The Jets didn’t play a game over the weekend, and that’s probably a good thing considering their current state.
While their players and coaches hopefully enjoyed a holiday respite at home with family and/or friends, the Patriots (of all teams) were doing the Jets a solid on Saturday by keeping the Jets’ scant playoff hopes aflicker with their loss to the Bengals.
But, as Jets head coach Robert Saleh said on Friday, the morning after Thursday night’s dismal 19-3 home loss to the Jaguars, “It’s not about the playoffs right now.’’
That statement, while eye-opening at first listen, meant a few things.
Firstly, it seemed folly for the Jets, in the wake of that loss to Jacksonville, to dare thinking about a playoff berth after losing four in a row and five of six, falling from a promising 7-4 to 7-8.
Secondly, the quarterback situation has spiraled into a hot mess with Zach Wilson seemingly no better than he was a year ago in his inconsistent rookie season and backup Mike White still nursing cracked ribs.
And finally, that Saleh statement was about the importance of his team simply finding a way to win a game again, Sunday in Seattle, to put an end to this bottoming out.
Because, if you’re a Jets fan and you wade your way through the muck of the past six weeks (minus the Nov. 27 win over the lowly Bears), there’s been a lot to feel good about with this team in 2022.
There wasn’t a betting line on the planet that projected the over/under for Jets wins this season as more than about five.
Remember, this was a team that won four games in 2021, Saleh’s rookie season with a roster bereft of major league talent. And the team before that went 2-14 in 2020, Adam Gase’s final season.
So, the fact that 11 games into this season the Jets had already exceeded their win total from the previous two seasons and were in the thick of a playoff chase has to count for something. Any Jets fan that denies that run wasn’t fun isn’t being honest.
There has been progress — albeit not enough, particularly at the quarterback position. But the fact that Jets have been relevant into Christmas week for something other than how high they’ve positioned themselves in the next draft is a good thing.
“There is still a lot to look forward to with this season,’’ Saleh said Friday. “We’ve done a lot of really, really cool things this year.’’
This is where the conundrum to this Jets season lies. They’ve done enough cool things this season to be a playoff team, yet barring a miracle the next two weekends, they’re going to miss the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season.
That should tick off Jets fans, but don’t take out your frustration with the previous regimes on Saleh and this regime.
As much as this past month stings, Jets fans should try to focus on the remarkable 2022 draft class that produced cornerback Sauce Gardner, who was voted into the Pro Bowl and may win Defensive Rookie of the Year, receiver Garrett Wilson, who’s a favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, and running back Breece Hall, who was en route to becoming a big-play force when he injured his knee in Week 7 at Denver.
Hall had 463 rushing yards, a 5.8-yards per carry and four TDs in six-plus games when he got hurt.
Wilson has 71 receptions for 996 yards and four TDs.
Gardner barely has any stats because he’s so good that teams rarely even throw to his side of the field.
Defensively, the Jets’ turnaround from last season to this season cannot be overstated. They were horrible in 2021, ranked last in the league both in most points allowed (504) and most yards allowed (6,670).
The Jets this season have yielded the fifth fewest points in the league (282) and fourth fewest yards (4,899).
So, Saleh is right when he says this team has done some “cool’’ things. The problem is that, with the 7-4 start, it’s difficult to see those things through the recent disappointments.
As good as the Jets have been on defense this season as a whole, it’s difficult not to fixate on that 96-yard drive yielded to the Jaguars on Thursday night or not covering that Lions tight end who beat them on a 51-yard game-winning catch-and-run TD in the final moments the week before.
All of this is completely understandable — particularly from a fan base so starved for a mere playoff berth.
“The most important thing right now,’’ Saleh said, “is finishing strong, which starts with Seattle.’’
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