FLORHAM PARK, N.J.
A day after Matt Forte popped off about the Jets’ play-calling in Sunday’s 25-20 loss to the Falcons — and a day before the NFL trade deadline — the 31-year-old running back indicated that the issue has been addressed and that there are no hard feelings.
And just in case you were wondering whether Forte’s strident evaluation of offensive coordinator John Morton’s game plan was a ploy to force a trade, it wasn’t.
When I asked Forte on Monday afternoon if he still wants to be a Jet for the rest of the year, he said: “Yeah, why not? I mean, I’m under contract. I signed here for a reason, to win games and try to help this team go to the playoffs. Why would I try to jump ship?”
He apparently isn’t. After spending part of Monday afternoon explaining himself to Morton and Todd Bowles, Forte said they are all on the same page and ready to move on to Thursday’s game against the Bills at MetLife Stadium.
It was a swift turnaround from Forte’s stunning postgame criticism of Morton’s unwillingness to stick with the running game in the Jets’ third straight loss. The game was played mostly in a driving rainstorm, yet the Jets ran only 22 times, and Forte had four carries for only 7 yards.
“Everybody knows that that was the game plan and that’s what we wanted to do,” Forte said after the game. “I don’t have to get on a headset and tell somebody [Morton] how to do their job . . . I’m obviously biased, because I’m a running back, but raining like that, you would think that we would run the ball more than we did. I think that kind of hurt us. It’s unfortunate. It hurts. That’s three [consecutive] games where we feel like we should have won.”
There were no ulterior motives for Forte’s criticism, and Bowles chalked it up to frustration. The coach said he didn’t think it was a big deal, grew agitated when reporters tried to ask follow-up questions and indicated it was time to move on.
“We didn’t spend too much time on it,” Forte said of his discussions with Bowles and Morton. “We just talked about some ways to help us win games, and then we’re moving on to Buffalo. The main goal for me, as well as for the coaches, is to win games, and that’s what we’re trying to find out, ways to do that.”
Forte also grew agitated and tried to redirect the conversation. When asked if the coaches objected to his remarks, he said: “Got any questions about Thursday, Buffalo game? This is kind of over with. It’s overkill.”
Actually, it’s not, considering one of the team’s most established players openly second-guessed the game plan and wondered aloud whether Morton’s time with the Saints led him to adopt a pass-centric offense.
And it’s not the first time trade talk has surfaced with Forte. During training camp, there were reports that the Jets were ready to deal the former Bears star, who last year signed a three-year, $12-million deal that includes $8 million guaranteed. Forte said he received assurances from general manager Mike Maccagnan that he wouldn’t be traded.
“When it first came up, I talked to Mike about that kind of stuff, and he said, ‘No, there’s no chance.’ That’s just low-hanging fruit for you guys to write about that. I don’t see that really happening.”
So Forte is here for the duration, however long that lasts. With the Jets increasingly relying on younger players, it’s not a stretch to think they will part ways with him after the season. Until then, he hopes to do his part to break the three-game losing streak and somehow get the Jets back into playoff contention — however unrealistic that goal might be.
Now that Forte has had his say about the game plan, look for Morton to keep an open mind and call a few more runs. And if that is the case, it’s up to Forte to back up his talk with some big-time production.