NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In a month or so, all this will be someone else’s problem, so whatever role Todd Bowles has played in coaching a consistently undisciplined team finally, fully will be on whichever Jets survive into 2019.
Oh, don’t worry, Bowles’ players did the right thing Sunday and accepted all the blame for a 26-22 loss to the Titans at Nissan Stadium – a game in which they led 16-0 – and the penalties that played a huge part in it.
But by doing so, they raised a question that should disturb the team’s management and fans: If this is not the fault of the coaches, then do they have the right players?
Many likely will depart in the offseason, but many will be back, and at this point, there is no reason to trust that they have it in them to wash away the stink of this season.
For a time this autumn, the Jets seemed to have cleaned up their penalty problems, but they always come back, and at the most inopportune times.
It was not so much the raw total of 11 penalties for 96 yards on Sunday, bad as those were. It was the timing.
For example: Three penalties – for holding, illegal use of hands and a facemask -- helped the Titans drive for the winning touchdown after they took possession at their 14-yard line with 1:46 left.
Said safety Jamal Adams, “When it comes down to getting penalties in two-minute when we’re trying to hold them from getting three [points to tie the score], by having dumb penalties, facemask, holding, whatever it is, man, it just can’t happen. It cannot happen.”
Bowles said he was fuming, about the penalties as much as anything else. “It cost us,'' he said, "and it’s disgusting.”
Asked what he told the team, he said, “Look in the mirror. Just look in the mirror. We won’t be a good football team until we’re a smart football team.”
Space does not permit an accounting of all the yellow-flag-inducing silliness, but one lowlight was receiver Robby Anderson being called for taunting when he spun the ball on the ground in front of a Titan.
On the Titans’ winning drive, cornerback Trumaine Johnson’s facemask penalty moved Tennessee from its own 46-yard line to the Jets’ 39.
To the players’ credit, there was plenty of mirror-looking after the game, especially by a defense that played well early, then collapsed.
The Titans scored on three of their last four full possessions and Marcus Mariota completed passes of 44 and 55 yards to Taywan Taylor in the fourth quarter alone.
But it was the penalties that had players all but raising their hands in the locker room to make the point to reporters.
“I guess we have to weed out the guys who aren’t disciplined; I don’t know how it works,” receiver Quincy Enunwa said.
Said linebacker Darron Lee, “You [reporters] might muddy it up and say it’s the coaches, but it’s on us, the players. It’s discipline, and clearly we lack that across the board . . . It’s the same reoccurring thing. It’s been like that for three years. Three years since I’ve been here, it’s the same thing, and I’m tired of it – period.”
Cornerback Buster Skrine said avoiding penalties is emphasized in practice, and a running account of them is kept on a board at the practice facility. None of that helped on Sunday.
“We play a kids’ game and we get paid king money,” Adams said. “We have to go out there and execute our job.”
Much as they tried to absolve the coaching staff afterward, it is too late to save them. But the new man in charge is going to take a long look at these game videos come winter, and he is going to shudder.