Clear 44° Good Morning
Clear 44° Good Morning
SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Those who stayed home for Jets-Colts were the real winners

Empty seats are seen during the first half

Empty seats are seen during the first half of a game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 5, 2016. Photo Credit: Lee S. Weissman

New York-area football fans traditionally loathe weeknight games, in part because of the combination of game-day and rush-hour traffic.

So the Jets’ miserable season at least was good for something Monday night.

Traffic and parking for the not-so-big game against the Colts were eased by tens of thousands of ticket holders not showing up, many presumably after failing to find buyers on the resale market at comically low prices.

They turned out to be the night’s biggest winners.

As for those who did bother to come to MetLife Stadium, the Jets should have paid them after subjecting fans to an embarrassing display of let’s-get-the-season-over indifference and incompetence.

Their 41-10 loss represented a new low in a season that has gotten worse than anyone imagined when it began, and was the sort of nationally televised debacle that can threaten a coach’s job.

Todd Bowles shrugged off that notion afterward, insisting he has been coaching for his job since the day he was hired in 2015. But he did not sugarcoat a stinker that will not soon be forgotten.

“For the first time this year, we got our [butts] handed to us, and it’s very disappointing,” he said, the first of a dozen times he used the same expletive in his postgame news conference.

That expletive was relatively mild compared with the one defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson used on three occasions to describe the way the Jets played.

What hurt the most — as it should have — was the widespread perception that the Jets’ effort was lacking.

“I can see why people from the outside looking in would say that,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “It’s definitely hard for me to hear someone talk about effort.”

The effort thing is no small matter for a 3-9 team whose last four games mostly are about seeing whether Bryce Petty potentially can be the quarterback of the near future and whether Bowles can maintain control and keep the faith for 2017 and beyond.

Wilkerson acknowledged “guys have to play harder,” but he would not say which guys they are. “I can only control the things I can control,” he said. “I can’t play everybody’s position.”

He insisted, though, that the locker room has not and will not splinter. We’ll see.

Bowles is not emotive publicly, but he assured reporters he was angry. “I’m not going to sit here and throw the [interview] podium at anybody, because that would be a lawsuit,” he said. “But if I could, I would.”

At least Bowles finally is ready to turn to Petty at quarterback now that the Jets officially are out of the playoffs for the sixth year in a row. He promoted him after Ryan Fitzpatrick was yanked following an awful first half, but he later said Petty would have started the last four games no matter what Fitzpatrick did against the Colts.

That was odd, but no matter. It is the right move, and the only move at this point, although it came a week late.

“I didn’t get it done, you know?” Fitzpatrick said.

Yes, we know.

It was 14-0 after a first quarter during which the Jets were booed on offense and defense in the half-full stadium, and were disparaged on Twitter by a parade of Hall of Famers: Joe Namath, Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin.

At least Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who watched with owner Woody Johnson, resisted ripping the Jets on social media. So far.

The Jets further made their coach look bad by being called twice for personal fouls upon shoving Colts who already were out of bounds — first Buster Skrine, then Sheldon Richardson. (Breno Giacomini added a personal foul in the second quarter.)

It was ugly. It was absurd.

“Playing at home like this in front of our home crowd is bad,” Wilkerson said. “I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth.” Join the club.

Jets fans will have to endure one more night game, against the Dolphins on Dec. 17. At least it’s a Saturday.

New York Sports