The Jets are 0-11 and staring hard into a winless abyss of a season.
It is a fate that’s hard to fathom for many of their young players who came from successful college and high school programs. It’s an experience completely foreign to almost everyone in the NFL.
Gregg Williams, however, has been there.
Williams, the Jets defensive coordinator, was the defensive coordinator on Hue Jackson’s Cleveland Browns staff in 2017. That Browns team and the 2008 Lions are the only teams in NFL history to finish a season 0-16.
Williams was asked Friday if there’s anything he could draw upon from that experience to share with his current players to help them as they struggle. While Williams did not point fingers or identify anything that had gone wrong on the Browns, he took great pains to paint a positive picture of the mental attitude of his Jets defensive squad.
"It think [it’s] how we attack every day and how we attack every meeting," Williams said in Friday’s Zoom press conference. "We are looking for improvement in how we go competing and setting the tone of every single second every single day. When we get out on the field, these guys don’t back off."
"Sure, the fact is that [I’ve] been several places where we’ve had some tough times. The guys here? I have no question on how hard they play. I think when you turn on the film and get a chance to see them, you say 'Wow.' I have coaches from other teams and players from other teams text and call me. They keep on going that they don’t play anybody who plays as fast or plays as hard as we do."
Williams’ defense did play hard in their most recent loss, a 20-3 defeat by Miami. The team sacked Ryan Fitzgerald four times and forced four fumbles. The offense, however, was unable to capitalize on the turnovers.
Overall, while the Jets offense is ranked worst in the league in both points and scoring, their defense flirts with respectability, especially against the run where they are allowing an average of 111.0 yards per game, the 11th best in the NFL.
Williams was asked how he kept his defensive unit from getting frustrated with the offense, especially after a loss like their last one.
"That’s a good question," Williams said. "How we’ve done it in the past is I have 42 different philosophy pages in the playbook. Those are situations we talk about, sudden change and we talk about adversity situations. We have a philosophy about how we go about doing our things, and [pointing fingers] is not our worry. When we are stepping inside the white line, we don’t let anything bog us down. We don’t let any complaining go on."
With five games remaining, the Jets are the NFL’s only winless team. This Sunday doesn’t look like a good bet for them to get into the "W" column. The Las Vegas Raiders (6-5) are still in the playoff hunt and are coming off two straight losses, including an embarrassing one to the Falcons.
Of course, Jets fans will be doing anything but cheering for their team as they don’t want to put their chance of getting the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft in peril. The players, however, don’t want to join 2008 Detroit and 2017 Cleveland as the only 0-16 teams.
Williams said he is not concerned about his players’ motivation at all as the season winds down.
"It’s a tough, hard game," he said, "and they love playing it."