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Expectations and perception: Robert Saleh and the timing of Jets’ wins and losses

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NFL: Detroit Lions at New York Jets Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

With yesterday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the New York Jets were officially eliminated from playoff contention. While this extends the Jets’ playoff drought, the mere idea that the Jets were still in playoff contention in January ends the Jets’ “meaningless December games” drought if nothing else.

Heading into this season, the Jets were not expected to achieve much, so this outcome would not have been a surprise months ago. Indeed, they entered the year with a defense that was promising (and wound up delivering on said promise) but had yet to achieve much at the time and an offense that was littered with question marks, including Quarterback Zach Wilson (who did not deliver on any such promise). In line with this, the Jets entered the season with a betting line set at 5.5 wins, a paltry number but a figure that would imply at least some growth over the 4-13 record they posted last year. By this standard, the Jets seemingly achieved around what was expected if not a little bit more with their 7 wins (with one week remaining).

However, expectations change over time. For the Jets, this 5.5 win “bar” so to speak was radically changed when they opened the season 6-3, including a 20-17 victory over the contending Buffalo Bills. At this time, expectations changed from “play meaningful games in December” to “make the playoffs.” Notably, the former expectation was met, while the latter was not, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of Jets fans everywhere; a thought that is neatly summarized by New York football beat reporter Connor Hughes.

But this begs some interesting questions.

First, should Head Coach Robert Saleh and his staff be praised for exceeding preseason expectations or criticized for failing to meet the ones set around the season’s midpoint?

Second, what role does the timing of the Jets victories play? If the Jets had instead started slow, but finished strong would this same record be widely perceived as evidence of the team’s growth rather than evidence of yet another failure to reach the playoffs?

But what do you think? How do you evaluate this team and the people responsible for it within such a dichotomous season? And would it change if the performance within the first and second halves of the season were flipped?