Overreaction Friday was sprinkled with predictable calls for the head coach’s head, armchair play-callers and a bunch of Al Bundy’s who surely could run circles around the players they watch every week just because they once scored four touchdowns in a homecoming game.
The geniuses were out in full force the day after the Jets’ 21-17 loss to the Browns. Venting might be a part of a fan’s DNA, but let’s find some perspective.
You mean Gang Green, a Vegas underdog, lost a Thursday night road game with a 21-year-old quarterback making his third career start in 11 days? The horror! The shame!
It’s a wonder that the rest of the NFL owners haven’t already called an emergency meeting to contract the league to 31 teams.
Memo to the lazy Same Old Jets crowd: This wasn’t one of the worst losses in recent Jets history. I’ve been to 138 consecutive Jets games in the past decade and covered the team in some form for 15 years. This isn’t in the Top 10 worst losses in that window.
This one stings because the Jets squandered an 11-point halftime lead, not because they lost the game. They were projected to lose the game by people with no dog in the fight.
If you were paying attention (which is a dangerous assumption), you would also have already known that the Browns are a re-made, rising team that, frankly, should have won their first two games against two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
That being said, the Jets don’t get a free pass. A combination of untimely penalties and an irritating inability to finish games doomed them.
“I’m not perplexed,” Todd Bowles said Friday about whether he’s confused why those two issues are carrying over from last season. “It’s different things that happen at different times. You don’t want things to happen on a two-point play. Some plays (the quarterback) has too much time in the pocket and they can’t cover (receivers) forever. Sometimes the pressure is good and they’re not covering (receivers) at all or are blowing an assignment here or there. With a young team and with certain new guys, it’s something we have to iron out.”
Are penalties a coach issue or a player issue? There’s not a cut-and-dried right answer.
If you want Bowles gone, you’ll suggest that it’s on his staff to ensure that players don’t make some of the costly bone-headed penalties that loomed large Thursday night. If you believe that Bowles’ sole responsibility lies in conveying proper teaching points, then you’ll point the finger at the players.
“Well, the penalties are definitely on the players,” Bowles said. “I mean, coaches can’t play for them. We understand situations and we know what to do and what not to do. Guys got to be calmer in certain situations.”
Bowles is right, but there is another important element to the equation.
Although players bear the responsibility of carrying out what they’re taught, there must be real consequences for stupid actions. Practice pushups don’t resonate.
Isaiah Crowell’s classless, low-brow touchdown celebration that drew an unsportsmanlike penalty should come with a punishment that will actually matter to the player.
Players have repeatedly told me that they respect Bowles, but there’s no greater sign of disrespect to your coach and organization than actually thinking that simulating a No. 2 and wiping your butt with the ball is a cool idea. You’re a professional, not a five-year-old.
Although Bowles does privately fine players for transgressions, it’s peanuts. It’s incumbent upon the coach to take away playing time. That’s what players care about the most. Crowell should sit for some portion of the next game against the Jaguars.
It can be a tough pill to swallow, because taking a starter off the field ultimately hurts the team. So you’re effectively punishing everyone for one person’s blunder. But nothing else will get through to these guys.
The Jets certainly need to be more disciplined moving forward, but there’s a misguided perception that it’s been like Animal House under Bowles. The closer to the opposite is actually true.
Only one team (Vikings) was flagged fewer times per game than the Jets (6.75) in Bowles’ first season. Only five teams were flagged fewer times per game than Gang Green (6.94) in 2016. Last season was the first time it became a concern. The Jets’ 8.75 flags per game ranked fifth. Through the first three games this season, the Jets’ 8.3 average is 18th in the league.
“I feel like the calls are a little bit ticky-tacky here and there, but those are the rules,” said cornerback Mo Claiborne, whose defensive hold help set the stage for the Browns’ game-tying two-point conversion on a trick play. “Certain things you can’t do. You see a lot of flags being thrown. The game is changing right in front of our eyes. You either change with it or you get losses.”
Bowles absolutely shouldn’t be absolved of blame. He still has plenty of room to grow. He needs to improve … and quickly.
There were simply too many times when his defense wasn’t lined up when Baker Mayfield went into hurry-up mode. Sure, the players don’t get free lunches, but coaches should be held responsible for relatively simple matters like proper pre-snap alignment.
The Jets’ inability to close games is the most maddening — and nebulous — issue. It’s fixable, but what’s the solution? Finding ways to lose is grating on everyone.
The Jets’ curious decision to take their feet off the gas pedal in the second half doomed them last night. Bowles & Co. treated an 11-point lead like a 21-point lead with a relatively conservative offensive plan after intermission.
Bowles and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates took a smart approach in the first half committing to the run. Although the Jets averaged only 3.7 yards per attempt, the sheer volume of runs (19 runs vs. 12 passes) before intermission was precisely what was needed to help Sam Darnold in a short week against an ultra-aggressive defense. It helped Gang Green build a 14-0 lead.
The second-half plan was simply too conservative. The Jets should have been in attack mode. Instead, they played it safe with short, high-percentage passes for Darnold, who admittedly was less decisive than in his first two games.
It’s not too difficult to understand what happened Thursday night. Bowles, an old-school coach, wanted to make it clear to Bates that running the ball was paramount after last week’s pass-happy approach against an aggressive Miami front didn’t exactly work out.
“I thought we were well-balanced on offense,” Bowles said. “I thought we had some plays dialed up off what they did. They changed some things around in the second half that negated some of the things we had dialed up. But I thought offensively we had a good game-plan … and it was balanced.”
The Jets, frankly, didn’t make tangible second-half adjustments. That’s absolutely a coaching issue that must be rectified to help cultivate Darnold’s talent.
“I know we got good character,” Bowles said. “I know we’ll fight and I know we have a decent team. We just got to cut down and fix some things.”