The New York Jets playoff dreams officially died on Sunday at Lumen Field as they lost to the Seattle Seahawks 23-6. The loss was the Jets’ (7-9) fifth straight as they plummeted out of playoff contention over the last several weeks.
It also extended the NFL’s longest active playoff drought to a record of 12 consecutive seasons. Gang Green, who last reached the playoffs in 2010, finished with a losing record for the seventh straight season. The Jets did improve from Robert Saleh’s first season as coach as the team finished 4-13 in 2021.
Now let’s eulogize the season it was for the Jets with one game remaining.
What went right?
The Jets defense was the worst in the NFL in 2021. This season, Gang Green fielded one of the best defensive units in the league.
Led by a talented secondary with Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, D.J. Reed, C.J. Mosley and Quinnen Williams, the Jets are third in the NFL in total defense (311.6) and fourth in points allowed (19.1). That is a significant difference from when the Jets allowed 29.6 points per game and an average of 397.6 yards per game a season ago.
The Jets defense has slipped the last month or so as it has allowed a number of critical plays that helped determine games against the Lions, Jaguars and the Seahawks.
Another aspect the Jets can hang their hat on is their young talented draft picks also produced at a high level. Gardner made the Pro Bowl after recording 65 tackles, 16 pass breakups and two interceptions. Wide receiver Garrett Wilson has caught 74 receptions for 1,014 yards and four touchdowns.
Running back Breece Hall also was a huge contributor before his season-ending ACL injury. He is still the Jets leading rusher despite not playing since Week 7, as he rushed for 463 yards and four touchdowns.
What went wrong?
The Jets quarterback carousel came back to bite Saleh in a major way. Zach Wilson was his guy, until he wasn’t.
After missing the first three games of the season because of a preseason meniscus tear, Wilson was once again mediocre as he completed a league-low 1,688 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Wilson was eventually benched multiple times throughout the season. The first time was following the loss to the Patriots in November. Then after the game, Wilson failed to take accountability for any part of the loss.
That’s when the Jets turned to backup Mike White, but he didn’t fare much better as the Jets only won one game while he was under center. White was a bit better than Wilson but not good enough to lead them to the playoffs, as he threw for 1,192 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Jets went back to Wilson after White fractured his ribs, but he continued to show the same inconsistencies that got him benched in the first place as he was benched for practice squad player Chris Streveler. White returned and started against the Seahawks, but he threw two interceptions, finishing with 246 yards and completing 23 of 46 passes.
The Jets headed into the bye week 6-3 as it looked poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010. But since the bye week, the Jets have gone 1-6 as their offense is averaging 13.4 points per game
Hall’s absence was evident in the second half of the season as the Jets have had trouble moving the football on the ground.
MVP: Defensive tackle, Quinnen Williams
Williams had the best season of his career as he recorded 33 tackles and 12 sacks as he was arguably the best defensive tackle in the NFL this year.
When Williams played, he was dominant on the Jets defensive line, as he was unblockable at times. He and Gardner were the two most consistent Jets players this season.
Least Valuable Player: Running back James Robinson
It is easy to pick on Wilson, but the trade for Robinson was useless. The Jets were desperate after Hall went down, so they acquired RB James Robinson from the Jaguars in exchange for a conditional sixth-round draft pick that could become a fifth-round selection.
While they didn’t give up much for Robinson, they have to regret the move. Robinson has been inactive for more games (five) than actual games he has played for the team (four).
Upcoming free agents
George Fant, LT; Connor McGovern, C; Sheldon Rankins, DL; Joe Flacco, QB; Dan Feeney, LG; Lamarcus Joyner, S; Mike White, QB; Solomon Thomas, DL; Greg Zuerlein, K; Nate Herbig, RG; Vinny Curry, DL; Kwon Alexander, LB; Mike Remmers, RT; Cedric Ogbuehi, LT; Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, RG; Nathan Shepherd, DL; Jeff Smith, WR; Nick Bawden, FB; Quincy Williams, LB; Bryce Huff, DL; James Robinson, RB; Ty Johnson, RB; Marcell Harris, LB
Gameplan entering the offseason
The Jets must address the quarterback position in a critical season for Saleh and his coaching staff. The Raiders’ Derek Carr and the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo could both be options who could be available for the team during the offseason. Either player would be a significant upgrade from Wilson and White.
The Jets also need to improve their offensive line, as George Fant was a shell of himself at right tackle. Even with Alijah Vera-Tucker returning, the Jets could use help at guard and maybe a left tackle, as Duane Brown will be 38 next season.
Gang Green could also use another receiver opposite Garrett Wilson as maybe that’s any area the team addresses in the draft.
Early prediction for the 2023 season
The Jets will sign Garoppolo while selecting Paris Johnson Jr. at tackle in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Hall’s will return and give the Jets a much-needed boost in the backfield.
If the Jets can fill some hole offensive while adding Garoppolo, they will be a Wild Card team in 2023. No matter who will be under center, the pressure to make the playoffs will be monumental for Saleh, general manager Joe Douglas and the Jets in 2023 after their collapse this year.