By Jeff Capellini
So what was it? An aberration? A stinker? Just a bad day at the office?
Only the Jets have the answers.
What fans know for certain is the manner in which their team lost to the Raiders on Sunday was unacceptable. It was a disgraceful effort. It reeked of the past. It was the type of nonsense that was supposed to have been part of the mass exodus to Buffalo.
Well, old habits truly do die hard, I guess.
Like the one where the Jets go into a clear-as-day trap game and don’t show up.
I didn’t think it was physically possible for a team to miss 19 tackles. Yet the Jets did, often in such stunning fashion you really had to question your eyesight. And while we’re at it, how do you lose two quarterbacks because they refuse to slide or run out of bounds? I mean, you sort of expect that kind of stuff from Geno Smith, but Ryan Fitzpatrick? Really? The Harvard grad? It’s one thing to be aggressive, but it’s another to be reckless. Fitzpatrick deserves every last bit of criticism he has received for that lack of judgment.
David Harris and Todd Bowles called what was seen on the game film of the Jets’ 34-20 loss “disgusting.” I’m sure they really didn’t even need to watch it to make that assessment. I know nobody could pay me to relive it again.
Last week in this very space I warned about things that were troubling despite this team’s 4-2 start. I still expected the Jets to win the game, but cautioned that if they didn’t it wouldn’t take long for all the warm, fuzzy feelings that had come with the first six games to disappear.
We’re nearing that point, if we’re not there already. And if the Jets somehow pull another no-show act against the perennially sub-.500 Jaguars on Sunday at MetLife, it will be open season on everyone.
The Jets always pride themselves on having pride. Even though they have toned down the rhetoric considerably since Rex Ryan was shown the door, they still exude a lot of confidence. But they are simply not good enough, yet, to be given any kind of benefit of the doubt as far as being a consistently good football team is concerned. They got trampled on Sunday by a team that holds itself in less high regard than the Jets do, themselves.
So where do they go from here? It’s pretty simple. They can start by actually playing a 60-minute game, because I promise you if they do they will beat most of the opponents left on their schedule and will make the playoffs. And now that we know that Fitzpatrick is going to start Sunday and is “extremely confident” he can play through his thumb injury the rest of the season, there’s no reason why the Jets shouldn’t be a playoff team.
Fitz being healthy enough to go is good news because Jets fans by and large don’t trust Smith. That’s just the way it works with Geno. Yes, he did some good things against the Raiders, but he’s shown throughout his career a penchant for making bonehead decisions and an inability to put together consistent solid performances, devoid of the kinds of mistakes one would expect from someone with far less of the skill set he possesses.
As I said on Twitter the other night, it’s not about Smith’s ability. It’s about his lack of football IQ. And he will continue to be defined in that manner until he decides enough is enough and takes advantage of his opportunities. We’ll just have to wait and see when the next one comes.
Regardless of the fact that it’s to his non-throwing hand, Fitzpatrick’s injury remains a major concern, because it wouldn’t take much to aggravate it and make the pain too much to play through. The center-quarterback exchange is going to be an adventure and I can’t imagine the transition to handing off exclusively with his right hand will be an easy adjustment for the 11-year veteran.
But, hey, both Fitz and the Jets say he can do it, so what could go wrong, right?
If the Jets’ running game gets back to being itself, the door should be open for Fitzpatrick to at the very least manage his way to a respectable effort against a Jacksonville defense that is ranked 21st overall, including 25th against the pass. If the thumb proves not to be a hinderance, I would expect Fitz to sling the ball just like he did over the first six games.
Of course, all of this potential on offense will likely only come to be if the Jets’ defense proves that last week was, indeed, nothing more than a blip on its radar.
There are several Jets on that side of the ball who will need to rebound in a hurry, including cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine and Marcus Williams, each of whom had games to forget against Oakland. And then there’s linebacker Demario Davis, a player with so much potential it’s ridiculous, but who has yet to put it all together.
A lot has been made of the Jets’ prowess defensively despite their lack of sacks. They have just 11 in seven games, tied for 29th in the NFL with Ryan’s Bills. Life would be a lot simpler for all involved if Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson & Co. start dropping quarterbacks rather than just hoping high pressure causes errant throws.
The Jets owe it to themselves to get their act in gear. A lot of people want to believe they are the real deal, and their schedule is just begging for them to go on a substantial run. But there’s a fine line between playing the game on paper as opposed to on the field. The Jets need to start acting the part of a contender.
The nonsense really needs to stop — and it needs to stop immediately.
Or else we’ll be left shaking our heads and rolling our eyes, familiar behavior for this fan base at this time of the year.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet