By Steve Lichtenstein
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Jon Gruden has got to lay off the ecstasy.
How else can you explain why the coach-turned-commentator was gushing about the Jets throughout the first half on Monday night? He seemed absolutely perplexed that these Jets entered the game against the Dolphins with a record of 2-9 instead of 9-2.
“Those linemen are huge! Look at all the support the Jets surround quarterback Geno Smith with! Check out all these backs gashing the Dolphins to the tune of 210 yards on the ground in the first half!”
What nonsense. I’m a Jets fan and I have no problem telling anyone who reads this that they stink from head to toe and deserve to be blown up on December 29. Gruden’s propaganda had me scrambling for the remote several times so I could squeeze the mute button.
And then the Jets played the second half and made me want to scratch my eyeballs out.
Truth be told, Gruden did eventually come to grips with reality and Gang Green’s 16-13 loss to the desperate Dolphins was not that gut-wrenching. Sure, it was yet another game they could have/should have won. But think about the alternative.
Had Smith engineered a game-tying or game-winning two-minute drill (instead of throwing a last-minute interception), think about how the talk this week would be about the vindication of general manager John Idzik for forcing coach Rex Ryan to bench Michael Vick and give Smith another shot.
And make no mistake, you needn’t be an insider to figure out that this was Idzik’s call. Vick has one bad game against the Bills — a game that the entire team failed to show up for — and that’s all she wrote? While Smith has received more chances than Steve Howe over the past two seasons?
Well, to show Idzik who is boss, Ryan took the ball out of Smith’s hands.
“So you want to see what Geno can do? OK, watch him hand off 45 times.”
For three quarters and 13 minutes, there was no way Ryan (through offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg) was going to let Smith bungle another game. Not after he’s turned the ball over 37 times in his first 24 starts. Even if it meant dragging the Jets’ offense to Third World depths, the game plan for Monday night was the same as those used by the 1972 Oklahoma Sooners.
One of these days, I hope the Jets will wake up and smell the century. In order to win in the NFL, you need a quarterback who can make winning plays. If you don’t even trust your quarterback to attempt to make winning plays — like what the Jets feel they need to do with Smith — you have a train wreck.
It seems that everyone in the world but Idzik gets that Smith is not the answer to the Jets’ longtime problem at the sport’s most important position. Idzik, who used a second-round pick in the 2013 draft to select Smith and then wasted this season by force-feeding him until it was irrevocably lost, still must believe that the evidence is not all in.
These last five games may have been set up by Idzik as an audition for Smith, but it won’t be for a spot on anyone’s marquee. Smith is strictly understudy material now.
Unlike the end of last season, when Smith managed to win three of the Jets’ last four games to give fans false hope that he had shown enough improvement to warrant another opportunity this year.
It’s somewhat ironic that it was the 2013 finale in Miami that sealed the deal, when Smith led the Jets to a 20-7 victory to deny the Dolphins a postseason berth.
Smith was in position to again change the perception on Monday night against the same Dolphins, but he looked like he didn’t learn a blessed thing from watching from the sidelines these last three weeks.
The 15 times Smith did drop back to pass, he was jittery and mostly inaccurate. He missed Percy Harvin for a sure touchdown at the left pylon in the second quarter that could have given the Jets a 17-0 lead.
Instead, Nick Folk hooked the first of his two missed field goals. That’s how you get to be 2-10.
So as we bid adieu to Thanksgiving weekend, Jets fans should be thankful for Monday night. After a couple of 8-8 seasons had us thinking that maybe they’re not so far away, there’s no obscuring the Jets’ true status now.
It was why I wrote after Week 4 that the Jets would be better off tanking the season. Not only would the Jets improve their 2015 draft slot, but it makes it easier for owner Woody Johnson to make the wholesale changes to the organization — not just at quarterback — that are necessary to turn the franchise around.
It’s obvious that Idzik’s got to go — Mike Francesa’s rant on WFAN a few weeks ago about Idzik’s failures as a personnel man hit the nail on the head — and that means Ryan’s a goner as well. No worthwhile GM is coming here if he can’t pick his coach; that’s how we got stuck with Idzik in the first place.
Hey, maybe Gruden wants in! Doubt it.
Imagine Gruden having to watch the Jets 16 times a year. That’ll get him down in a heartbeat.
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.
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