Triskaidekaphobia. It is the fear of the number 13. Some say this common superstition got started with the Christian tradition, as the betrayer Judas was supposedly the 13th man at the table during the Last Supper. Others point to the fateful day of Friday the 13th of October, in the year 1307. That was the terrible day when King Philip IV of France made his move against the powerful Knights Templar, arresting the leaders throughout Christendom in a movement that would ultimately utterly destroy the Templars and, centuries later, give rise to no end of ludicrous pseudo-history television shows and pulp fiction.
Whatever the origins of the superstition, the fear of the number 13 is ingrained in our culture, to the point that many hotels have no 13th floor. Now the New York Jets are confronted with their own fearful 13 apparition, and perhaps they too should be afraid.
It all started with Geno Smith. Smith was drafted in the 2013 draft. Smith was supposedly a turnover machine, and in truth he did turn the ball over too much, to the tune of 13 interceptions in his last season, when he had 13 starts. In those 13 starts he also accumulated 13 touchdown passes. Over the course of his starting career Geno managed to post a cumulative AV of 13. And get this: Geno has one career reception, for - you guessed it - 13 yards. Spooky.
With Geno's propensity for the turnover the Jets came to develop a case of triskaidekaphobia and decided to move on to a new quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, who, as fate would have it, wears the next number up, number 14. In addition, to further the move away from the feared 13, the Jets went out and acquired number 15, Brandon Marshall, who would end up being number 14's biggest supporter. Through the first 14 games in which number 14 played the majority of snaps for the Jets all went reasonably well. The Jets were 10-5 and just one more win away from a playoff berth. But even then, perhaps we should have seen the warning signs, as number 13 was brewing up a storm. In his last two starts before the season ending 2015 loss against the Buffalo Bills, number 14 completed exactly 26 (that's 13 times 2 for those keeping score at home) passes in each contest. In addition, in each of those two games he ran for exactly 13 yards. The fates were conspiring in a gathering tempest.
Then came the buffoonery in Buffalo. Three interceptions, a 43 passer rating, and a crushing 22-17 defeat at the hands of ex-Jets head coach Rex Ryan. The Buffalo game took place on 1-3 (there's that number again!) of the year 2015, and in that game the Bills got off to a quick 13 point lead. The 2015 season would end without any playoffs for the devastated Jets and their fans. This of course meant that 12 teams made the payoffs, and the Jets ended up being - surprise! - the 13th best NFL team in 2015. It would also end with a pretty good AV of - say it with me now - 13 for number 14.
On to a fresh start in 2016. Where number 14 has promptly cratered. In four games Fitzpatrick has thrown 10 interceptions. That has resulted in a disappointing 1-3 (there it is again) record. In his last five games Fitzpatrick has thrown - sing it now! - 13 interceptions. That is the same number of interceptions it took turnover machine Geno Smith 13 games to accumulate in his last season as a starter. Over those last five games Fitzpatrick has had a passer rating of 77 or under in four of them. Over Geno Smith's last five games he has never posted a passer rating under 83. In his last five games Fitzpatrick has had a passer rating under 60 in three of them. Geno Smith has had passer ratings under 60 in three of his last eighteen games. In his last five games Fitzpatrick has three games in which he has thrown three or more interceptions. Geno Smith has three such games in his entire career. Fitzpatrick has also fumbled in each of his last four games.
Is Geno Smith the answer to the Jets woes? Probably not. He has not shown enough in his brief career to inspire much confidence he will be a long term answer at quarterback. But with Ryan Fitzpatrick's recent run as a turnover machine far exceeding anything Geno Smith has ever done, the case that Fitzpatrick gives the Jets the best chance to win gets weaker with each passing game. Perhaps it is time to fear the 13 interceptions in Fitzpatrick's last five games. Perhaps a small dose of triskaidekaphobia would do the Jets some good right now. Perhaps it is time to see if Smith can banish the furies currently hounding the team and leading Jets fans to their ruin. Otherwise the 2016 Jets may go the way of the Knights Templar that fateful Friday the 13th more than 700 years ago, and be utterly destroyed.