A year after an exhilarating run through the regular season to reach a win-and-in scenario in Week 17 against the Bills, it is Jets-Bills against a decidedly more depressing backdrop today. The Jets are finishing out one of their most dismal seasons, and all that’s left to play for is pride — what little of it remains in a 4-11 season.
Last year’s regular-season finale ended with a thud, as Ryan Fitzpatrick imploded in a 22-17 loss that knocked the Jets out of playoff contention. The misery hasn’t ended, with the Jets limping to the finish line after a woefully ineffective year.
It is a familiar position for a franchise that has known plenty of misery. It is all about next year and how to fix all that went wrong in 2016.
There is a laundry list of issues, from what to do with the coach and general manager to how to address a roster that disappointed at almost every turn. Here’s our look at what must be done in the coming months to fix what went so terribly wrong:
AT THE TOP
Keep the Mike Maccagnan-Todd Bowles team in place for at least another year. There is plenty of sentiment among Jets fans to fire Bowles, and some believe Maccagnan is in over his head as general manager. But team owner Woody Johnson would be best served by allowing the team he hired less than two years ago to work out of the problems they now face. There’s no excusing how badly things went this year after a promising 10-6 season in 2015, but a second major shakeup in three years is not the formula for long-term success. It may turn out that Bowles is not the right man for the job – and the same with Maccagnan – but Johnson needs more definitive proof than a season that was plagued by ineffectiveness and injury.
SHAKE UP THE COACHING STAFF
If Bowles does stay, he needs to take a serious look at changing his staff. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey did a poor job in Year 2, although some factors were beyond his control, including Ryan Fitzpatrick’s woeful play and injuries to Eric Decker and three starters on the offensive line. The Jets also need to take a close look at quarterbacks coach Kevin Patullo, especially given the regression at the position this season.
THE QB CONUNDRUM
• Move on from Fitzpatrick. A no-brainer. Despite a career year in 2015, when he threw a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes, Fitzpatrick bombed this season after a prolonged offseason contract dispute. Say what you will about his absence during the spring, but the cold, hard fact is that Fitzpatrick simply wasn’t the long-term answer from the start. The Jets need to start over . . . again.
• View Geno Smith as a viable option. We can hear the groans already — please, no more Geno. We get it. After two less-than-spectacular seasons by Smith as a starter, then the infamous punch-out in 2015 and the knee injury in 2016, you want a change. But when you consider the available options around the league, Smith actually is one of the better ones. His familiarity with the Jets, combined with the fact that a knee injury will keep his free- agent price tag down, makes him a suitable alternative as a veteran starter. Smith can be a bridge quarterback as the Jets continue to develop Christian Hackenberg, who was overdrafted in the second round but who has to remain an option at least for the next year or two. The Jets also can keep an eye on Tampa Bay’s Mike Glennon, who might be the best unrestricted free agent from another team. Some will suggest Tony Romo of the Cowboys, but this Jets team is not close to a Super Bowl contender and Romo, as he showed during the preseason, is one hit away from an extended injury-related absence. Move along, nothing to see here.
TRADE SHELDON RICHARDSON
The former first-round pick has become a major distraction in the Jets’ locker room.
BRING BACK BRANDON MARSHALL AT A REDUCED RATE
Marshall didn’t have the kind of monster year in 2016 that he had last season, but at 33, he remains productive and has been a generally positive influence in the locker room, particularly for the team’s younger receivers.
Rework his contract or release him. With the $15 million he’s owed for 2017, he must agree to a markedly decreased salary, or the Jets need to move on from the 31-year-old cornerback. There’s also a chance he can move to safety, which several top-flight cornerbacks have done late in their careers (Charles Woodson, Rod Woodson, DeAngelo Hall, to name a few), but Revis needs to show he is willing to make the necessary schematic adjustments for that to work.
Rework his contract or release him. He’s due to make $8.5 million next year after playing only eight games this season.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Running back Matt Forte is 30 and has a bad knee. He is not a long-term option, and Bilal Powell isn’t a workhorse back. Get a tight end. Please. It’s a huge need, and sometimes it seems as if Mickey Shuler was the last decent one they had. Find a left tackle. Oft-injured Ryan Clady again was injured and is not the answer.
On defense: Linebacker David Harris isn’t getting any younger, although he’s still one of the team’s most reliable defenders. Find a pass rusher — obviously easier said than done. Replenish the secondary, particularly at cornerback.
Memo to Maccagnan: With a reasonably flexible salary-cap situation, sign players on their second contracts the way Jerry Reese did with the Giants in 2016 (Janoris Jenkins, Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon), not players on their third or fourth deals, as was the case in the 2015 spending spree.