The list of Jets fans’ laments is already endless. It is abundantly clear, for instance, that the new head coach may have assembled one of the shakiest staffs in recent memory. That’s one. They flat-out quit Sunday in Foxborough — you think that’s harsh? Go back and watch the game again if you have the stomach. That’s another.
The Patriots — in theory a would-be-rival — no longer just hold the Jets in contempt, they openly disrespect them. The Pats ran it up on the Jets on Sunday. They dropped 54 on them. And you know it had to at least cross Bill Belichick’s mind to go for 60 when they got the ball back late, after yet another Jets turnover.
(And that wasn’t even the most disrespectful shot. At halftime of this 54-13 evisceration, the Pats honored one of their all-time greats, Richard Seymour, who said when that he was asked at what game he wanted to receive his kudos answered, “I wanted to come to our homecoming game against the Jets.” Ouch.)
It never ends.
“They punched us in the freaking mouth,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said.
Yet for all of those indignities, this was the worst part about Sunday: Zach Wilson on the ground, in agony, his right knee barking at him after he had unloaded one of the Jets’ highlight plays, a deep ball that set up first-and-goal from the 2 after a New England DPI penalty.
You already know the Jets’ today is — pick your word: Depressing? Deplorable? Dispiriting? Demeaning? Wilson is about tomorrow, and next week, and next month, and with any luck the next 10 to 12 years. As shaky as he has looked, the Jets are committed to him as the anchor for whatever the future holds.
And there he was, on the turf, flat on his back, grabbing for his leg, after absorbing a crushing blow from Matthew Judon. He stayed down for an uncomfortably long time, finally got to his feet, finally limped off the field. He spent some time in the medical tent on the sidelines, then the rest of the afternoon in the Jets’ locker room. He has a date with an MRI tube Monday. Early reports are that it’s an injury to his posterior cruciate ligament.
“That’s the best-case scenario,” Wilson said.
“You never know,” Saleh said, choosing caution, a wise path.
That really is the theme of what the Jets have been trying to do these past four years, trying to acquire and identify the quarterback who can finally lead them out of the wilderness.
(If there was one satisfying moment for the Jets — and, look, this is some rock-bottom whataboutism — it’s that their erstwhile franchise starlet, Sam Darnold, may have seen his second act as a Carolina Panther grounded in a wretched performance against the Giants, in which he was benched, late, in favor of Jersey kid P.J. Walker.)
Wilson has shown flashes. He has shown glimpses. He has done this despite having maybe the worst coaching around him that any young quarterback could possibly have, since neophyte offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur right now looks more overmatched than a mutt at the Westminster Dog Show.
After two weeks of insisting they were going to do everything possible to help push Wilson through his first-quarter blues and blahs, after quickly spotting the Patriots a 7-0 lead, these were the first three plays LaFleur plucked out of his imagination and handed to Wilson:
1-10-NYJ 25: Handoff to Michael Carter, up the middle for 1.
2-9-NYJ 26: Handoff to Michael Carter, left end for 3.
3-6-NYJ 29: Zach Wilson sacked for -8 yards.
It was as if LaFleur were at the football equivalent of a piano bar, taking requests, and Belichick offered up three helpful suggestions along with a $20 tip. It was coaching malpractice, is what it was, and it felt like the kind of theme that would reverberate all game long.
Then Wilson wound up on the ground. He wound up grabbing his right knee. He wound up limping off the field, limping to the dressing room, the balance of his rookie season awaiting him in that MRI tube.
“It always sucks,” Wilson said, philosophically, “before it gets better.”
Mike White, the backup who came in and played adequately for a while, said he’d talked briefly to Wilson afterward.
“He’s in good spirits,” White said. “He congratulated me. He was good.”
The Jets hope they get a similar prognosis Monday. They are buried in bad stuff. They really didn’t need a QB1 with a bum knee.