Game #15: J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets

Joe Namath on the Shea Stadium dirt in a classic AFL game.

Last week’s game featured yet more injuries to an already poor Offensive Line. This is not a good idea when facing Aaron Donald. The Rams are surging towards an unforeseen playoff run. The WFT is limping towards the offseason. A losing result was expected and delivered. The good news is that this season is nearly over.

For those wanting a Quarterback controversy it will have to wait. Learning is rarely a linear progression. There are stalls, back-steps, and often surges as the learner moves forward. Young Sam Howell is stuck behind an atrocious Offensive Line. It actually got better when Tyler Larsen moved to Center some weeks back. He left the game. So did Left Guard Charles Leno Jr. For him to lose some confidence was inevitable. Ron Rivera got him out of harm’s way to re-focus. It was a good move. In today’s NFL the backup QBs are an invaluable commodity. Some 15 teams (46%) are operating with a backup under Center. Jacoby Brissett is a prototype for a QB2. After his cameo on Sunday there are surely teams kicking themselves for not getting him at the trade deadline.

There was one silver lining to the loss on Sunday. Rams’ backup QB Carson Wentz did not lead their offense. Losing to him would have been an especially bitter pill.

The Jets began life as the Titans in 1960

The Jets began their franchise as the Titans in 1960, one of the AFL’s original eight teams. Harry Wismer started as sole owner of the team. His first coach was none other than Washington icon “Slinging” Sammy Baugh. By 1962 the team was in such dire financial straits that the League covered their deficits. New owners came in. One of the co-owners was Leon Hess. If you’ve been to the Northeast you’ve seen his green and white gas stations. With the team moving from the dilapidated Polo Grounds to Shea Stadium a big change came. La Guardia airport sat just Northwest of the stadium. Jets constantly flew over the stadium on a Southeast or Northwest breeze. Hess’ green and white colors combined with the airliners overhead lead to a name and appearance change. In 1963 they became the Jets.

Shea Stadium with the ubiquitous jet overhead from nearby La Guardia airport.

There are only two cities with two NFL teams; New York and Los Angeles. In both cases the second team is the proverbial red-headed stepchild. Even when the Jets played at Shea they were the second fiddle to the Mets. Any conflicts of schedule went the way of the baseball team. The Jets were playing small market teams in the AFL while the Giants were playing the larger market NFL teams. When the Maras decided to move the G-men to the Meadowlands in New Jersey, the Jets were not far behind. But, they were always the second-class citizens there. The end zones were converted to green for the games. The seats remained blue and red, however. When the Giants had a miserable decade in the 1970s the League intervened. They needed that franchise to be successful. George Young was dispatched from the League offices to be the General Manager in 1979. The Jets had an equally dreadful decade without one single winning season. No such intervention from above was forthcoming for them, however.

By the time George Young retired in 1997 the Giants had been to the playoffs eight times and won two Super Bowls. During the same time period the Jets went through five General Managers. They did make the playoffs five times…and never won a single playoff game. It’s not the “Tale of Two Cities.” It’s one city with one team that has, and one that does not have.

The Jets’ season in microcosm; Aaron Rodgers gone for the year after four plays.

Off-season hope is a commodity best consumed in moderation. If there was ever an example of that it would be the Jets this past off-season. The long-subdued Jets Nation went through all the tease and titillation during the wooing of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. Then there was the joy of Rodgers actually coming to the woebegone franchise. The cost was stiff. In return for Rodgers, the 2023 #15 pick, and the #170 pick the Packers received the 2023 #13, #42 and #207 picks plus a 2024 second rounder. That 2024 second could have turned into a first if Rodgers played 65% of the plays this season. The Jets also picked up his $37 Million salary for this year, and possibly others. All through the Training Camp the story out of New York was that Rodgers was re-born. The team was excited and ready to crack through the paradigm of the Loser Jets. It all lasted for a total of four plays. For the WFT faithful it should be a cautionary tale.

Off-season hope is a commodity best consumed in moderation.

Rodgers’ Achilles tear threw the team into a tough spot. They had drafted Zach Wilson in the #2 slot after Trevor Lawrence in 2020. He’s athletic, strong, and had all the attributes that so-called Draft Experts love. For those that follow those people, like Mel Kiper, the two QBs picked shortly after Wilson were Trey Lance and Mac Jones. Drafting high up on a QB is not unlike throwing a paycheck down on “Box Cars” at a Craps table. His performance was ghastly in 2022. The team held on to him thinking he’d be the understudy to Rodgers. So, they passed on veteran backups, like Brissett. Wilson got the starting job that had been ripped away from him after the year before. His improvement was negligible. Wilson has thrown 23 touchdowns after 34 games. Sam Howell has thrown 20 in just 15 games. Now Wilson is in concussion protocol. This season will add just another layer of woefulness on an already painful Jets fan experience. Burgundy and Gold folks know all about it. But, there are three Lombardi trophies in Ashburn. In Flushing there remains only one already more than 50 years-old.

This game pits the WFT’s League-Worst Defense against the darned-near-worst Jets’ Offense. But, the Jets have a better than average Defense. It’s 11th against points. Were the Offense good enough to sustain some drives, thereby keeping the Defense on the sidelines more than briefly, they’d rank higher. Washington’s Offense is 23rd.

It’s always chaos in the New York sports world. This week was maybe the miraculous return of Rodgers after only 14 weeks of recovery from his surgery. It didn’t happen. But, Rodgers appears to have the Owner’s ear. He’s talking about next year and beyond. And, he loves the Coaching Staff. That’s the same Jets Head Coach that has had his team score zero touchdowns in a full one-fourth of his games. No TDs in a game does happen to most teams on occasion. If it happens four or five times a season that’s something different. Robert Saleh is probably safe. That’s only because of Rodgers.

It will be fascinating to see how these two teams turn out when they meet again in four years.

This year’s matchup is more a question of which team has quit completely. It’s a real possibility that they both have. Still, it’s an opportunity that Sam Howell must fully exploit. Those, and escaping the horrid Met-Life Slit Turf without injury are some of the top points of interest.

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