It's the end of a disturbing Jets season
Sunday's game is simply a formality.
Sure, the Jets have a chance to close out their season with a win. And yes, their defense -- with a strong effort against the Buffalo Bills (5-10) -- can finish in the top five after all. But the final score of their final game won't change what happens next.
At 6-9, the Jets' season has been more than a disappointment. And a road win at Ralph Wilson Stadium won't change that. After an offseason punctuated by one overhyped personnel move (Tim Tebow) and subsequent weeks of sustained failure on the football field, someone in this organization must take the fall.
Owner Woody Johnson voiced his frustrations last month, holding court with reporters during a morning practice in Florham Park. "I didn't sign up for a 3-6 season," he said, a slight edge to his voice.
Since then, the Jets have played .500 football, their offense is ranked 30th overall, and they've rotated starting quarterbacks multiple times -- while omitting Tebow from the equation altogether.
And in the hours, days and weeks to come, Johnson's words will reverberate through his organization as he attempts to fix so many areas of concern.
There's a chance Mike Tannenbaum could be relieved of his general manager duties, not to mention speculation that Rex Ryan could be let go. There's also the issue of their three coordinators: Tony Sparano (the leader of their struggling offense), Mike Pettine (who reportedly turned down a contract extension earlier in the season) and Mike Westhoff (who is retiring).
Of that group, Ryan -- who has two years on his contract -- is most likely to return. And he made it clear Friday that that is his preference.
Ryan revisited his fiery form when he lambasted a published report that said he'd welcome a pink slip if Johnson doesn't invest money in the offense. Ryan called the story -- which cited anonymous team and league sources -- "total garbage" and said that if he had his way, he'd remain the Jets' coach for the next "15 years."
Johnson, of course, has the final say.
Sunday's game could mark the end of several Jets careers. And with more than a dozen free agents set to test the offseason market, their roster will look vastly different in 2013.
Veteran defensive lineman Mike DeVito, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, has said he wants to stay. But he, like many others, must wait to see how the offseason plays out.
"It's a disappointing year, but it's been a blessing to be here for six years," he said. "It's weird these past couple of weeks going out to dinner and seeing everybody that I've been around for six years. It's definitely surreal."
Johnson also will have to figure out what to do with Mark Sanchez.
The fourth-year quarterback, who was pulled from a game Dec. 4 and benched three weeks later, has been given another chance to start for the Jets. But that's only because his replacement, Greg McElroy, couldn't hide concussion symptoms any longer.
The $8.25 million of guaranteed money Sanchez is owed likely means he'll be back in 2013. But will Tebow?
The little-used backup quarterback spent more time talking about the Wildcat this season than actually playing in it. Tebow's tenure, which has been punctuated by repeated snubs in recent weeks by Ryan, has thus far been a waste of money and draft picks. But back in October, Johnson said of Tebow in a CNBC interview: "He's going to be with us for three years."
Could Johnson bring in a GM, coach or coordinator who believes Tebow can fit in their offense? Sure, anything's possible. Then again, Tebow could return to his hometown of Jacksonville to play for a Jaguars team desperate to fill stadium seats.
Johnson's concerns for 2013 should be plentiful.
But first, the Jets must make it through their 1 p.m. season finale in Buffalo.