Jets’ expectations are saving Todd Bowles

DENVER – The Jets suffered a crushing 23-0 loss to the Broncos on Sunday, dropping them to 5-8 and all but ending the slim hope they had for making the playoffs. Here are some thoughts and observations from the game:

1. Todd Bowles celebrated a short press conference last week, showing his disdain for dealing with the media. Perhaps he should be buying us all a present instead.

Bowles and the Jets have benefited from the low expectations the media placed on this team in the preseason. They have the worst roster … the worst quarterback … the worst wide receivers … they will go 0-16, etc. Because of that framing, the 5-8 record the Jets have is viewed as a positive. They have overachieved is what everyone says about this team.

But what if all of us in the media were just wrong? What if instead of overachieving, the Jets are playing exactly to the level of their talent? Then, Bowles and the Jets would be viewed differently right now.

Then, they might be viewed as a team that is about to miss the playoffs for the third straight time under Bowles and the seventh straight year as an organization. Then, Bowles might draw criticism for not being able to get his team to play on the road (1-5) like they do at home (4-3). Then, Bowles might get criticized for a team that comes out flat way too often and can’t seem to handle any prosperity. Every time you think this team has turned the corner, they trip on the curb and fall on their face.

I still think Bowles will get an extension at the end of the year because the brothers Johnson set the bar low for this season like the rest of us. That is why they said Bowles would be judged on progress and not wins and losses. Clearly, the Jets have some young players who have developed this year, and Bowles gets credit for that. But if you watch closely, there are still plenty of questions about Bowles as a head coach.

Bowles again made some curious decisions on Sunday. He seemed to give up in the game twice. At the end of the first half, he did not use a timeout before the Broncos attempted a field goal. It would have given his offense a minute to work with and two timeouts. Instead, they kneeled on the ball with 30 seconds left, happy just to get to the locker room. Then, the Jets ran the ball at the end of the game, losing 23-0. After the game, Bowles said the Jets were out of the game by then. That is a curious thing for any competitor to say. Why not throw it all over the field, hoping you might get a big play?

If the Jets lose out (certainly a possibility), they would be 5-11 for the second straight year. Some would see that as an amazing achievement because the Jets were projected to win between 0-3 games. I get that, and that will benefit Bowles. But I also wonder if this team was just better than everyone thought and has played exactly to what it is: a mediocre team, not a horrible one.

2. I get asked about Josh McCown in nearly every radio interview I do. One of the things I generally say about him is how positive a guy he is. McCown oozes optimism and does not seem to have a pessimistic bone in his body. It has greatly helped this team in dealing with a lot of negativity from the outside.

That was what made Sunday so tough, when he was in tears after the game, realizing his season was over and possibly his career after he broke his left hand. The positivity was gone for that moment, and McCown was dealing with his reality. The power of positive thinking was not getting him back on the field.

I have no doubt that McCown will be back to his positive self in a few days. He is one of the most popular teammates I have been around, and his loss will be felt by the locker room.

3. Well, we finally get to take a look at the young guys. We have been talking about when Bryce Petty and/or Christian Hackenberg would play since the preseason. Here we go.

Petty is first up. Lost in the debacle that was the loss on Sunday was how poorly Petty played in relief of McCown. He only completed 1-of-8 passes after coming in for McCown in the second half (he had one completion in the first half when McCown was injured). The Jets now have a week to tailor a gameplan around Petty for the Saints. This is a tough situation for Petty to come into. The Saints are a very good team, and the Superdome is a tough place to play. The Jets seemed to make up their minds on Petty after last year’s four-game tryout. He barely saw any time early in training camp. He did some good things in preseason games, but was always matched up with backup defenses.

If Petty stumbles, the Jets have a chance to take Hackenberg out of the bubble wrap he’s been in for two years and actually let him play. I suspect the Jets coaches are scared to death of playing Hackenberg after the way they’ve acted in the last month when the prospect of playing him has been brought up. But why not give him some time here? The season is over. If he plays poorly, what is lost?

I expect to see Hackenberg at some point. Petty has struggled to stay healthy in his time with the Jets, and I don’t expect him to come in and light up the scoreboard.

The Jets’ remaining schedule is brutal with the game in New Orleans, home for the Chargers and then in New England. It won’t be easy for HackenPetty to have much success.

4. The Broncos offense has 27 turnovers this season, the second worst total in the NFL. Only the Browns are worse. Yet, the Jets did not manage to force one on Sunday.

This is my biggest complaint with the Jets’ defense: They fail to make many impact plays. They have 17 takeaways this season, which is in the middle of the pack in the league, but how many of those were huge plays? They had a few momentum-swinging turnovers in Cleveland and against the Bills at home. Other than that, I can’t remember any big ones. They have not scored a defensive touchdown all year (the Jets have not scored one since 2013). They have not forced a turnover in three weeks.

Last week, the defense was awful against the Chiefs and the offense picked them up. On Sunday, the offense was putrid (100 total yards). The defense could have picked them up with a few turnovers, but failed to do so.

Revealing stat: The Jets’ longest play of the game was 14 yards. That was a pass from McCown to Matt Forte in the third quarter. It was the play McCown broke his hand on.

Surprising snap count: David Bass played 28 of 70 (40 percent) at outside linebacker. Bass made some plays when he was in there, which may have kept him on the field. He had three tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit.

Game ball: There were not many good performance in this game for the Jets, but tight end Eric Tomlinson did a good job as the emergency long snapper after Thomas Hennessy was injured. That is not an easy situation to come into. Tomlinson’s snaps were not perfect, but none led to disasters. Give him credit.


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