Down 19-17 in the 4th quarter, the New York Jets were driving for a go ahead score that would’ve most likely put them in the playoffs. At worst, it gives them a 24-19 lead over an offense that hadn’t really done much in terms of putting points on the board. Yes, Sammy Watkins was cooking franchise cornerstone Darrelle Revis but it had led to a grand total of one touchdown and 4 field goals.
The Jets had all the momentum and, in a year where the AFC is as wide open as it has been, that momentum could’ve carried them through an intriguing playoff run. Over the last week, I like many fans started to ask ourselves “what if.” What if Ryan Fitzpatrick carries this hot streak into the playoffs? What if the Chiefs, on one of the hottest streaks entering the tournament that you’ll ever see, upset one of the higher seeds and the Jets got to host the AFC Championship? Could the Jets…? Would the Jets…?
Sadly, it was not to be. Three Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions in the 4th quarter later and the Jets season ended in dramatic fashion as Rex Ryan knocked them out of the playoffs. Career years by their QB, RB, WR, DE, and a top 5 season from their defense wasn’t enough. They were thoroughly outcoached by a staff and team with nothing to play for. They chose to not use Chris Ivory on a day that almost demanded he be unleashed. He broke off a 50+ yard run on his first carry, and then was relegated to the bench far too often. Drops, shanked punts, missed tackles, turnovers, missed assignments, too much cushion, penalties, and missed gaps by the special teams were all on display. By every extension, the Jets came out REALLY tight. Not flat, because flat would’ve meant listless and with no emotion. No, if anything they came out too wound up and too scared. It showed in their demeanor. It showed in how they coached. Instead of coming out like a team that wanted the playoffs, they came out like a team scared of the playoffs and what it could mean. The moment was too big for them, and now they have six months to stew about what could’ve been.
That is where the answer lies. Yes, 10-6 with no playoffs sucks Jets fans. Yes, you have every right to be angry and wonder what could have been. I urge you to look beyond that initial anger and feeling like the season was a waste. Beyond that anger lies the realities of this season. The Jets are a good team who has a good first year coach and a really good first year General Manager. The Jets have the best wide receiver tandem in football, a top 5 cornerback, the best defensive line in football that through some fortuitous events has a chance to return largely intact, and an offensive system that makes this year an easy year to duplicate.
The Jets can have as much as $30 million in cap space once some pretty obvious moves are completed; cutting Antonio Cromartie, Breno Giacomini, Jeremy Kerley, and Jeff Cumberland takes them right about to $29.2 million in cap space. Restructuring D’Brickashaw Ferguson gets them well over 30 million. This is before they even have to make a single free agent decision. Signing Ryan Fitzpatrick is a must, but it needs to be cap effective. I’d wager that a deal in the 2 years/$12 million range is what the Jets will aim for. Extending Damon Harrison becomes a much more necessary point if the Jets decide to trade Mo Wilkerson for some draft picks, which would honestly be the more prudent move since the Jets have a few more holes than they have spots on the defensive line.Trading Wilkerson, extending Fitz and Damon Harrison (for a 4 year, $18.5M deal that would be in line for defensive tackles) would leave the Jets with $20M in cap space and 8 or 9 draft picks. That cap space would let them shore up the RT position with a free agent like Andre Smith or Mitchell Schwartz, bring back Cromartie and Ferguson on restructured deals, or try and swing a trade for a guy like Joe Thomas should Maccagnan want to swing for the fences. Point is it gives the Jets options.
Imagine if the Jets leave this offseason with Andre Smith as their new RT, Ezekiel Elliott as their new RB, Jerald Hawkins as their new LT, Cromartie returning at CB, and potentially Paul Perkins, OJ Howard, and Bilal Powell rounding out the offense? Todd Bowles today said the team needs to get faster. This offseason accomplishes that and you add legitimate talent to what is already a very good base. The sting of 10-6 may not go away right away, and ALOT of you have already proclaimed that the team is going to go 6-10 once you saw the schedule of opponents, those of you also proclaimed the Dallas Cowboys a Super Bowl contender, Chip Kelly a genius, and the Ravens as the best team in the AFC North at this time last year. The Jets went 10-6. 10 wins. I don’t care if they beat the Toronto Argonauts. 10 wins is 10 wins, and it’s a really hard thing to do in this league with so much parity.
The Jets now seem poised to repeat that next year with some smart additions and tough choices that replenish the team’s middle class for the first time in years. Is the season a failure? Yes, today it is. In a couple of years, if this springboards the Jets the same way a double digit win non-playoff appearance propelled arguably the best team in the NFL today (the Arizona Cardinals) 3 seasons ago, then it won’t be.
Stew Jets fans. Be angry. That means you expected more for your team, and that’s a good thing. We expect to be good. We expect to be great. We expect to beat teams because no one can cover our two wide receivers in enough games to stop us from winning double digit games again. These are not the same old Jets. No fake spike from 22 years ago, no week 17 loss near a Buddy Ryan sideline fight, no Doug Brien missed field goal has any bearing on what this team will do going forward, You trusted Bowles, Maccagnan, and the front office before yesterday. Trust them now. Trust that they will get this right and add to a team that was beating up almost every team they beat and were in almost every game to every team they lost to. Now, go tackle the offseason, and get ready for more success. Get ready for a possible repeat of this season. Same Old Jets, winning double digit games in back to back years. Those New Jets, potentially set up for a really great run amidst a season you’ve all dubbed a failure as of today.–
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com