LAS VEGAS — The New York Jets’ season has become a game of Mad Libs. Change a few nouns or adjectives here and there, maybe, but in the end, the story is still the same.
The defense is good. The offense can’t finish drives. The offense doesn’t get into the end zone. Zach Wilson makes some tricky decisions. Greg Zuerlein had a busy day, kicking field goals, the only source of offense. Thomas Morstead had a busy day, punting, because the offense couldn’t keep moving the ball. Penalties kill drives. The defense is doing its job. The Jets were still in the game at the end. Then it’s over.
Robert Saleh called the injuries self-inflicted in his postgame news conference, but he feels the Jets are close. He won’t blame the quarterback or the offensive coordinator. Defensive players bite their tongues and talk about how the team can win if they can only score points themselves, or hold their opponents to zero points instead of 3, 6, 10 or 16. Offending players lose words.
Rinse, repeat. It’s just the same — and Saleh doesn’t seem to be itching to make the kind of change that might prompt a competency offense. He won’t bench Wilson. He won’t take the play-calling away from offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. The Jets lost to the Raiders 16-12 on Sunday, a team so dysfunctional that they fired their head coach, general manager and offensive coordinator a few weeks ago, with one of the worst defenses in the league and a fourth-round rookie starting with the quarterback. And it is the same as before.
Jets fall to Raiders, Zach Wilson throws expensive late INT
If Saleh doesn’t take the reins of the Jets’ offense and do what needs to be done to fix it before the season slips away — another year without the playoffs, like so many in the past — then maybe the players need to take control situation in themselves.
“They asked me today: Are you OK to talk to the media?” tight end Tyler Conklin said after the game. “I said, yes, I will speak, but what do you expect me to say? That’s the thing, it’s a broken record at this point. We need to know this. We can’t keep going out here and doing this over and over again. Lowering the defense, our team. I hope I have answers to (reporters’) questions about why we can’t score in the red zone, why we have so many penalties, all those things, but there’s not really a good answer to give you other than what we need. just think about it.”
The Jets scored on their first three drives Sunday night, all field goals. They punted on five consecutive drives after that, followed by another field goal, an interception by Wilson and then the clock running out on the final drive. The Jets haven’t scored a touchdown in 11 quarters. They scored 13 offensive touchdowns in nine games. Wilson has thrown one touchdown pass in his last five games and five for the season. For comparison, Josh Dobbs has caught six touchdowns in two games in the 12 days since being traded to the Vikings. At the end of Sunday’s game, the Jets had five punts, four field goals, eight penalties, 14 first downs and zero touchdowns. Five of those first downs came on the last two drives of the game.
“It’s frustrating,” running back Breece Hall said. “I’ve been saying that since week one.”
Wide receiver Garrett Wilson showed emotional distress after the game, on the verge of tears.
“I don’t know what you want me to say,” Wilson said. “I’m tired of this, man. I want to play better. The offense wants to play better. Every week we try to do it. Disappointing.”
It was as sad as I’ve ever seen Garrett Wilson after a loss. pic.twitter.com/80rnhVV9Cb
— Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) November 13, 2023
The first words out of Saleh’s mouth in his post-game news conference were the words he says almost every week, win or lose. All anyone wants to know is why his offense has gotten worse since last year, when he parted ways with Mike LaFleur as his offensive coordinator and changed his offensive coaching staff.
He made many excuses. The Jets haven’t found any solutions.
“What’s hard for me is when I’m watching the game – it’s easy to look at the play-caller, the head coach, the quarterback,” Saleh said. “But we move the ball. Now we move the ball. But only penalties, penalties on the O-line, penalties on the tight end, penalties on the running back. Silly things we have to clean up or it will never change. But we can clean it up and at least give ourselves a chance to play clean football, to see what it looks like. I still believe it will be good.”
The Jets got into the red zone once on Sunday, and they didn’t convert. That’s the expectation at this point for the NFL’s worst red-zone offense. But the defense did its job, again, and another impressive performance was wasted. The Raiders were 5 of 15 on third down, quarterback Aidan O’Connell threw for 153 yards and the Jets held star wide receiver Davante Adams without a catch in the second half. They forced two turnovers, including a forced fumble late in the fourth quarter to stop a potential Raiders scoring drive. Zach Wilson then turned around and gave it back to them when he telegraphed a pass to wide receiver Allen Lazard, allowing linebacker Robert Spillane to jump in front of him for what turned out to be a game-deciding interception.
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) November 13, 2023
Wilson wasn’t the problem Sunday, but he remains a problem. Wilson threw for 263 yards, but 92 came on the final two drives. The play-calling did him no favors — at times, Hackett seemed afraid to let Wilson do anything but give it up or check it. Breece Hall had 47 yards on three catches, but wasn’t targeted until the fourth quarter, even though he was the most dynamic player the Jets had with the ball in his hands.
“This is something we really need to look at,” Saleh said.
The Jets’ defense — which ranks third in the NFL in Expected Points Added, according to TruMedia, and seventh in points allowed — is performing to an impossible standard. If it gives up any points, or doesn’t score any points of its own, the Jets will likely lose. They know too. This is not the defense of a 4-5 team. This is a playoff-caliber defense stuck with a middling, remedial offense.
“I wouldn’t say it’s surprising,” cornerback Sauce Gardner said of the 4-5 record. “We don’t play complementary football. It’s just a fact. This is not surprising.”
The defense knows it has no margin for error with this offense playing this way.
“Yeah, but that’s how we’re used to it,” Gardner said. “The coaching is if they can’t score, they won’t win. When you embrace that, we always wear it.”
Coach Saleh on the performance of QB Zach Wilson. pic.twitter.com/HZxPShxYj6
— New York Jets (@nyjets) November 13, 2023
Saleh may not want to make a change, but the players seem ready for one. This week, that may come in the form of a “players-only” meeting, the cliched get-together for teams that find themselves falling apart at the seams.
“Yeah, it’s all on the table,” Garrett Wilson said. “We are trying to figure it out. I see something going down soon because it has to. I’ll take care of it. We’ve got some guys in this locker room that know how to lead and we’ll see what the trip back to New York is like, what we’re talking about. We have to do something.”
Conklin even reached for it.
“We’re definitely at that point where something needs to be done,” Conklin said. “We can’t go into next week and roll the ball out there and expect it to be better. I don’t know what we have to do, but we have to do something this week to get on the same page. .
Today is Week 11. The Jets have played nine games. The offense is worse now than ever. This should be a playoff team. Instead, the Jets are losing to the Raiders, and the Giants are barely losing.
“It’s frustrating as hell,” Conklin said.
(Photo by Garrett Wilson and Nate Hobbs: Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)