NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — This season has already taken on a familiar feel for frustrated Jets fans.
Lots of promise. Positive vibes. And, then …
Just four games in, there seems to be a growing sense of urgency to turn things around. Otherwise, a 1-3 start could quickly spiral into another brutally disappointing season following consecutive 5-11 finishes.
“You can’t have panic,” cornerback Trumaine Johnson said Monday. “I trust and believe in every guy in this locker room. It’s a long season. I understand we’re in a hole right now, but we still have a lot of games left.”
It was only three weeks ago that New York got off to a stunning start with a dominant 48-17 victory at Detroit. Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold was impressive in his NFL debut, and that had many of the team’s supporters giddy about not only the future but perhaps this season.
Three straight losses have changed all that.
“It is hard to swallow,” defensive end Leonard Williams said, “but we can’t start hanging our heads.”
Sports talk radio and social media were abuzz 24 hours after a listless 31-12 loss at Jacksonville on Sunday, with fans furious at the Jets — namely the coach leading them.
The flame under Todd Bowles’ hot seat was turned way up after a loss at Cleveland on Sept. 20 in front of a prime-time audience made New York the first team since 2016 to be defeated by the Browns. The team’s performance against the Jaguars only made things a lot warmer.
The big question many are asking is whether Bowles is the person to lead the team beyond this season and cultivate a young quarterback.
“I would tell people that Todd Bowles is definitely the right guy,” Williams said. “You know, I feel like we’ve definitely been building in the right direction. What I love most is guys’ attitudes on the team. Everyone wants to play for one another, and that says a lot. Everyone is locked in.
“Even though we’ve taken some Ls, everyone is still locked in and bought into the system and that’s what I love about the team and the direction that we’re taking right now.”
Williams added he believes the Jets have “all the right pieces” and just need to tweak some “small, little things” to get back on track.
“I think people are too quick to give up on coaches or give up on an organization,” Williams said, “instead of allowing them to build when it takes time.”
Jets fans, of course, have been waiting a long time to feel good about things. The team hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 2010 season, and the 50th anniversary of the franchise’s one — and only — Super Bowl is being celebrated this year.
So, understandably, patience has worn thin for many of the still-loyal supporters.
Bowles and the Jets have a chance to get back in good graces in front of the home crowd Sunday against Denver. It’s the start of a three-game homestand that includes games against Indianapolis and Minnesota, and could go a long way toward setting the tone for the rest of the season.
“It’s real critical just because we haven’t won our first game at home yet,” Williams said. “These next three games at home, we really have to dominate at home. … For ourselves and for the fans included and for all the doubters out there, I think we need to do good these next three games.”
Bowles, in his fourth season as Jets coach, has been criticized often during the last few seasons for what some have deemed as poor play calling and game management. A lot of those same critiques were out in full force Sunday night and Monday.
Williams said the coaches had the Jets fully prepared with the right game plan, but the players simply didn’t execute. Meanwhile, Bowles remains focused and even-keeled, at least publicly, as the tension mounts.
“Just watch the film, look ourselves in the mirror and make sure we understand our jobs, individually, to help the team and not try to do more than they have to do,” Bowles said he told his team. “We’ll correct the mistakes moving forward. Film didn’t look as bad as it was, we’re not as bad as the film looked and we’re not as good at some of things we did, either. So, we’re going to look ourselves in the mirror and we’re going to come back Wednesday, get ready for Denver, and we’re going to correct our mistakes. And we’re still going to get ready for Sunday.
“We’ve got some home games coming up, so we’ve got to respond.”
Bowles was encouraged by the performance of Darnold against the Jaguars, even if the numbers don’t show anything particularly special. The rookie was 17 of 34 for 167 with one touchdown and no interceptions, although he nearly had three passes picked off.
For the season, Darnold has thrown for 868 yards and four touchdowns with five INTs. His 57.5 completion percentage and 72.6 quarterback rating rank near the bottom of the league in both categories.
Despite all that, the 21-year-old says he is growing more confident with each game.
“I’m optimistic about where our team is headed,” Darnold said, “and where I can grow as a player.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)