What Do We Know? Absolutely Nothing
As far as we’ve come with stats and info, and despite how evolved our talent evaluation methods have become, one fact remains: No one knows what the hell they’re talking about.
Those that believed Tom Brady would be a NFL non-factor are the same who thought Antonio Brown was too small to compete in the pros. And they’re the same that utterly and completely botched expectations for New York football this year.
The slam-dunk prediction was that the Giants could journey to the Super Bowl, while the Jets would struggle to win more than two games. It wasn’t isolated journalists making these prognostications here-and-there. Rather, this was the forecast across the board, from every major publication.
How could the outcome be so far off? In an era where every measurable is quantified, where each decision is hyper-analyzed, and in which no stone goes unturned, how could “experts” be so wrong?
The answer boils down to the human element in a lot of ways. You can’t quantify locker-room cohesion. You can’t breakdown on-field chemistry. Nor can you predict how certain personalities will mesh with each other come game day.
The Jets lost Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall, and Sheldon Richardson. They’re a dead team walking. Right? Wrong.
The Giants added the aforementioned Marshall, drafted talented tight end Evan Engram, and returned a top-ten defense. They’re a no-brainer Super-Bowl contender. Right? Wrong.
The Chiefs’ Game – A Microcosm
This Sunday’s game against the Chiefs personified, in many ways, the Jets season as a whole.
Early in the affair, Gang Green was bombarded. The Chiefs aerial attack easily moved down the field in their first two drives. Each culminating in a touchdown. Both, to tight end Travis Kelce. Less than five-minutes into the game, and after just six Kansas City plays, the Jets were down 14-0.
Photo: NY Post
About that time, I looked around the stadium and wondered: It’s a cold December day. There aren’t a ton of fans in the building to begin with. How long before this place empties out? After all, they’re going to get blown out.
Instead, led by a 38-year old journeyman quarterback, and an offense ripe with under-the-radar personnel, the Jets fought back and won the game.
Their win probability was just 12% following the second Kelce score. Against long odds, they continued to fight.
It’s a microcosm of their season. Expectations have been low week after week, but they continue to compete at a high level. Ultimately playing all games to the wire. All of this contrary to expert opinions.
From the Bottom to…. Not the Bottom
After 12 weeks, the Jets are only one one-win shy of .500. Who saw that coming? And the funny thing is, they could easily own a better record.
Outside of the Oakland game, where they were smashed by 25 points, the Jets have lost just one other game by more than one score. That coming in the season opener, where Gang Green fell, 21-12.
Since then, when expected to be in “tank-mode”, the Jets haven’t lost by more than one score. In losses to New England, Miami, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Carolina, they lost by seven points or less.
Even further, the Jets held late leads in almost all of those games. They led 14-0 against the Patriots, 28-14 against the Dolphins in the fourth quarter, 17-13 in the third quarter versus the Falcons, and 20-18 against the Panthers in the fourth quarter as well.
Three of those opponents being far from pushovers. New England is 10-2, likely the AFC’s #1 seed. The Falcons are one of the most talented teams in football, just one game out of a playoff spot. And the Panthers are 8-4, right in the NFC postseason picture.
Still, again led by a 38-year old journeyman quarterback, and a makeshift offense, the Jets nearly came out on top. Wins in just half of those games, has Gang-Green at 7-5, tied for the final wild card spot.
Finally, They Did What They Couldn’t
The difference in those losses, and the win versus the Chiefs on Sunday, was simple: The Jets closed this one out. In the fourth quarter, trailing 31-30, the offense marched 75-yards. On a 14-play, nearly seven-minute drive, they ultimately took the lead on a Josh McCown quarterback sneak.
That type of drive, late in the game, hadn’t been there in previous weeks.
At the same time, the defense tightened up. With 1:30 left on the clock, the Chiefs were unable to tie the contest. The late game grit, both offensively and defensively, was the difference in the 38-31 victory.
If the same scenario took place some of the previous losses, we would be talking about a possible playoff team.
What Does It All Mean?
In the end, the Jets won’t make the postseason. In fact, they’d be happy to reach seven wins. Next week they take on the Broncos. Then, they get the red-hot Saints, Chargers, and Patriots. The only possible win comes against Denver. However, Mile-High is no treat in December, no-matter who’s at quarterback.
Again, the Jets aren’t a great team. Again, they’re not a bad team. So what are they?
Well, they’re a team that defied the verdict given to them in the preseason. They proved themselves mentally tough. It would’ve been easy for the Jets to roll over and quit, like their New York counterpart has. But they haven’t.
Now you might say, “Conor, moral victories only matter in horseshoes and hand grenades.” (That’s how the saying goes right?) “Who cares if they’re mentally tough? I want results!”
And you’d be right. There are no moral victories in sports.
However, we’ve seen what Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan have done with a makeshift roster, in a rebuilding year. With the likes of the undrafted wide receiver Robby Anderson, an up-and-coming defense, and a pieced together offensive line, the Jets have competed with some of the best teams in football.
Imagine what they can do if Maccagnan finds more Robby Andersons. Diamonds in the rough, at a few other positions. The Jets will be a competitive, playoff caliber team.
Maccagnan has proven he can uncover talent. Todd Bowles has shown he can galvanize a team shrouded in negativity Give this combination time and results should show. Sooner rather than later.
Featured Photo: chiefs.com