They’re “sad.” They’re “hurt.” And they’re “[ticked] off.”
But in no way have the Jets given up on themselves.
At 1-3, they’ve dug themselves an early “hole,” head coach Todd Bowles conceded. But “I don’t know if it’s a large hole.”
Bowles’ message to players on Monday was matter-of-fact and devoid of alarm and angst. “On to the next one,” he told them. “We’re close.”
He assured them that if they clean up “some mistakes” and figure out how to not “beat themselves,” they will be fine. And he later told reporters that “Actually, no I’m not [worried]. I think we have a chance to still do some things.”
But that’s easier said than done.
The Jets’ offense is “out of sync right now,” running back Matt Forte said. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the NFL with 10 interceptions. Their $150-million secondary is playing so poorly, Bowles hasn’t ruled out making lineup changes. Oh, and they head to Heinz Field to face the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) on Sunday.
According to ESPN, only 14 percent of 1-3 teams have made the playoffs since 1990 under the current postseason format. “Fourteen? Wow. So our year’s over, huh?” Brandon Marshall said playfully.
The star receiver believes it’s far too early for him and his teammates to lose faith in one another. “We’ve shown that we can play against playoff teams,” Marshall said, “but we haven’t shown that we can beat them yet.”
Wholesale changes aren’t necessary, however, said Fitzpatrick. Neither is hitting the panic button, players said.
“I think that the number one solution is for everybody to be on the same page, everybody to do their assignment, and just be more efficient,” said Fitzpatrick. “I don’t think we need to go into full on panic mode and change who we are or what we’re about it, and I think it’s more trusting what the coaches are giving us for our game plan, and going out and doing it.”
Marshall offered another simple solution: “Stars have got to be stars. Got to make plays. It starts with guys like myself and the other playmakers on this team. ... In these moments, you can either fold and you fight against one another, and it’s divisive to the team. Or you can look at each other and fight and hold each other accountable.”
Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said last year’s 1-4 stretch between Weeks 7-11 — which dropped them to 5-5 — is proof that the Jets (who finished 10-6 in 2015) are capable of turning around their season. And with almost all of the same pieces back from 2015, players are confident that 2016 isn’t lost.
“It’s always not as bad as you think it is, and it’s not always as great as you want it to be,” Bowles said. “You just persevere and you work through it and as long as the team stays together, you know you’re going to come out on the other end and be OK.”