A Wakeup Call

A Wakeup Call

Before I begin to dig into the meat of what the Jets provided as "entertainment" today, let me first regale you with a story about myself and my recent communication with the team. You see, this past weekend, the Jets played the Eagles at MetLife Stadium, and I went to the game. It was the first game I had gone to since 2019 when the Jets played the Steelers in the home finale, a game where the stadium seemed to feature an even split between green and gold.

On Friday morning, I received a call from a number identified by my caller ID as "New York Jets L." I was suspicious of the call, since the caller ID also indicated that it was a number from Louisiana, but I answered the call and confirmed that I was indeed speaking to a representative of the Jets. This representative immediately apologized to me for the team's decades-long failures, their more recent unwatchability and my miserable experience watching the team lose to the Eagles in a soulless performance, then I was offered the opportunity to become the team's next general manager.

Okay, I'm kidding; that didn't actually happen. The team representative only called to ask if I was interested in going to any other games this season. I don't know if you have experienced any calls like this one, but I must say that I find it odd that a team would need to sell tickets this way. We're coming off a 2020 season where no Jets fan was allowed to go to MetLife Stadium to watch their favorite team play, and that was probably for the best, as the hopelessness of that entire year should have enabled the franchise to properly hit the "reset" button on fan investment with a new coaching staff, new quarterback and a new direction for the team.

So, again, I find it odd that as late as Friday morning, the Jets were calling me in an effort to sell just a few tickets. I held open the possibility that I could go to the game, asking to be emailed some information regarding available tickets for the game against the Saints so that I could select them for myself in case I was interested. I even checked the weather report for the game several times on Friday and Saturday to confirm that it would indeed be a nice enough day in New Jersey to want to go spend several hours in an open air stadium. The only thing I needed was a traveling companion, and I made plans with a cousin to go. My cousin, however, informed me that some minor illness was getting in the way and it would likely not be a good idea for us to go out in the New Jersey football weather to watch our team probably lose. So, in the end, I didn't go.

Watching the television broadcast and the Twitter feeds of the Jets beat, I can see why the team was resorting to phone calls to solicit tickets. I'd be surprised if the stadium even reached half-capacity, and I definitely don't think the ratio of Jets fans in attendance to Saints fans in attendance is greater than five to one. I know- and almost every Jets fan knows- that this season was not supposed to be about winning and would likely feature a lot of pain. This season was supposed to be about building hope for the future, and that is always a painful process, regardless of which team or which regime is doing the rebuild.

Edit: ESPN says that the official attendance for this game was nearly 70,000. I find that extremely difficult to believe. If anyone has any differing figures or can explain the discrepancy with ESPN's count with what the eye test showed, please tell me.

Even still, the lack of attendance today is a damning indictment of the lack of patience we as a fanbase have left for this sort of slog through a season. Where is the hope that we're supposed to be building? After losses like the one we just had, that question becomes increasingly difficult to answer.

So let's actually break down what happened. In the week leading up to this game, we learned that WR Corey Davis would miss the remainder of this season with a core muscle injury that required surgery. I know that Davis has thus far disappointed to put it mildly, but as I said in my post from last week, there's not much I'm going to complain about with the signing right now. Suffice it to say that he wasn't a particularly great option for the Jets offense anyway.

No, the real loss ahead of this game was rookie WR Elijah Moore, who was placed on IR during the week when Saleh was originally optimistic about him being able to recover from his second quad injury of the year in time for a game against a rather average passing defense. It really hurt that they were counting out their young receiver for at least three games in the middle of his ascent to the top of the receivers' depth chart, but I do think the Jets made the right decision to be cautious with him, especially after they botched Davis's injury so badly that his season ended last week against the Eagles. Joe Douglas has been abysmal when it comes to injury management with this team stretching back to his arrival in 2019, but that's a separate story.

Couple those injuries with the previous losses of the team's top runner in RB Michael Carter, the team's original top tight end in TE Tyler Kroft and other cogs in RB Tevin Coleman (who was great last week), RB Austin Walter (WHO WAS ACTIVE FOR THE GAME TODAY), TE Trevon Wesco (who... I guess is an offensive player) and WR Jeff Smith (who is more important to this team than a certain second round pick, hold that thought) and you've got an offense that is not going to inspire a lot of that precious hope we've been looking for in this team.

That's not to say that this offense had nobody of note; the offensive line was still respectable today and the presence of WR Braxton Berrios was a welcome one. In fact- and I know this is an unpopular take- TE Ryan Griffin had a good day today and has had a good enough season to justify his return next year (I'd like him to take a pay-cut to remain as this team's TE3, as I certainly don't want him as the team's starting TE next year).

That's about it, though; this offense is not good enough to overcome the loss of its top two receiving options and its top two backs. That's obvious, as few teams are deep enough to win games in that manner. No, the focus is not on how the Jets lost; it's on how lifeless this team looked on offense against an average NFL defense.

For starters, let's review the game plan. OC LaFleur showed strides from the first six games of the season where he directed the worst offense in the league- in large part due to his awful play-calling- to the following seven games where his offenses at least looked average (when not playing the Bills). He was pretty pass-happy over this period, even with three different backup QBs playing in half of those games. To this day, the team's rushing offense is among the two worst in the league (I know that Carter's absence is a big factor in that, but they weren't exactly feeding him before his injury).

Runningbacks are among the most replaceable components of offenses in today's NFL; the days of teams taking RBs high in the draft or regularly spending big on external free agent runners should be well and truly behind us. That's why I was puzzled to see the stat sheet for today's game and realize that LaFleur didn't seem to have much faith in his backs to be able to lead a rushing attack in the absence of both Carter and Coleman. Do you know how many carries Ty Johnson and La'Mical Perine received against the Saints? I'll tell you the answer: 13.

I don't care that they only gained 45 combined yards on those 13 carries; you compensate for the loss of your top two receivers by running ball. Perine's 14-yard carry is what I'd point to as evidence of how you balance your offense. (Sidebar: That's the second-longest run of his career by the way, and his 4.0 YPC is the second-highest of his career with a minimum of seven carries. A truly great use of a fourth round pick he's been.) The fact that they only handed the ball off 13 times needs to be thoroughly reviewed, because a stronger rushing attack is needed to support your struggling rookie quarterback.

Which brings me to the main reason why it's difficult to feel hope right now. LaFleur isn't the main reason why this offense was so terrible today; the plan might have been a good one, but the execution was definitely lacking. The Jets first three offensive drives today were all killed by Ty Johnson, practically single-handedly (or no-handedly, if you will) tanking their efforts with drops on each possession. It looked like at least two of those drives could have been salvaged had he caught his passes and prevented three and outs on each one, so LaFleur wasn't the one who failed the team there (with only Perine able to play in relief of Johnson, you really couldn't bench him). A few other drops occurred in today's game courtesy of DJ Montgomery and Keelan Cole, bringing the unofficial count of drops to somewhere between five and eight.

Most, if not all, of those players I just mentioned will not return to this team next year; Perine and Johnson are both under contract for 2022, but the Jets have made it pretty clear what they think of Perine with how they've used him this season, and this game definitely highlighted Johnson's deficiencies in the passing game. No, they're not the reason why this loss made the feeling of the game so soul-crushing.

The reason is that rookie QB Zach Wilson had yet another awful performance, one week removed from a performance that earned him the fan-voted Rookie of the Week honors for the second time in 2021. This is the paradox with Wilson that I described in my first post on this site; Zach Wilson can both make throws that amaze you and throws that horrify you. It's not even his reads that are giving him troubles at this point, as he has slowly come to make better decisions with the football over time. Perhaps that was his benefit from his time on the bench, but the more glaring issues were with his short and intermediate passes, as seen in both the Titans and Falcons games before the bye week.

His in-pocket clock for snap-to-throw was poor after it was actually good against the Eagles. He took three sacks against the Saints, but two of them (plus the intentional grounding flag) were squarely on him not being able to make the decision to get rid of the ball where he could get it out. This is supposed to be something that he was supposed to learn to do while on the bench, but it's still a struggle with him.

He still has yet to correct his inaccuracy at short range. In fact, his accuracy at long range was also a concern in this game, though I'm not going to get too caught up in those issues when the shorter throws are the ones that need the most attention. I don't know how to repair those issues; these are throws that he presumably made all of his life before coming to the Jets, so it's weird that he consistently struggles with these throws with the most talented players he's ever had the privilege to throw to outside of perhaps Tyler Allgeier. It's likely a confidence issue, given that Wilson is also pitted against the most talented defensive players he's ever played against that are given full clearance to kill him if they get the chance, so useless are the referees. A quarterback's throwing mechanics and overall performance will suffer when he's scared of contact, and with Wilson still not being fully recovered from his knee injury, pain flareups in his plant leg is another likely contributor.

No matter the cause, however, it is a problem, one that the Jets really cannot allow to continue. I know I criticized the Jets for their offseason plan of letting Wilson get all the snaps possible at any cost and I said that I wanted them to at least stick to their philosophies if they truly believed in them, but Wilson's level of play is so concerning that it legitimately might be best for him and the team as a whole if he were to return to the bench. They could use his knee as an excuse too, as well as his failure to protect himself (seriously; there was absolutely no reason other than stupid, misplaced pride for Wilson to dive headfirst for the endzone on the game's final play down two scores, and if he had been injured in that moment, I would be outright demanding that he not play another snap this season).

It's not that Wilson is a rookie and rookies make mistakes that more seasoned quarterbacks are expected to refrain from making; it's that Wilson is not showing much of what made him the second-overall pick in this year's draft. Even with him winning the Rookie of the Week honors for his performance against the Eagles, it's not like he was particularly impressive in that game. His first half was really good, but his second half was mediocre at best. The fact that he won the award is both a testament to the will of the Jets fanbase and an indictment on the relatively meek week from stat-recording rookies in that week (and I guess Micah Parsons doesn't count as a rookie anymore; how else could you explain him not even being eligible for votes?).

It's really just the Titans game where he displayed his potential, and that feels like a lifetime ago after several bad performances and an eighteen-plus quarter layoff in between. If you exclude that game from his season stat totals, he has six touchdowns and ten turnovers, a 55.4% completion percentage, a season-high passer rating of 83.9 from his Eagles game and a season-high output game of 258 yards against the Panthers (and the last 103 yards or so were in garbage time, so even that is worse than it looks). His raw QBR in 2021 is the worst of any qualifying QB over the last ten years, and only Jimmy Clausen's 2010 season overall is worse among qualifying QBs since the metric was introduced in 2006.

I like Kenny Pickett a lot (and not just because I met his mother one time). I have been a fan of his since the start of the 2019 college season, and when the Jets were 0-6 in 2020 with Pickett appearing ready to come out of college at that point in October with the Jets not really looking like they were actually going to get the No. 1 overall pick and with Sam Darnold ready to return from injury, my thought back then was "Keep Darnold one more year without exercising his option, spend another fourth-round pick on Pickett to get QB competition and see which one rises above the other." When it became clear to me that the Jets needed to move on from Sam even if they missed out on Trevor Lawrence (which they did), I realized that we could not afford to make a move like that; even if Pickett hadn't decided to return to Pitt for another season, the Jets needed to spend a first round pick on a QB no matter what. Pickett's Heisman-finalist breakout season has given me a lot of joy.

But the Jets should not be drafting Kenny Pickett next year.

For starters, Joe Douglas does not have the standing with either the fanbase or the owners to be able to survive an abject admission that he whiffed on the second overall pick so horribly that he needed to draft a new QB after one year. He also has insisted at every turn that his faith in Wilson is unshakeable, and despite all of his exaggerations and half-truths to the public over the years, this is one he cannot afford to waver on so quickly. Second, it's not like another season of rookie struggles would allow him to coast for another year without a competitive product, so it's not a good idea to bank on Pickett having a Justin Herbert-type rookie year in a Jets uniform. Third, as big a fan as I am, I'm not even certain I'd want to spend an early first-round pick on him, considering the fact that he has had several injuries in college, and he's only had two of five college seasons where he started every game.

And, most importantly, it is way too soon to decide whether or not Wilson is a hit or a miss. Certainly, the early signs are cause for alarm, and I absolutely want the Jets to invest in a premium backup for Wilson to lean on (or even one to supplant him should it become necessary next year) this offseason. Veteran options I'd want include Andy Dalton, Teddy Bridgewater, Jimmy Garoppolo should he be cut, Joe Flacco if he actually wants to come back next year, maybe even Daniel Jones from the Giants if their next GM cuts him or wants to trade him for a 5th round pick in a future year, guys of that type. Mike White doesn't cut it, sorry.

And no, despite what Mac Jones's likely OROY award might tell you, Mac Jones leading the Patriots to their current record does not mean the Jets made a mistake passing on him for Wilson. It means they made a lot of other mistakes along the way, many of them made by the previous regime. Just because I wanted to draft Justin Fields or I like Kenny Pickett does not make Zach Wilson an outright bust. I'm willing to show enough patience with him and this regime to give them another season to make this work. We won't know if the Jets made a mistake with the QB they drafted for at least another year, as I doubt any of the guys they could have drafted in that spot would have been performing well enough to make you certain that we finally have the right guy.

I know the Josh Rosen argument and even made it myself to try to convince others that Wilson's job is not totally safe. Here's the truth; I've acknowledged that Douglas and Saleh are coming back next year, and neither one can afford to admit defeat with Wilson and keep their jobs. If the Jets lose out their final four games and all of them are blowout losses, maybe there's a chance they get the boot, but I for one think that a four-game-blowout-loss streak is unlikely to happen. As bad as I think Saleh has been this year as a head coach, he's going to get a second year to progress just like Wilson.

On that note, by the way, I also want to spend a quick moment dissecting Saleh's performance in this game. I don't even want to criticize his defense for being among the- if not the- worst in franchise history because it's the same song and dance we've been doing essentially nonstop since the Falcons game. Let me just focus on his game management and describe how awful it was. Even with the last-minute loss of RB Austin Walter before kickoff, there was absolutely no reason for Johnson to be out there on the Jets' third drive after drops on back-to-back possessions. Perine was available to go out there on the third drive as we saw and should have been the one out there for the pass.

Additionally, his clock management at the end of the first half was just awful. The Jets had three timeouts and a four-minute drive to run from their own 25. They gained 11 yards in the first two minutes, getting down to the two-minute warning at their own 36.

Fresh out of the two-minute warning (with three timeouts, let me remind you), the Jets hand off to Ty Johnson (his fourth carry of the half) up the middle for one yard. They don't call a timeout. They let the clock run for thirty seconds until they get their next snap off, which turned out to be a 22-yard completion to Ryan Griffin to get to the Saints' 41 yard line. They don't call a timeout. They hand the ball off up the middle again to Ty Johnson for barely a yard's gain.

They still don't call a timeout. They run another play, this time a short pass to Ty Johnson (his first catch of the day after his three drops, so I can't believe they designed a route for him) for 16 yards. He's tackled in bounds.

They finally call a timeout. The Jets- with all three timeouts and barely any offense gained in the first half prior to this possession- burned nearly 90 seconds after the two-minute warning to get to the Saints' 24-yard line. This is not good clock management, in case you couldn't tell, because it makes it difficult for you to regain any lost yardage at this point to get the touchdown, and that's exactly what happened when Denzel Mims committed penalties on back-to-back plays to push the Jets back 15 yards to the 39-yard line to lose 11 more seconds. Thank goodness Jamison Crowder was able to corral an off-target throw from Wilson (and according to ESPN, he had ten off-target passes in this game) for 11 yards to get the Jets back into a respectable field goal range for their new kicker Eddy Pineiro to kick the field goal, but the Jets entered halftime with a timeout in their back pocket. Mims was put in the position he was in partially because the Jets were hastening to do simple things they absolutely could have avoided, and their second round pick from last year was essentially benched for two guys who had previously spent the entire season on the practice squad as a result.

Saleh wasn't totally bad in this game as a head coach. I liked his aggressiveness on 4th down when the game was still in reach, though his decision to kick a meaningless field goal in the red zone down 17 points was the exact sort of white-flag mentality we were promised that Saleh would never show, a step up from the surrenders Gase showed as head coach. The overall grade, however, defines him as a hindrance rather than a boon. As I previously stated in my first post, you expect a coach to get better at game and clock management with experience, but it is not a given; Saleh's showing next to no improvement whatsoever in these regards. That's not even mentioning his supposed defensive prowess and rotational philosophies on defense often working to the detriment of the team's performance.

This game- if nothing else- needs to serve as a wakeup call to the organization that things are not all right now. Forget the plans that the Jets claim to have about how they will rebuild this team; the rebuild is not working year one- even if the draftees from this year's rookie class look like they are good- because the rebuild is supposed to give us hope. Right now, it is hard to muster any in the face of yet another blowout loss and horrid performance from the quarterback.

Please, Jets, give us a reason to believe, because belief- like respect- needs to be earned in this league, and you have earned none from me or anyone else.

This is a FanPost written by a registered member of this site. The views expressed here are those of the author alone and not those of anybody affiliated with Gang Green Nation or SB Nation.