FLORHAM PARK, N.J.
Jets fans have been in the news almost as much as the Jets themselves these days -- from the obscenity-laced heckling of the players during last week's 49-19 loss to the Patriots, to Bart Scott scoffing at their criticism in an interview Wednesday with Newsday's Neil Best, to Rex Ryan having to tamp down the blowback from Scott's condemnation.
But there's another troubling subplot involving fans who have become so frustrated by the Jets' poor performances that they are openly rooting for them to lose the rest of their games.
There's no telling how many people are out there hoping for this outcome, but judging from the growing number of texts, emails and Twitter comments coming our way in recent days, it does not appear to be an insignificant number.
The rationale goes like this: What good is it for a 4-7 team with myriad problems on both sides of the ball to beat their five remaining opponents, all of whom have losing records? Better to lose out, make sweeping changes -- including, but not limited to, Ryan, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and quarterback Mark Sanchez -- and blow apart a team that needs to start over again. Essentially, tank the season, improve the draft positioning and go from there.
To which we say: ridiculous and indefensible.
Ryan himself says: nonsense.
"I want to apologize to those fans right now, because there's no way we're tanking the season. No way," he said when I ran the scenario by him. "There's no one in this organization that feels that way. We're going to go out and we're going to compete to win every single game, and that's just the way it is."
As it should be.
This idea that there's some sort of advantage to be gained by losing goes against the DNA of every NFL coach and player. There's too much work involved in preparing for each game, and folks who think it's in anyone's best interests to lose, even if it improves draft positioning, are misguided at best.
Actually, it's infuriating. If you're truly a competitor, there's no way that losing should ever be a viable option. It runs counter to the very notion of being a fan -- a true fan -- when any part of you wants to see failure, even if in some twisted way you think it will lead to change.
You want to mention the 2011 Colts, who lost so badly that they wound up with the No. 1 overall pick and were in position to draft Andrew Luck? Fine. You want to say the players, coaches and management conspired to go 2-14 to secure the top pick? It's ridiculous, because coach Jim Caldwell and team president Bill Polian were fired because of the losing.
You think they wanted to lose so the team's future would be in Luck's hands?
"I think fans want to win, there's no question," Ryan said. "They want what's best for their team. Are there some fans out there that truly believe in their heart of hearts that the best thing to do is [lose out] and improve your drafting? Maybe there is. But most of the fans I know, they're lining up there for you and they want to win and you see it. They're passionate."
Even fans who want to see the Jets tank the rest of the season want to win eventually; their logic dictates that better draft position equates to better players coming to the team. But it shouldn't matter where you're drafting; good players are available, and not just at the top of a given round. It's a matter of drafting properly, not drafting early.
As one beleaguered fan of another long-suffering team reminded us on Twitter the other day when we asked for their thoughts on the merits of this issue, "Hearing that in Buffalo for years. It doesn't work."