In Dante Alighieri's classic work, the Divine Comedy, Virgil acts as a guide on an all expense paid tour of the underworld. At the entrance to Hades there is an inscription that includes these immortal words:
Ye who enter here abandon all hope.
Perhaps Dante was a Jets fan. He may have foreseen days like today, when the New York Jets managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against the Miami Dolphins, losing 27-23 in Miami. After blowing opportunity after opportunity in the red zone all game, the Jets were gifted an opportunity with under six minutes to play when the Dolphins' punter fumbled the snap on fourth down, resulting in the Jets taking over on the Dolphins 18 yard line. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick quickly hit Jalin Marshall in the end zone for a touchdown and the Jets took the lead for the first time since the first quarter. Unable to withstand the unexpected prosperity, Antonio Allen drew a crucial penalty on the ensuing kickoff. On the re-kick the Dolphins returned the kickoff for the game winning touchdown. It was just another way to lose in a lost season for the Jets.
The Jets are now 3-6 on the season, their fleeting playoff hopes have all but vanished, and with seven games to go the Jets are largely just playing out the string. Let’s talk about the good and the bad below.
Robby Anderson. Anderson has quietly been improving week by week. He has added a lot of underneath work to his route tree and he is becoming a legitimate threat out there. Today he beat his man badly for what should have been a long touchdown early in the game, only to have Ryan Fitzpatrick miss the throw badly. Anderson finished the day with four catches for 49 yards, including a great leaping 27 yard reception in the fourth quarter that set up a first and ten on the thirteen yard line for the Jets.
Brandon Marshall. Marshall had a quiet day statistically, finishing with six catches for 45 yards. But he had a spectacular one handed grab to save an errant Fitzpatrick throw, and he drew a couple of big pass interference penalties on the Dolphins. Marshall mostly won his matchups on the day.
Jalin Marshall. Three catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Despite yet another fumble on a fair catch early in the game this was Marshall's best day as a Jet.
Matt Forte. 12 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown. Forte was doing his job and doing it well all day.
Darrelle Revis. After perhaps his worst day as a professional last week Revis all but shut out his assignments today, and did good tackling work as well. We'll never have vintage Revis back, but this was a nice bounce back day for him.
Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. The Jets have not disclosed whatever it was that got these two knuckleheads benched for the first quarter of today's game, but whatever it was, they just cannot allow themselves to be in that situation with the season's hopes hanging by a thread. Much of the damage the Dolphins did on offense happened in the first quarter, when Wilkerson and Richardson were on the bench. It is fair to say whatever they did to deserve a benching may have cost the Jets this game, and with it their faint remaining playoff hopes.
Julian Stanford. He got burned repeatedly in pass defense, he did not fare much better in run defense. Stanford did a nice job the last couple of weeks as an emergency fill-in, but today he reminded us why he is not really NFL starting material.
Darryl Roberts. Roberts looked lost in pass coverage most of the day after being brought in to replace an injured Marcus Williams. It's not really his fault, he's being asked to do more than he's probably capable of at this point in his career, but it was not a good day for Roberts.
Ryan Fitzpatrick. Another day, another bad Fitzpatrick performance. Under 200 yards passing, two interceptions, repeated failures to stick the ball in the end zone in the red zone, a sub 64 passer rating, numerous passes way off the mark, a completely insane lateral to Bilal Powell on the dead run that luckily did not result in a turnover, a couple of fumbles; Fitzpatrick was terrible yet again. At this point the argument that he gives this team the best chance to win rings as hollow as it did when the Jets were saying the same thing about Mark Sanchez in the waning days of his Jets career. Fitzpatrick gives the Jets almost no chance to win against any reasonable level of competition; how that can be meaningfully better than the available alternatives is a mystery to which only Todd Bowles has the answer.
Brian Winters and Wesley Johnson. I'll have to review the tape to be sure, but the Dolphins put a lot of pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick today, and much of it seemed to come from the Winters and Johnson assignments.
Buster Skrine and Calvin Pryor. Without their two 15 yard personal foul penalties on the Dolphins opening drive the Jets would likely have held the Dolphins scoreless there.
Jordan Jenkins. He dropped a gift interception right on his numbers that might have ended in a badly needed pick six for the Jets.
Special Teams. Giving up the game winning kickoff return for a touchdown immediately following the Jets go ahead touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter broke the Jets back and was unforgivable. Antonio Allen deserves special mention for forcing the decisive re-kick with his penalty.
Todd Bowles. This team was completely undisciplined for this game. It started even before the kickoff, with undisclosed transgressions by Wilkerson and Richardson resulting in first quarter benchings for both of the Jets defensive linemen. It continued with the Jets giving the Dolphins 40 of their 75 yards on the first Dolphins touchdown drive, and it continued throughout the day with dumb penalties at crucial times that hurt the Jets. Despite the many problems in this game, the Jets played well enough to win today, save for the lack of discipline. That lack of discipline falls squarely on Bowles.
The Jets are now 3-6 on the year. With two games still remaining against the mighty New England Patriots and lost tiebreakers against most of the wild card competition, the Jets' slim playoff hopes all but died today in Miami. It is unlikely head coach Todd Bowles will throw in the towel as long as the Jets are not mathematically eliminated, but at this juncture it would probably be best to begin the Petty and/or Hackenberg era. I don't think that happens next week, but it should. Every other Jets veteran on this team other than Muhammad Wilkerson is now playing for a job in 2017. Change is coming, it's just a matter of when. Many Jets veterans are not playing nearly well enough to justify their salaries; we'll see in the coming weeks which ones still wish to be Jets in 2017 and beyond.
This frustrating team has had two different decade long droughts where nothing went right, once in the 1970s and again in the late 80s to the late 90s. We are now well into our third lost decade, with 2016 well on the way to becoming the Jets' sixth straight season without a playoff berth. Looking at the current options at quarterback and the state of the rest of the roster there is not a lot of reason to hope for a quick turnaround in 2017. For those of you too young to remember what the 70s and the late 80s to late 90s were like, this is it. Frustration, hopelessness, despair, with the Jets all too often just good enough to find new ways to lose. Hang on Jets fans, it will eventually get better. It always does. In the meantime a sense of humor and a stash of your favorite intoxicants will do wonders to get you through this.