Rewind two weeks. Even on a three-game losing streak, at 0-3 in the month of December, the New York Jets still had a great chance of making the playoffs.
In a year of taking “receipts,” making bold comments like “we’re going to see these guys again” after a loss to the Buffalo Bills, Robert Saleh’s team, with everything to play for, could not look more uninspired to play ball over the last two weeks. Seemingly, quitting after allowing a 4th&1 to go for a 51-yard touchdown.
Since then, it has been a football team that started both games flat, played with no heart, and showed little to no life or emotion on the field at any point—essentially playing up to the “Same Old Jets” mantra.
In the first of these last two games, with the season at stake, Saleh’s defense came out in the first quarter and allowed the Jaguars to put together a 96-yard touchdown drive with ease. That, along with two 61-yard drives for field goals. Also, while it may not have resulted in points, an unchallenging two-minute drive that led to a manageable field goal. All in the first half.
Despite losing that game, their fourth straight, as the home team on a Thursday night, embarrassingly, the Jets got all the help they could have asked for in Week 16, with both the Patriots and the Dolphins losing. Knowing they got all the help needed, with nearly a week and a half to get right physically, and, coming off yet another frustrating loss, the Jets would still come out fired up to play yesterday, right?
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New York Jets look to have quit over the last two weeks:
Not at all. On the first play from scrimmage, the Jets allowed a run to go for 60 yards. Just two plays later, the Seahawks punched the ball into the end zone. Just a minute and a half into a monumental game, the Jets were trailing 7-0. Not only that, but the Seahawks’ next two drives both went for over 55 yards, one concluding with a touchdown, the other a field goal. Not even 16 full minutes into the ballgame, and the Jets had allowed 17 points.
It has been a football team that has played with virtually no sense of urgency when it has been required most. Two of the Jets’ better contributors in yesterday’s defeat, Ty Johnson and Tyler Conklin, were both asked about it by SNY and vented their frustrations.
Conklin specifically, stated the following.
“You come into a game like this it’s basically a playoff game, right? This week. And if we win next week would’ve been two. And, it just didn’t feel like a playoff game atmosphere on our side of the ball, you know, in my opinion, we were flat at times. I don’t know why that is. That’s not on anybody specifically, that’s just kind of the feeling I had on that sideline, is we just seemed kind of flat.”
The unfortunate moral of the story for Jets fans painfully waiting for this football team to get back to the playoffs. And it was not just offensively, to Conklin’s quote above, but the entire team did not play with the energy of a group hoping to get in the playoffs by any means.
When this happens, it falls on everyone, but most importantly, starts with the head coach.
And it is not to take away from the encouraging signs of growth Saleh showed in year two over the first 12 weeks of the season. But this team routinely looking flat to start games with everything on the line is certainly not a good look for him.
As to why this team has played noncompetitive over the last two weeks, look no further than to some of the public statements made by Saleh with regard to playoff expectations. As stated in the introduction, it was after the Bills’ loss that Saleh made a loud claim that the Jets would see them again in the playoffs. At the time, a message that was widely well-received and likely gave his team confidence. That comment, though, was not even made one month ago (December 11th).
Fast forward to not even two weeks later than that statement, with an opportunity still there, in which Saleh said thinking about making the postseason is “farfetched” and that it’s “not about the playoffs.” Perhaps, this team simply took on the attitude of its coach and played they way it did yesterday.
As noted, Saleh proved progress on the way to the Jets’ 7-4 start, and it is the reason why his job would be safe. Should the Jets lose in Miami this week though, look to be lifeless again, and conclude the season 1-7 on a six-game losing streak, one would be more than reasonable to say that Saleh should at the very least be on notice.
The Jets, looking unprepared, getting beat physically, and never showing any sort of restraint over this five-game losing streak, is not endearing for Saleh. Unfortunately for him, while he is still in a favorable position to be the Jets’ head coach in 2023, these recent struggles have only made his seat hotter. Seeing this team play as uninspiring as it has over the last two weeks with the playoffs still in reach has been quite disappointing for Saleh to conclude the 2022 season.