The Jets are trying to win football games. It may not seem that way, but the reality is they are.
Outside of their practice facility, many Jets fans want the team to be historically bad, lose every game this season and get the first pick of the draft. They even have a catchy little slogan: "Tanking for Trevor," as in Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
The Jets have waived or traded veteran players over the last several weeks and are giving their younger players more of an opportunity. This certainly fits the narrative of tanking for a top pick.
But the Jets' coaches and players don’t buy into that. They don’t want to be winless. They don’t want that on any of their resumes. They’re focusing on winning for themselves and their own sanity.
"We’re not really looking at the draft. We just want to win one game," rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton said. "That’s all our minds are on right now. We don’t care if we get the first pick. We’re not worried about that as players. We just want to go out there and win."
The Jets are off to a franchise-worst start of 0-9. But they have a chance to disappoint some of their fans and capture that first win on Sunday in Los Angeles.
The Chargers (2-7) are an exciting team that can put up points with rookie quarterback Justin Herbert. But they also find ways to lose games. All seven of their losses have been by eight points or fewer.
For the Jets to win, they will have to overcome their own many issues. They had a great opportunity in their last game, Nov. 9, on Monday Night Football.
The Jets led New England 27-17 with under seven minutes remaining. They lost, 30-27, on Nick Folk’s 51-yard field goal as time expired. That loss has been sitting with the Jets for nearly two weeks. They are coming off a bye week, still upset about how that game ended.
"That leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but it makes you more hungry for the next one," linebacker Tarell Basham said.
Basham said the Jets came back from the bye "hungry to get that first win." He seemed a little bothered by the thought of the fans wanting the Jets to lose out so they can get Lawrence.
"I’m going out there to win," Basham said. "I train to win. I’m sure the guys on my team are doing the exact same, training to win, preparing to win.
Players don’t tank. They never want to be associated with losing and don’t want to be part of the team that owns the worst record in franchise history or equals the worst in league history.
The Jets’ low-water mark is 1-15 under Rich Kotite in 1996. There have been two teams in NFL history to go 0-16 – the 2017 Browns and the 2008 Lions. The Jets don’t want to join that list.
"We just got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot and just go out there and play to win and not play passive-aggressively," linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. "Go in with the mindset that you know you’re going to win and just finish it."
This game would seem to be the Jets’ best chance. Their remaining six games are against teams that are a combined 15 games above .500.
The Jets feel they’re really close to breaking through, especially after their offense scored a season-high three touchdowns against the Patriots.
Sam Darnold won’t play due to a shoulder injury. Joe Flacco will lead the offense again. He threw three touchdown passes – matching Darnold’s season total – versus New England.
It was the first game that the Jets had their three starting receivers – Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims. The Jets think with another full week practicing together that they could enjoy similar success against the Chargers.
"I’m excited to keep building with these guys and see what we can do," Adam Gase said. "I want to see if Joe gained some chemistry with these three guys and we can keep some explosive plays on the table.
"That’s really the thing, if we can stretch the field, hit some explosive plays and then get underneath and then run the football, now all of a sudden you’re giving the defense a full plate of stuff to worry about."
A win would definitely put a dent in the Jets chances of getting the No.1 pick. The Jaguars (1-8) are one-game behind and play the undefeated Steelers on Sunday. If the two teams end up with the same record, Jacksonville would win the tiebreaker based on strength of schedule.
The slogan could then change to "Falling for Fields." Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is expected to go second overall. But Gase tried to push back on the narrative that the Jets are trying to lose now to help their future.
"Nobody’s talked about that," he said. "We’re just trying to play young guys. We’re trying to get guys experience. We’re trying to make sure that we get guys out there and compete.
"We can’t worry about what anybody else thinks. We know we’re trying to get guys better that are here and we’re trying to figure out ways to win games."
Notes & quotes: The Jets placed starting cornerback Bless Austin on injured reserve with a neck issue. The second-year pro will miss at least three games. They also activated outside linebacker Frankie Luvu from IR and signed quarterback Mike White to the active roster. He’ll be Flacco’s backup on Sunday.