Matt Forte’s season ended a day early Saturday, when the Jets placed him and fellow running back Akeem Judd on injured reserve.
The rest of the 5-10 team will play out the finale Sunday against the Patriots in Foxborough, Massachusetts, led by coach Todd Bowles, who received a two-year contract extension Friday.
The 32-year-old Forte said earlier in the week that he had been slowed the past month with increased swelling in his surgically repaired right knee. He finished his second season with the Jets with a career-low 381 yards rushing, 3.7 yards per carry.
“When I was healthy and got the opportunities, I think I produced at a decent level,” Forte said Thursday, adding that he needs no additional surgery. “Since the bye week, I’ve been basically playing on one leg, so that’s been tough and obviously that hinders your production level.”
Forte has a year remaining on his contract, but he’s due to make $3 million next year and the Jets could opt to clear that amount on the salary cap.
With or without Forte, the Jets believe that Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan, who also received a two-year extension, have the team on the right track. But a lot is riding on finding a franchise quarterback to maintain that stability.
“Obviously, it’s big,” Bowles said. “It’s a key position, obviously. So, once Josh [McCown] got hurt, Bryce [Petty] came in and he’s played but he hasn’t had a chance to play long term. But it’s a big position of stability for us.”
Bowles’ 20-27 record with the Jets is tied to the instability at quarterback.
“We win as a group. We lose as a group,” Bowles said.
Finding a stable quarterback isn’t something new and the discovery of a good one leads to success historically.
“It’s one of the most important positions,” said wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who played with Russell Wilson in Seattle, having won a Super Bowl. “It’s definitely important to have somebody you know that’s going to be there and there for a while.”
Of the six teams ahead of the Jets in the first round, maybe three, Cleveland, the Giants and Denver, could draft a quarterback.
Bowles trusts Maccagnan can find him the quarterback needed.
“It’s great to have somebody that you’re familiar with, obviously,” Bowles said. “Me and Mike have been here the first three years, so we’ve been on the same page and we’ll continue to get better.”
Finding a quarterback, to bring more stability to the franchise that’s been searching for many years, is vital.
“There’s a lot of turnover that happens in the National Football League,” left tackle Kelvin Beachum said. “When you have a coach and GM on the same page and they’re able to keep their staff together and keep players together and keep a core group of guys together, that’s important. You don’t have that in the league too often.”