By Steve Lichtenstein
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T-A-N-K, Tank! Tank! T…
Hold the phone.
To their credit, the Jets’ players and coaches have dismissed all the talk in the NFL community about their wretched expectations. They evened their record at 2-2 after Sunday’s 23-20 overtime affair against Jacksonville at MetLife Stadium.
Gang Green has already matched my predicted win total for the season with a tilt at winless Cleveland a week away.
I was among the vast majority who concluded that Jets management was all in on the “Suck For Sam” tank in an effort to land Sam Darnold, the USC quarterback projected to be a top pick in the 2018 draft. They jettisoned many veterans in an offseason purge that left obvious holes at key positions.
How could you do worse than Josh McCown at quarterback, right? The 38-year old journeyman had gone 2-20 in his last 22 starts entering this season and hadn’t won consecutive starts since 2004.
Ladies and gentlemen: I give you Jay Cutler and Blake Bortles.
Taking out Cutler’s garbage-time touchdown drive on the final possession of the Jets’ 20-6 victory over Miami two weeks ago, New York’s defense has held their last two opponents to 293 combined passing yards.
And no, it’s not because the Jets’ secondary suddenly learned how to cover or their pass rush harassed these signal callers into submission. There were plenty of clean pockets in both games from which Cutler and Bortles simply misfired.
Bad quarterback play has just been far more prevalent throughout the league than most could have imagined.
And therein lies the rub.
For all the giddiness fans took in the Jets’ thriller Sunday following the trashing of the overrated Dolphins with their carpetbagger fans, the consequences of these small victories might be far more damaging. This franchise will be doomed in mediocrity until it finds its own competent quarterback.
McCown is severely limited, his stats notwithstanding. Opposing teams will allow you to complete more than 80 percent of third-down passes when you’re throwing 3 yards downfield on third-and-8. McCown took another five sacks Sunday, some of which could be blamed on his faulty internal clock. It looked like it took all of McCown’s might to heave a ball a mere 40 yards to a streaking Robbie Anderson early in the fourth quarter.
That was one of several possessions in which the Jets failed to finish off with six points despite promising field position. If not for a curious unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on Jacksonville’s Paul Posluszny following a Jaguars’ punt after the two-minute warning in overtime, this game could have easily ended in a tie.
I get that McCown has done everything management has asked in performing his placeholder duties. However, since he is not the long-term solution, it is more than a little worrisome that there is no one of sufficient quality behind him to hold such a place.
For all of McCown’s flaws, neither Bryce Petty nor Christian Hackenberg displayed the complete toolbox necessary to beat him out in the preseason despite ample opportunity.
They’ll get more game reps, because where do you think this team is going this season? The competition gets much stiffer after the Browns. Star quarterbacks Tom Brady (twice), Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Cam Newton remain on the Jets’ slate. Stout defenses like the Broncos and Bucs won’t surrender a pair of 70-yard touchdown runs like the Jaguars did Sunday.
So even if we overestimated the capabilities of certain opponents in relation to the Jets, we’re now looking at a possible four- to six-win season.
If you told me that Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan had a plan to obtain a franchise quarterback next offseason in the trade or free agent market, then this campaign would be less depressing. Unfortunately, that never happens anymore in the NFL. The only way to acquire such a crucial piece these days is to draft and develop one.
What are we supposed to do? The players and coaches will continue to fight for every win, and maybe they’ll earn a few more than expected. If you’re a fan, that’s not necessarily the outcome you should desire. Against all logic, I plead guilty to relishing these last two weeks, only to feel dirty afterward (except in front of those annoying Dolphins fans).
Then again, who ever said that being a Jets fan for over 45 years was logical?
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.