The Jets play the Patriots next week. For all of the shocking information that will follow, please keep this at the forefront of your mind. As decrepit, depressing, and disheartening as the Jets’ 23-3 loss against the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football was, the most harrowing part is that their season is all but certain to get worse.
Last year the New York Jets fell to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football in Week 3, as the Browns snapped their nearly two-year winless streak with a come-from-behind win. Somehow, Monday night’s loss was worse for the Jets than losing to one of the most hapless squads in NFL history. New York’s slow-motion catastrophe began last Tuesday, when the Jets cut kicker Kaare Vedvik and signed Sam Ficken, their fourth kicker of the year. On Wednesday, franchise quarterback Sam Darnold was sent home from practice with strep throat. On Thursday, it was revealed that Darnold had mono, not strep throat, and that if he played football, his spleen could rupture. Nothing says the New York Jets quite like this ESPN graphic:
Whoever cooked up this graphic is, without hyperbole, a hero pic.twitter.com/FzuISbsHXI— Summer Choate (@WordsandBeer) September 17, 2019
Darnold’s absence made Trevor Siemian, a seventh-round pick whom Broncos GM and infamously bad quarterback evaluator John Elway drafted in 2015, New York’s starting quarterback. MNF announcer Joe Tessitore said that a member of the Jets staff claimed, “We don’t look at [Siemian] as a backup, we look at him as a starter who happens to be on the same team as Sam Darnold.” Perhaps that line of thinking is how Jets coaches fall asleep at night. We don’t look at the Jets as a terrible team, we look at them as a Super Bowl contender that happens to be in the same division as the Patriots.
Siemian suffered an ankle injury midway through the second quarter on a late hit from Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett when the Browns were up 13-0. He was scheduled to have an MRI on Tuesday morning. Before the injury, Siemian completed three passes on six attempts for 3 passing yards. That’s an average of 0.5 pass yards per attempt. Factor in the two sacks he took that lost 17 yards, and Siemian’s average dropback lost 1.75 yards. More than a third of the way into the game, the Jets had 1 yard. Enter quarterback Luke Falk, a 2018 sixth-round draft pick who followed coach Adam Gase from Miami to New York this year. Falk passed for 198 yards on 20-of-25 passing, though Cleveland’s two-score lead felt insurmountable from the moment that Falk entered the game.
This has a chance to be the darkest season in a decade and the Jets haven't made the playoffs since 2010.— Sean Fennessey (@SeanFennessey) September 17, 2019
The Jets’ seven consecutive home losses mark the longest active streak in the NFL. Their roster has 14 players the team drafted, the fewest in the league. The Monday Night Football graphics crew made fun of the team’s inability to find a competent kicker. Trumaine Johnson, whom the team signed last offseason to a contract guaranteeing him $45 million across three years, was benched. The offensive line surrendered four sacks and even more hits to Garrett throughout the game. Former Jets offensive lineman and current ESPN analyst Damien Woody tweeted, “This is about as bad [an offensive line] play that I’ve seen.”
Even harsher words came from Jets legend Joe Namath, though it had nothing to do with the game. Earlier on Monday, the Jets tweeted happy birthday to safety Bennett Jackson, but then the team cut Jackson hours later and deleted the tweet. Namath quote-tweeted a comment with his thoughts on the situation during Monday Night Football.
“The first words I ever heard from Don Maynard at Shea Stadium in 1965 were, ‘Son, this is a cold blooded business,’” Namath wrote. “‘When they’re finished with ya they won’t even shake your hand goodbye.’ Of course this business may have changed. Just not on birthdays.”
There were two bright spots for the Jets on Monday. Their defense, led by former Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, embarrassed the Browns offensive line for much of the night and rattled Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield early and often. While the final score looked like a blowout, the game was far closer than it appeared, and the Jets defense was a bigger scoring threat than the offense for the second week in a row. The other bright spot was running back Le’Veon Bell, who looked excellent on Monday as he consistently churned for more yardage even when the game was beyond reach. Bell finished with 21 carries for 68 yards and a much-better-than-the-stats-looked 3.2 yards per carry.
But both of these bright spots failed the Jets late. Williams’s defense was burned by Odell Beckham Jr. in Beckham’s Meadowlands homecoming that doubled as a revenge game against Williams, whom Beckham says wanted him hurt in the 2017 preseason game in which he sprained his ankle. Beckham broke free for an 89-yard touchdown toward the end of the third quarter and he had a striking one-handed catch along the sideline on Cleveland’s first drive, though he missed a third-and-goal three plays later because the refs pulled him off of the field for having a tinted visor.
Bell nearly cut the Browns’ lead to 23-10 with a 17-yard catch-and-run from the Browns’ 24-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, but Browns linebacker Joe Schobert got his hat on the ball and popped it into the air. The ball landed in the arms of Browns cornerback T.J. Carrie.
Cleveland did not play well by any stretch of the imagination. Mayfield looked skittish, throwing one interception and missing a few open passes. Williams’s blitzes clearly put a clock in Mayfield’s head—he would get rid of the ball quickly even when he had good protection to avoid a hit. The Browns offensive line still looks porous. Cleveland’s next five games are all against teams that started 2-0, including the Rams on Sunday Night Football next week.
But their schedule does not compare at all to the Jets, who, if you’ll recall, are playing the Patriots next week at Foxborough. The Jets will get to lick their wounds after that matchup during a Week 4 bye, but they will then play the Eagles, Cowboys, and Patriots again. That second Patriots matchup is also on Monday Night Football. As bad as this Jets season is going and as low as Monday felt, remember that this team is not even close to rock bottom.