The response I received in emails and Facebook wall posts ran from despondency to depression to surrendering the season. Back came shouts of "Same Old Jets." But now that we've had a few days to digest the 16-13 OT loss to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo Bills, we can take a step away from the precipice and attempt to understand the real reasons the Jets played so poorly.
That wasn't Richard Todd or Browning Nagle throwing interceptions. That wasn't Roger Vick or Bruce Harper fumbling. It wasn't Mark Gastineau hitting the quarterback late. It's not SOJ.
If you've read my columns at JetsConfidential.com, you know I've taken it upon myself to keep our expectations at a realistic level this season. For weeks I've detailed issues which, over the course of a 16-game season, could cost the Jets. Isn't it something how we forget how long the season is? That's why after the 3-0 start I warned against putting the Jets in the playoffs.
Have we forgotten the Jets have a ROOKIE quarterback? Mark Sanchez' feeble, five-interception performance had "rookie" written all over it. In my view, the $50 million signal-caller had no clue how to handle the Giants Stadium wind. In his first five up and down performances, Sanchez threw accurately. Sunday his passes were all over the place. He may want to call Phil Simms. Knowing how to deal with those winds is an absolute must if Sanchez' wishes to be successful here. There's no getting around it.
Sanchez will bounce back. He hasn't lost all his confidence after six games. Even though Kellen Clemens may have moved the offense better for a series or two Sunday, Rex Ryan did the right thing sticking with his rookie. The Jets have declared they can "win now" with a rookie QB.
As bad as Sanchez was, the Jets could have won the game anyway, had it not been for TE Ben Hartsock's holding penalty which nullified RB Thomas Jones' run deep into Bills territory with 11:32 to go in overtime. That brings me to issue #2.
The Jets committed 14 penalties for 96 yards. Some were killers. CB Lito Sheppard's illegal contact foul nullified his interception on the same drive the Bills scored their only touchdown. S James Ihedigbo gets the gold medal for stupidity for his personal foul on the opening kick-off of overtime. To quote Vince Lombardi, "What the hell is going on out there!?!"
Eric Mangini took a beating around here after the Jets fired him. His teams played disciplined football. Is Rex Ryan's bravado leading to swagger-licious stupidity?
I don't know if Sanchez will be a great quarterback. I don't know if Ryan will be a great head coach. How about we give them at least one full season before descending into hysterics? My preseason prediction that the Jets would finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs did not take into account the possibility of injuries. Now irreplaceable NT Kris Jenkins is out for the season. The defense will not be the same.
So unless you expected the Jets to play in the AFC Championship game, you need to chill out. John Elway, Troy Aikman, and Eli Manning, just to name three, struggled mightily during their rookie campaigns. Joe Flacco tossed seven interceptions in the Ravens 2-3 start last season.
Be realistic with your expectations. Evaluate the team at the end of the season. If the Jets are still playing meaningful football in December (considering their schedule, they should), don't get greedy. The Jets have a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach!
Some more observations:
2) Have the Jets solved their running game problems? We'll see. Yes, they rushed for 318 yards (Jones 22-210, Leon Washington 15-99). However, the Bills run defense is atrocious. Buffalo entered the game ranked 29th. Thomas Jones was brilliant, but some of my friends with whom I watch the games might have run just as far on his two long bursts (64 and 71 yards), considering the enormous whole and how badly out of position was the Bills' defense.
3) I have been critical of Jones this season. He obviously can still take it to the house.
4) Rex Ryan has the same problem that plagued Eric Mangini: no elite pass rusher. The Bills, with a back-up QB and make-shift offensive line, gained 296 yards against the Jets once dominant defense.