“We have to get him dialed in better,” Ryan said.
His 10.1 quarterback rating against Buffalo was the lowest by a Jets starter since Mark Sanchez had an 8.3 rating in 2009 — also against the Bills.
He also has had four interceptions returned for touchdowns, including Da’Norris Searcy’s 34-yard runback Sunday.
“I don’t think statistics tell every single thing, every part of the story,” Smith said. “I obviously don’t want my stats to look like that and I don’t want to play like that. But I’ve gotten better. I’ve become a smarter player.
“I’ve just made poor decisions in some situations in games.”
It all had some wondering if the answer might be to sit Smith for a game and give inexperienced Matt Simms an opportunity. Simms, the son of former Giants star Phil Simms, threw his first regular-season NFL touchdown pass in mop-up time Sunday.
“I’ve watched the tape,” Ryan said. “I put myself through it again and I think, without question, Geno’s going to start this game.”
And, that’s fine with Simms, who remains the No. 2 quarterback, ahead of veteran David Garrard.
“Everyone’s a fan of the backup quarterback when something goes wrong,” Simms said.
Ryan did acknowledge that there’s a possibility Simms could see a few more snaps with the first-team offense in practice this week. That could be the first sign that Ryan’s patience in Smith could be wearing a bit thin. The coach, however, also refused to pin the team’s struggles all on Smith.
“I think Geno has a chance to be a good quarterback,” Ryan said. “But again, everything starts with protection first, with any quarterback. And then, there’s times where, quite honestly, we have to get open. We weren’t getting separation. A lot of things contribute to a poor performance like that.”
Smith also knows that until he strings together a few good games, there will continue to be questions as to whether he should be the starter this week — or beyond.
“Am I surprised? No,” Smith said. “I think every player in the NFL, everyone’s job is on the line, every single person. That’s day to day, no one’s job is 100 percent secured.
“It’s just up to us to continue to go out there and work hard and just do as we always have done, which is to bounce back from tough losses.”
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