Sports

Confront the Obvious: The Jets Are Bad

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Time is a flat circle, but we want to help you break it. To that end, we’ve enlisted two experts — one familiar with the ins and outs of New York’s professional football teams, the other a nationally focused football analyst — to answer an essential question as a weekly service to readers: Are the Jets and Giants good yet?

Devin Gordon, the author of “So Many Ways to Lose: The Amazin’ True Story of the New York Mets, the Best Worst Team in Sports,” observed the teams from a locally focused perspective.

Diante Lee, an N.F.L. analyst at Pro Football Focus, offered a national view.

Jets

Without three top playmakers, the Jets (3-10) lost, 30-9, to the New Orleans Saints (6-7) on Sunday afternoon in East Rutherford, N.J. The Saints ended a five-game losing streak.

Insider’s perspective:

Legend has it that James Gandolfini used to steel himself for the psychological torment of performing some of Tony Soprano’s more brutal deeds by making thunderous animal noises. And so, with a mighty blast mimicking an elephant’s trumpet, I sank into my laziest chair and girded myself to watch the Jets host the cratering Saints, who took their five-game losing streak to just the right place.

After the Jets’ first three-and-out, I neighed and whinnied like a horse. After their second three-and-out, I snarled like a grizzly bear. Nothing worked. Finally, after the third-string running back Ty Johnson dropped his third short pass of the first quarter, leading to the Jets’ third straight three-and-out, and with 45 more minutes of this hellscape stretching out in front of me, I fell silent and surrendered to my fate.

The Jets’ offense was without three top playmakers — running back Michael Carter (ankle) and the wideouts Corey Davis (season-ending core muscle surgery) and Elijah Moore (quadriceps) — against New Orleans’s excellent defense. That might explain why, by the fourth quarter, poor Zach Wilson was throwing the ball at empty turf so he could evade sacks.

The Jets’ only real scoring option was Eddy Piñeiro, the team’s fourth kicker so far this season and its ninth since 2016, who recently made 36 consecutive field goals for the New England Patriots. Piñeiro supplied all of the Jets’ scoring, nailing his three attempts. “Oh my,” I said aloud each time, pleasantly surprised, which was better than seeing how long I could hold a whale call.

Verdict: The Jets will miss the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season, and they will lose at least 10 games for the fifth time in their last six. On the bright side, they’re set at kicker next week.

Outsider’s view:

It’s time to confront the obvious: Zach Wilson is bad.

Sure, Wilson, a rookie quarterback, doesn’t hold the weight of his team’s 3-10 record on his own since he wasn’t even on the active roster for a chunk of the season. And we can examine all the ways the front office and his teammates have failed him. Corey Davis and Elijah Moore were hurt entering Sunday’s game. Without them, there weren’t enough athletes in the receiving corps to get separation against good coverage. On Sunday, their replacements dropped Wilson’s passes even when they managed to get open.

But for expedience’ sake, here we can focus on the issues Wilson has caused himself.

Wilson’s accuracy has been an issue since Week 1. There were some predictable misses for the young quarterback, who missed a chunk of training camp in a contract holdout, because of miscommunications with receivers. That doesn’t explain the more egregious misses that continue to plague him: throws sailing over outstretched arms or falling into the laps of opponents. Wilson has completed more than 60 percent of his passes in only three starts this season, and his 19-for-42 outing against New Orleans was his worst effort this season.

Without so much as a whisper of a run game to set up the Jets’ play-action passes or screens, Wilson often bails out of the pocket before working through a progression.

His draft day scouting evaluation sold him as a Tony Romo-esque quarterback, able to escape pressure or extend a play outside its structure. Wilson has taken 25 sacks this season, tied with Justin Herbert for 12th most in the N.F.L. He holds on to the ball too long in the pocket, or tries frantically to escape with no plan.

Whether you believe the offense is broken because of his weak offensive line or a lack of receiver options, Wilson has demonstrated that he cannot pilot this rudderless boat.

Verdict: The Jets this season never were good or watchable, and they’re even less so now.

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