Let’s see if we can get this week of the Jets’ dysfunction straight:
• Last Sunday, new starter Geno Smith suffers a knee injury, Ryan Fitzpatrick rallies the Jets to victory and publicly proclaims that the owner, the general manager and the coach have given up on him.
• A day later, it is revealed that Smith suffered a torn ACL, is done for the year and likely is done with the Jets after four eventful, ultimately unsuccessful seasons.
• On Wednesday, Fitzpatrick, still chapped about being benched and unconvinced that his complaints were petulant, poorly timed and completely tone-deaf — considering the fact that he had played his way out of the job — stands by his postgame remarks. Barring a stunning turnaround the rest of the season, he is a “dead quarterback walking,’’ and he knows his time with the Jets is done.
• A day later, Darrelle Revis, who once was the NFL’s most dominant cover cornerback but whose play has slipped the last two seasons, tells Newsday’s Kimberley A. Martin that his body is starting to break down at age 31 and that he was carrying too much weight at the start of training camp. Hardly the news you want to hear from a man making $17 million this season, and the clearest indication yet that the Jets will cut ties with him in the offseason.
• Then on Friday, coach Todd Bowles grows testy during his news conference when asked whether Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg will back up Fitzpatrick in Sunday’s game against the Browns. Bowles opts not to talk about it.
Ah, the stench of 2-5.
Not even halfway through what the Jets had hoped would be a successful follow-up to last year’s surprise 10-6 season, things have gone off the rails in stunning fashion. Of course, it could be worse. The Browns, who will host the Jets on Sunday at First Energy Stadium and are 0-7, already have used six quarterbacks this season — yes, six.
But at least veteran Josh McCown, the opening day starter in 2015, is healed from a broken collarbone and expected to start Sunday. And if McCown can do to the Jets’ defense what most opposing quarterbacks have done this season, the misery will become exponentially worse for a team so used to disappointment.
Jets fans will be reminded of one of those disappointments when the Browns celebrate the 30-year anniversary of their 1986 season. They went to the AFC Championship Game in early 1987, and that memorable season was highlighted by the Browns’ double-overtime win over the Jets in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
It should have been the Jets who advanced to the title game. It certainly looked that way when they led 20-10 late in the fourth quarter. But Mark Gastineau’s roughing-the-passer penalty on Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar kept a drive going and Cleveland eventually tied the score before Mark Moseley’s 27-yard field goal in the second overtime won it.
The Browns wound up losing to the visiting Broncos, 23-20, in overtime in the AFC Championship Game. That was set up when John Elway engineered the sequence simply called “The Drive,” a 15-play, 98-yard march that tied the score with 37 seconds left in regulation.
The Jets not only lost the chance to play the Broncos for a shot at the Super Bowl but watched helplessly as the rival Giants beat Denver in Super Bowl XXI.
Karma hasn’t been very kind to either the Jets or Browns ever since. The Jets have made it to three AFC title games and lost each one. The Browns were out of business from 1995-98 after Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore. And since being re-established in 1999, the Browns have had only two winning seasons and made the playoffs once.
The Browns have been in rebuild mode too many times to count. They have had 26 different starting quarterbacks since ’99, and Hue Jackson is the ninth different head coach in that span.
Even the Jets can’t claim that kind of turnover. The Jets have had 13 starting quarterbacks since ’99 and Bowles is the sixth head coach since then.
But Bowles has a unique challenge ahead, and how he manages it could go a long way toward defining his eventual legacy with the team. He did a mostly splendid job last year in what turned out to be a surprise season — albeit one ruined by Fitzpatrick’s poor performance in a win-and-in scenario in the final game. And while Fitzpatrick has been at the heart of the team’s slow start this year — he threw an NFL-worst 11 interceptions in a 1-5 start — Bowles’ defense has mostly been weak.
With three straight games against beatable opponents — after Cleveland, it’s at Miami and home to the Rams — the Jets can get to 5-5 at the bye and head into their first game against the Patriots with at least a glimmer of hope.
But the way this team has underachieved this year, nothing’s a given. And that includes beating the Browns.