It’s hard not to feel sorry for these Jets
Week by week, game by game, there is an inevitability that descends around these Jets football games, and this Jets season. It is a myth that everyone who roots for the Jets is now actively rooting for 0-16; it goes against every fiber of the fan’s code to feel that way. People may say they want 0-16. But nobody wants that on their fan’s résumé.
In the same way we have learned to minimize polling during political campaigns because the answers people may give often vary in reality to what they actually feel, it’s the same with Jets fans who spend Monday mornings celebrating loss after loss with a straight face.
(NOTE: This isn’t to say they are DISAPPOINTED with the losses. But there has to be a part of you — call it muscle memory, call it habit — that enjoyed the blocked punt that set up the early 6-0 lead Sunday, that enjoyed the goal-line turnover that kept it that way an extra few seconds, that wanted to throw your shoe at the TV screen when Joe Flacco’s pick-six restored a sense of order to the day. You don’t have to admit that out loud, of course.)
It would be helpful if the Jaguars would win another game. That would change the dynamic of this Jets season, which sits now at 0-10 following this 34-28 loss to the Chargers in Los Angeles. The Jaguars gave the Packers 59 ½ minutes of worry last week before succumbing. They led 3-0 against the Steelers Sunday before Pittsburgh slapped itself back into reality.
It would also be helpful if we could reach a 1-and-1A consensus about Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, one that might make him every bit as appealing as Trevor Lawrence, the Clemson quarterback who is the object of so many Jets fans’ affections. But Fields had a relatively ordinary day against Indiana on Saturday. Lawrence remains the gold standard. Lawrence is The Target. Lawrence is The Guy.
And the folks in Jacksonville surely feel that way, too.
So there really is a logic attached to betraying your fan’s instincts. There really is some sense that goes along with taking Flacco’s pick-six quite in stride, that allows you to laugh off the two botched extra points, that permits you to breathe a sigh of relief when the Jets’ last-ditch effort at two-minute glory died in a desperate heave near the goal line.
“We tried our best to get it done,” Jets running back Frank Gore said, “but it just didn’t happen.”
Week by week, game by game, this is the part of the equation that has to, at the least, temper your enthusiasm at the losing. These weekly humblings destroy these players. They eat away at them. Gore has had a long and distinguished career that doesn’t deserve its final chapter to be 0-16.
“We think about that every day,” Gore said. “We’ve got to get one. Especially if this is my last season … I can’t go out like that. We’ve got to get … one …”
Flacco was a Super Bowl MVP not so very long ago; he certainly doesn’t deserve 0-16 on his dossier. None of them do. It is usually more than a little pitiful and pitiable to credit professional athletes of any sport with playing hard, with showing up, with not phoning in games and seasons.
That’s supposed to be part of the compact when you sign on to be a “professional.” You’re paid to work hard. You’re paid to care. Nobody should throw a parade for clearing such a low bar. Yet it is impossible not to feel something — empathy, sympathy, compassion — for the 53 men who are 0-for-10 so far this season.
You want to crush the coach? He’s fair game.
Want to destroy the GM? Have at him.
Want to eviscerate the owners? They have it coming.
But it is almost impossible to wish 0-16 on these players. In a just world the Jaguars will win one of their final six games and make it easier for you (they get the Bears at home in Week 16; maybe it can happen then). If that happens, you can resume your role as a fanatical optimist for at least one week, and allow yourself to root for 1-15. That’s still not a record anyone wants to water ski behind. But it beats 0-16. The players don’t want that.
And admit it: deep down, in a place where you keep your own counsel, neither do you.
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