Another “big” day for the Jets

You know what makes me angry? When I say that the New York Jets aren’t a better team just because they decide to start a new quarterback, and some people have the nerve to tell me not only that I’m wrong, even when the stats and results prove otherwise, but that they call me names for doing so and tell me I must be “blind.” Sorry to say, Jets’ fans: even with the win, this week was just more of the same ol’ crap you’ve seen all year, new quarterback included.

Who knew that the Jets would put up decent (please note: not great, not even good, just decent) offensive numbers in the first half and jump out to grab a marginal lead, only to peter out in the second half and do absolutely zero scoring until a field goal to tie the game with 23 seconds to go? And does it shock anyone that the Jets’ defense played very well in the first half and then watched as the Steelers coasted by and snatched the lead, or that Pittsburgh’s defense clamped down and caught onto the Jets’ predictable up-the-middle running game and short passing game to limit them to three second-half points? What a surprise.

What does surprise me, however, is the number of Jets’ “fans” that called me “blind” for saying that Kellen Clemens wouldn’t make a difference in this offense, and who thought it was “funny” for me to say that Chad Pennington wasn’t the problem.

Sorry, but when a quarterback, who’s “powerful arm” is his only selling point and reason for getting a starting job over one of the highest-rated passers in the history of the NFL, throws for just over a hundred yards in a regulation game, including a single, one-yard touchdown and one interception, I can’t help but sense something isn’t quite as was billed. Clemens had one pass for more than 12 yards in the game, and that came early on a gem of a trick play to Lavernaeus Coles that blew up for 56 yards, about half the total output of the entire regulation passing game on a single play. In fact, in the last two games, Clemens has mustered exactly two touchdowns, both for just one yard each, and his completion percentage was well under 50% in this game. When you have an offensive coordinator that lets you throw only 20 times through the first 58 minutes of regulation, you can’t afford a poor completion percentage and still expect to win on a regular basis.

Don’t forget that the “fans” were frustrated at Pennington’s lack of scrambling ability (a conclusion that still puzzles me). Clemens was sacked three times in this game against Pittsburgh, and he had zero rushing attempts for zero yards until 1:25 left in the 4th quarter. Does that mean he’s also a poor scrambler? Or perhaps there was another reason that the offense breaks down late in games, even when there was another QB playing?

The “fans” were also frustrated because whenever the Jets were down and pushing for a late scoring drive (which happened in every single game this year but one), Pennington was “checking off” the big play at the line of scrimmage and “dumping” short passes for completion. At the end of this game, in a two-minute drill and down by three, Clemens did not attempt (nor complete, obviously) a mid-to-long range pass, and he didn’t complete a pass longer than 14 yards. Due to missed opportunities and a few bad decisions (including a delay of game on 3rd and goal at the Steelers’ 5 yard line), the scoring drive stalled out and culminated in a game-tying field goal: instead of ending the game with a touchdown, instead of putting an opponent away at home and giving their fans something to get excited about, the Jets settled for a field goal, a tie, and overtime.

On their first offensive play in OT, the Jets got seven yards on a run by Thomas Jones, who had his second big day as a Jet and ran for a total of 117 yards (the Jets’ running game ended up with more net yards [151] than the passing game [146]). On second and three, Clemens blew a touch pass to Chris Baker: Baker was wide open and standing, waiting for the ball, but their timing wasn’t right and Clemens delivered a floater to Baker’s knees, which Baker dropped. On a critical third and three, Clemens passed up an open route at the first-down marker to try and drill a pass into a well-covered Brad Smith, who watched as Ike Taylor easily batted the pass away and almost came up with an interception.

Luckily, the defense came up huge to stop the Steelers and force a three-and-out, which resulted in a poor punt and another great run-back by Leon Washington back to the Steelers’ 26. Of course, once again, the ultra-conservative, no-confidence Jets’ offense didn’t want to take a chance, so they ran the ball up the middle three times for a total of six yards (if you’re not even going to take a shot at the end zone, why not just kick it on 1st down?) before giving Mike Nugent a chance at his first overtime field goal, which he nailed for three points and the win.

In the end, a less-than mediocre offense was bailed out by a solid defense and exceptional special teams. In most games, that just hasn’t been enough for the Jets, but seven defensive sacks and great punt returns by Leon Washington and the special teams got them over the hump. But how do you suppose this offense will fare on Thursday, matched up with an up-and-coming offensive power in the Dallas Cowboys that is second only to the Patriots in yards, third overall in passing, and second overall in scoring? Do you think that one offensive touchdown and 100-150 passing yards will keep the Jets in the game?

Am I happy that the Jets got the win? Of course I am. I mean … well, I have to admit: with a win-loss record like this, you have to start wondering about next year and positioning for the draft. Wins at this stage don’t help much there. But they do help boost confidence, and I hope that’s the case for Clemens and the rest of the team on both sides of the ball.

It’s just a shame that whatever becomes of this season, next season, and every season afterward, will come at the expense of knowing that Pennington won’t be taking snaps under center with the Jets. I truly believe that he gave them, and would have continued to give them, the best chance to win every game, every week. And, unfortunately for Jets’ “fans,” the numbers each week seem to be proving that to be the case. Yes: Clemens is just starting out and is sure to improve, as will his teammates’ confidence in his ability. But that confidence is something that Pennington had already earned from his teammates, and that they maintained in him, even when everyone else was clambering for his head and pinning the team’s misfortune on him. When I bring any of this up, including the reality of statistics, I’m told that I’m “hating on Clemens” and that I should forget about all that Pennington has done for this team and just let it all go.

At some point, the “fans” are going to come to the conclusion that a mistake was made, and it wasn’t a small one. I just hope the results are worthwhile.

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