In the NFL, there are times where the journey is as important as the final destination.
Had you asked them before the start of the season, I am sure many Jets fans would have gladly signed up to be 7-8 after Week 16 with numerous young players showing signs of strong development. In fact that type of progress seemed like it might be too much to ask for.
Now that we are here, things feel very empty. The Jets are 7-8 after their 19-3 loss in Week 16 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. They have lost all four of their games in December after beginning the month three over .500 an in Playoff position.
This season has had its positive moments. The respective developments of Garrett Wilson, Sauce Gardner, and Breece Hall have been fun to watch. Quinnen Williams’ leap to stardom has helped transform the Jets defense.
This team is better than it was a year ago. The Jets could still have a bright future.
However, this is a very frustrating way to end a promising season. A team that was once 5-2, 6-3, and 7-4 now appears primed to end the season under .500 and out of the the postseason for a 12th straight year. A season that seemed like a potential stepping stone where young players learned how to win is ending with loss after loss.
With the season essentially on the line against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Jets turned in a total no show.
The game began with the defense forcing an immediate turnover deep in Jaguars territory. The Jets failed to take advantage on a sequence where the play calling left much to be desired. The Jets didn’t take a shot to the end zone to try to establish an early lead.
From that point, the Jaguars dominated. Jacksonville scored on four of its next five possessions. The only stop the Jets got was due to a missed field goal. The Jaguars moved the ball at will. Never was this truer than the 16 play, 96 yard touchdown drive that lasted from the late first quarter to the early second quarter. This gave the Jaguars a lead which they would never relinquish.
Part of the reason they would never relinquish this lead was the ineptitude of the offense. The Jets didn’t score again for the rest of the evening and seldom threatened to do anything.
The offensive failure has a thousand fathers. Mike LaFleur had a baffling game calling plays. It began on that first series. It continued through the rest of the night. LaFleur’s wrinkles didn’t work and frequently threw the offensive off. An offensive line that has had to be reshuffled due to injuries all season long has been showing the impact of this instability the last few weeks. This has impacted the run game which has become inept the last few weeks. And outside of Garrett Wilson, the Jets have received wildly inconsistent wide receiver play all season long.
That brings us to the biggest problem with the offense. When the offense fails, the young quarterback frequently is the target of the blame. As I mentioned above, Zach Wilson certainly isn’t the only problem with the offense.
Just because Wilson isn't 100 percent of the problem does not make him 0 percent of the problem, though. A week after doing some good things in an inconsistent performance against the Lions, Wilson undid that good in a dreadful outing. This has been the story of Zach Wilson’s career. One step forward. Two steps back.
Wilson struggles to read defense. His inconsistent mechanics lead him to missing throws an NFL quarterback needs to make. They also make his arm strength in game situations far less dynamic than his raw ability in shorts would suggest.
Amazingly, the Jets benched Zach Wilson in this game for practice squad quarterback Chris Streveler. A move like this speaks volumes about a team’s view on its quarterback.
What is even more shocking is that the offense looks better with Streveler under center. The former CFL quarterback is clearly nowhere near NFL level competency as a passer, but his running ability gave the Jets offense their only positive moments of the night.
Before the start of the season, there was a debate about whether it would be better for the Jets to make the Playoffs or miss the Playoffs but got development from Wilson.
The way things have turned out, the team is getting neither. It is the worst of all worlds. The Jets are likely to miss the postseason for a twelfth straight year, and the biggest reason is how little the team is getting from the most important position one the field.
The Jets are in freefall mode. Even in a year where the team is meeting expectations on paper, it is difficult to feel good about things because of this late season collapse and the situation at quarterback.