2016 New York Jets: Road to Nowhere

David Aitken on the New York Jets upcoming second half and where they go from there…

Two straight wins. Two matchups upcoming against teams with 3-4 records. On the surface there is an opportunity to salvage the season with the two matchups left with New England being the only other games left on the schedule against teams with winning records. And yet despite this window of opportunity, the season still feels practically over for the New York Jets…

Every season seemingly there is a team that digs out of an early hole to make a run at the playoffs, but counting on it to be the Jets is setting yourself up for disappointment. Not all teams of similar records are created equal. The 3-5 Jets are 29th in the league in point differential per-game – putting the Jets firmly in the company of the 0 to 2 win teams. Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric for team efficiency has the Jets 31st and above Cleveland by the very smallest of margins. That’s sobering to say the least. The Jets have played eight games, they’ve won three, they’ve been competitive in four of them. The other half of the games thus far the Jets have been far and away the lesser team and the scoreboard showed it. It’s a far cry from say the 3-5 Chargers, who have been competitive every single week and have suffered some heartbreakers. It was only natural the Jets would suffer defeat over the first half of the season with their schedule – it is a terrible sign that the Jets were not even competitive in so many.

In a league built around the pass, the Jets according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA are the 30th ranked pass offense and the 31st ranked pass defense. It would have been fair to some extent if the Jets had a slower start than last year given the difficult schedule, but DVOA is opponent adjusted. The Jets aren’t just “unfortunate” right now. They’re just not good. The starting quarterback failing to complete even half of his passes against Cleveland should be a telling sign of that.

There are plenty of reasons why the team is not performing up to expectations, but it has to start by looking at the payroll and two of the team’s highest paid veterans – quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and Darrelle Revis (and to an extent, the secondary in general).

The Revis situation is aggravating on a number of levels. For one, it’s been a Nnamdi Asomugha in Philadelphia type drop in coverage quality. We’re now celebrating the moments where Revis is serviceable as if it’s a small victory in temporarily mitigating the embarrassing reality of his contract. Forget great receivers, he’s been mismatched now by just good athletes at the receiver position. His effort in run support has been pitiful and it basically ruins any ideas of moving him to safety as his top-shelf athleticism declines. The saddest thing of all though is it seems like the edge is gone, the leader and that arrogant defender that was willing to call Randy Moss and Terrell Owens out and back it up. He’s admitting his body is breaking down. He’s admitted he came into the season with a weight problem. That looming paycheck not withstanding, would it surprise anyone if Revis just retired after this year?

With the way Revis’ contract is structured I imagine he’ll be back for one more year, and in planning for that it’s a little understandable that Bowles keeps going with Revis in an attempt to salvage something looking toward 2017. But limiting his snaps for younger players looks like the smart move here, with players like Darryl Roberts and Juston Burris who would benefit from the experience. But there’s no magic fix here – a player who is being paid to be an anchor on the backend is now the reason the ship is sinking.

Fitzpatrick has been bad. He was always destined to disappoint the fans that put him on a pedestal after 2016, but even the more levelheaded fans who were fair in expecting a less forgiving version of Fitzpatrick are still being let down terribly. What was *hopefully* a limited but red zone effective journeyman quarterback the team believed in is now the absolute worst quarterback in the NFL that the team has no choice but to be stuck with for the remainder of the year.

Any chance of a real spark went down with Geno Smith in the first half of the Baltimore game. That is not to say Smith would have been the season’s savior – there is a good chance the Jets were just going to get be getting a different flavor of disappointing quarterback play – but there was at least a chance of something happening. At worst Smith at that point in the season was inarguably an upgrade over Fitzpatrick, and he was the only alternative on the roster with starting experience.

Naturally the “Ready for Petty” and #HackHive chatter has increased, but it’s a desperate shout. We’re not going to see either of them unless the Jets are mathematically eliminated or Fitzpatrick suffers injury, and there is a reason for that. Hackenberg is an open and shut conversation – the Jets drafted a flawed prospect that they think can turn it around eventually, but year one he is a broken player. Say what you want about whether that is worth taking in the second round – it is how they’re approaching it and if there is any chance Hackenberg makes something of himself down the line, they’re probably right approaching it that way. Hackenberg seeing the field this year is probably more an indication they’ll be ready to move on from him rather than commit to him, as it would be the excuse publicly to cut bait and draft the next guy if the chance is there in 2017.

There has been a lot of cases in recent Jets history of the “most popular guy is the backup quarterback” cliche, but Bryce Petty is taking that to the next level. Just two months ago the debate was whether he was even worth keeping on the roster as the third quarterback. Since scraping by with just enough to be worth keeping around as a third QB, he has been sidelined with injury until just two weeks ago. He was active for the first time just last week. Bowles has already called Hackenberg “not too far behind” Petty. Given how far off Hackenberg is, that sounds more like an indictment of Petty.

The Jets kept these two quarterbacks presumably because they think with further seasoning they could be something going forward, and want to maintain both their rights for a much more uncertain 2017 QB forecast. They offer no spark in 2016, and starting them outside of necessity is an admission of defeat.

And there is going to be no admission of defeat. It’s been explained by Joe perfectly here. Teams don’t ever try to lose, and this isn’t a team in year one that can justify “tanking” by basically just having a barren roster and playing young players like the Browns. There was never going to be a fire sale midseason (although the Jets did try to trade Sheldon Richardson), those types of roster purges just don’t exist in the NFL. The Jets are stuck how they are for the rest of the year – talented enough and a weak enough schedule to avoid the wheels coming off, but woefully unequipped to salvage the season in any meaningful way.

There are changes that are going to be coming, and a good deal of veterans are probably playing their last season with the Jets. In the meantime, sadly, there is precious little to get excited about. That top draft pick is not on the horizon nor is some storybook 2002-esque playoff push. But hey, Quincy Enunwa, right?

Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com