The 2022 Jets Season was a Mirage

It was November 27th, 2022 - not long ago - and Mike White had just spent all afternoon looking like the franchise quarterback that all Jets fans had hoped Zach Wilson would be by now. In a rain-soaked affair, White threw for over 300 yards and the Jets easily handled a Bears team that looked like they were ready for the offseason to start early. Since that day - a day when FiveThirtyEight gave the Jets more than a 50% chance of making the playoffs - reality has hit the Jets, and hit them hard. They are winless in 6 attempts since White’s 315-yard, 3-touchdown performance and have looked more like the same old Jets than the young, upstart team we saw to start the season. The question the team and many fans are facing, is: what exactly happened?

An answer the team and its fans may not want to face: they were never that good to begin with. That 7-4 start that had them thinking playoffs? That was likely a mirage, and we’ll cover why below. Wilson’s 5-2 record as a starter when he came back from injury? He was being elevated by the team more so than he was elevating those around him. What about that heralded 2022 rookie class? Sauce Gardner continued to be a lockdown corner, but Breece Hall, a major contributor to their fast start, didn’t play after Week 7 with his ACL injury, and Garrett Wilson was held to 30 and 18 yards in Weeks 16 and 17 respectively as the Jets have sealed their non-playoff fate. With the run game having fallen off over the last month, teams were able to key in on Wilson as the Jets go-to option.

All the answers the Jets seemed to have at the beginning of the season are seemingly gone, and many around the organization are left scratching their heads as to how to fix a situation they never saw coming.

What the front office may not want to admit is that they aren’t as far along in their rebuild as they hoped, or quite frankly needed, to be at this point. The first half of their season included a heavy dose of luck just to get to 7-4. During their 4 game October win streak, they faced Kenny Pickett and Skylar Thompson in their first NFL action, as well as another backup in Brett Rypien and Aaron Rodgers coming off getting his thumb hurt the previous week against the Giants. Not to mention, Pickett and Thompson were unexpectedly thrust into their first NFL action against the Jets, with Pickett replacing the ineffective Mitch Trubisky at halftime, and Thompson having to come on in injury relief when Teddy Bridgewater was knocked out by Gardner after one play. None of those QBs inspires much confidence, aside from Rodgers, but no one knew the extent of this thumb injury at the time, so the upset win in Lambeau wasn’t as impressive as it seemed. The Jets faced mediocre teams, with uneven quarterback play and won a few close games. In reality, those who follow closely should have known the team was getting ahead of itself with playoff talk. It was a green and white colored house of cards just waiting for the right teams to come along and knock the Jets out of playoff contention.

If the Jets had faced the normal gauntlet of quarterbacks, they very likely would have been closer to .500 and we would have been talking about 2023 being the year to breakthrough and make the playoffs. All of that patience was thrown out the window and expectations were reshaped however, when the Jets started hot and had a chance to end the NFL’s longest playoff drought. That is very unlikely to happen however, until the Jets figure out their own dilemma at quarterback.

A position they never thought they would be in less than 24 months after drafting Zach Wilson, Joe Douglas and the front office must evaluate all possible options this spring and bring in a quarterback that can elevate those around him and bring this team to the playoffs. The defense and skill position groups showed flashes this year and with some continued upgrades through the draft and free agency, this team could be ready to compete with the rest of the contenders next year - so long as the offensive line gets fixed as well. The front office must pick and choose their upgrades wisely this spring with limited resources compared to drafts and free agency periods in recent memory.

This year will end with largely the same sentiment as it started: missing the playoffs was to be expected, but there was some improvement over last year. The mid-season playoff push was a nice bonus for those that watched throughout the year, but this was never the year for the Jets to truly compete. The team is largely trending in the right direction with the exception of the quarterback position. If that position can be improved to just the NFL average, this time next year the Jets will have ended their playoff drought, and mid-season winning streaks won’t be such a facade.

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