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Did the New York Jets play till the final whistle? Why the surrender index would imply otherwise.

Giving up is never a good look

NFL: New York Jets at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

There is an old expression that teams are supposed to play until the final whistle, which is really just another way of saying that the game isn’t over until it’s over.

Despite that expression, I’ve long thought that wasn’t the case for the New York Jets under the era led by Head Coach Robert Saleh though. It seems quite common that the Jets opt to punt late in the game with nary a care in the world for whether that will give them enough time to get the ball back with enough time to make up the points that they need.

Last Thursday’s game provided a perfect examples of just that if we check out the Surrender Index built by @ShackOverflow on X. At a conceptual level, the surrender index essentially measures how “cowardly” a punt is based on how harmful opting to concede the ball to your opponent rather than going on 4th down is. To calculate this the statistic accounts for components such as time left in the game, field position, score, distance for a first down, and win percentage following the punt or if a team had succeeded. Long story short, it accounts for how much choosing to punt harms a team’s chances of actually winning the game.

If we buy into this statistic then we then have to come to terms that the New York Jets had one of the most cowardly punting decisions in NFL history last week, which paints a bleak picture for whether Saleh’s Jets were really playing to win the game until the final whistle or simply trying to minimize the amount that they lost by.

To confirm, if we believe the Jets intentionally took a delay of game to then punt (which they sure seemed to do) then that is a 99.9th percentile cowardly punt. That all but means that more cowardly punts do not exist. While playing from the Cleveland 39 and only needing 6 yards the Jets opted to punt. If we want to give them the benefit of the doubt then we could say they punted on 4th and 11... which would still make it a 94th percentile cowardly punt. Either way, not great.

And I want to emphasize this point because it bears as much: the Jets were down by three possessions in the 4th quarter when this occurred... which means that following this punt there was a decent change they might not have the chance to possess the ball the three times needed to tie the game. By comparison, if they had completed a relatively attainable 4th and 6 and even gotten 3 points then they very well could have had enough time to (at least theoretically) tie the game up while down by 2 possessions.

All things considered, that’s quite a decision for a coach whose mantra is “All gas, no break.” Perhaps they’ll consider using something more accurate for Saleh’s 2024 campaign.