For the Jets fans spending their Sundays in séance with incense candles lit hoping to will the Jets to an 0-16 finish to guarantee the No. 1 draft pick, turn this page. Move on to the next story, because you’re not going to want to hear what I have to say.
I have no skin in the Jets’ game against the Dolphins on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. But there’s a part of me that roots for the Jets (0-10) to win the game, get off the schneid and escape the ignominy of being part of the conversation that includes the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns as the only NFL teams to run the 16-game table the wrong way.
You are what your record says you are. Among the countless sayings laced with perfect perspective that Bill Parcells delivered over his years as a Hall of Fame head coach, that one is the most spot on.
No one is supposed to feel sorry for anyone in the NFL. It’s a rough league, a tough business.
So, sue me for feeling sorry for the Jets. I see too many Jets players busting their butts to end the losing streak that becomes a heavier burden with each Sunday failure. I don’t see guys dogging it. I see players hell-bent on ending the losing.
I see linebacker Jordan Jenkins going after quarterbacks as if the lives of his family members depend on sacking them. I see 37-year-old Frank Gore, the NFL’s third all-time leading rusher in his 16th season, running with the desperation of an undrafted rookie trying to stick with the final 53-man roster. I see quarterback Sam Darnold willing to leave whatever is left of the AC joint in his right shoulder on the 50-yard line to play in one more game.
I see a team hungry to win and disgusted to the point of players feeling physically ill after they’ve lost yet another game.
Gore, on a Zoom call with reporters after the Jets’ latest loss, a 34-28 defeat at the hands of the Chargers last Sunday, spoke from the heart about the reality that this may be his final run and how he “can’t go out like this.’’
“When Frank talks, you listen, because he’s going to be in Canton [in the Hall of Game]. He’s one of the most accomplished football players ever to play the game,’’ Jets guard Greg Van Roten said. “If he’s got something to say, he’s got perspective and insight that you need to listen to.’’
Maybe Gore’s words will resonate with his teammates Sunday. Maybe they help the Jets get themselves over the line for the first time this season and end any talk about them becoming the third team in NFL history to finish 0-16.
“Whenev … when we win, it will be a relief for sure,’’ Van Roten said, with a slight but distinguishable emphasis on the word when “You never expect to lose this many games in a row in this league.’’
With six games to play, all of which are against teams that will be favored to beat the Jets, it’s human nature for players to allow the dreadful thoughts of 0-16 to seep into the mind.
“When we are at out at practice, we’ve done a good job focusing,’’ veteran backup quarterback Joe Flacco said. “It’s more so when you’re sitting around in the locker room, going through meetings and doing those kinds of things where your mind has a chance to wander and you start thinking about all that.’’
Asked if players in the locker room have spoken about the prospect of going 0-16, Van Roten said: “No, why would you want to be in that group? The hunger is there. Guys want to win. Especially if you’re an older guy, you don’t want one of your last seasons to be historically bad.’’
What might the home locker room be like if they were to win Sunday, beat the Dolphins and end the talk of 0-16?
“Every win in the NFL is different, has different emotions behind it,’’ said Flacco, who’s won 108 games in his career, including a Super Bowl, and lost 82. “You don’t want to act like it’s a Super Bowl or anything. But listen, we do want to go get a win and … when that time comes, I’m sure it’ll be raw emotion.’’
With no apologies to the Jets fans dressing their voodoo dolls in green-and-white on Sundays, that’s something I’d like to see.