Jets made real progress despite likely missing playoff sting

The Jets didn’t play a game this weekend, and that’s probably a good thing considering their current state.

While their players and coaches hopefully enjoyed a vacation respite at home with family and/or friends, the Patriots (of all teams) were doing a good job at the Jets on Saturday keeping the hopes of the Jets in the playoffs with their loss to the Bengals.

But, as Jets head coach Robert Saleh said Friday, the day after Thursday night’s 19-3 home loss to the Jaguars, “It’s not about the playoffs right now. .”

This statement, while revealing on first listen, meant several things.

First, it seemed madness for the Jets, following that loss to Jacksonville, to dare to think of a playoff berth after losing four in a row and five of six, going from a promising 7-4 to 7 -8.

Second, the quarterback situation has turned into a hot mess with Zach Wilson seemingly no better than he was a year ago in his inconsistent rookie season and backup Mike White still nursing cracked ribs.

And finally, that statement from Saleh was talking about how important it is for his team to just find a way to win a game again, Sunday in Seattle, to end this low.

Because, if you’re a Jets fan and have been shoving your way through the mud of the past six weeks (minus the Nov. 27 win over the lowly Bears), there’s been plenty of reason to feel good about it. this team in 2022.

Robert Saleh reacts during the Jets’ loss to the Jaguars.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

There wasn’t a single betting line on the planet that predicted the most/fewest Jets wins this season at over five.

Remember, this was a team that won four games in 2021, Saleh’s rookie season with a roster devoid of major league talent. And the team before that went 2-14 in 2020, Adam Gase’s final season.

So the fact that 11 games into this season the Jets have already surpassed their win total from the previous two seasons and are in the midst of a playoff pursuit has to count for something. Any Jets fan who denies running wasn’t fun is not being honest.

There has been progress – but not enough, especially at quarterback. But the fact that the Jets were relevant into Christmas week for something other than how high they positioned themselves in the upcoming draft is a good thing.

“There is still a lot to look forward to this season,” Saleh said on Friday. “We’ve done a lot of really, really cool things this year.”

Therein lies the conundrum of this Jets season. They’ve done enough cool things this season to be a playoff team, but barring a miracle the next two weekends they’ll miss the playoffs for the 12th straight season.

That should annoy Jets fans, but it doesn’t take away your frustration with Saleh’s previous regimes and this regime.

As much as last month stings, Jets fans should try to focus on the remarkable 2022 draft class that produced cornerback Sauce Gardner, who was voted into the Pro Bowl and could win the rookie defensive year wide receiver Garrett Wilson, who is a favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year and running back Breece Hall, who was on his way to becoming a major force when he suffered a knee injury in Week 7 in Denver.

Gardner Sauce
Sauce Gardner headlined an extremely promising Jets rookie class.

Hall had 463 yards rushing, 5.8 yards per carry and four touchdowns in more than six games when he was injured.

Wilson has 71 receptions for 996 yards and four touchdowns.

Gardner barely has stats because he’s so good that teams rarely throw on his side of the field.

Defensively, the Jets’ turnaround from last season to this season cannot be overstated. They’ve been horrible in 2021, ranked last in the league in both most points allowed (504) and most yards allowed (6,670).

CJ Mosley played a vital role in the Jets' much-improved defense.
CJ Mosley played a vital role in the Jets’ much-improved defense.
Getty Images

The Jets this season have the league’s fifth-fewest points (282) and fourth-fewest yards (4,899).

So Saleh is right when he says this team did some “cool” things. The problem is that with the 7-4 start, it’s hard to see these things through the recent disappointments.

As good as the Jets have been on defense this season as a whole, it’s hard not to focus on that 96-yard drive surrendered to the Jaguars on Thursday night or cover that tight end for the Lions who beat them on a 51-yard game- winning catch-and-run TD in the dying moments the previous week.

This is all completely understandable – especially from a fanbase so hungry for a mere playoff berth.

“The most important thing right now,” Saleh said, “is to finish strong, which starts with Seattle.”

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