JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Short week, long week. Prime time, day time. Winless opponent, Super Bowl contender. None of it matters for the New York Jets. When you’re bad, you’re bad. Right now, the Jets resemble a team destined for 4-12.
That they lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday isn’t headline news. The story is how they lost. They were outplayed and outcoached on both sides of the ball in a 31-12 loss at TIAA Bank Stadium. The Jets allowed 503 yards to Blake Bortles & Co., for crying out loud — their highest total in 10 years.
The season is getting away from the Jets (1-3), who have dropped three straight for the fifth time since 2016.
“I thought the first three games, we fought and made a lot of progress,” coach Todd Bowles said. “I thought we took a step back today.”
Some day, the Jets would like to be like the Jaguars, whose rebuilding efforts flowered last season with a run to the AFC Championship Game. Let’s just say the Jets have a looooong way to go before they get to that level. They’re not a playoff-caliber team, but that doesn’t excuse performances like this.
Put this one on the coaching staff, starting with Bowles, whose team was flat after 10 days to prep for the game. There’s no excuse for that. You never had the feeling the Jets were a serious threat, and that falls on coaching.
Bowles said they “have to go back to the drawing board,” which is not what you want to hear out of a coach at the quarter pole. He insisted it’s “not alarming” because this was the first time “we didn’t give ourselves a chance.”
What went wrong on offense? Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa paused nearly 15 seconds before answering. His silence was telling.
“I think we expected one thing and got another,” he said. “I don’t call the plays. I don’t know.”
Enunwa said he wasn’t being critical of the play calling, but it was clear to everyone that something was amiss on offense.
Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates turned into his pass-happy predecessor, John Morton, calling deep passes on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 on consecutive plays in the second quarter. In the third quarter, on third-and-1, he called another pass out of an empty backfield, eliminating the threat of the run.
Hello? They have a rookie quarterback; how about protecting Sam Darnold with a running game?
The season is four games old, and the Jets still don’t have an identity on offense. Sometimes they’re aggressive, sometimes they’re too cautious. The running game is a rumor. To Darnold’s credit, he played turnover-free ball against Jacksonville’s opportunistic defense. Since their 31-point third quarter in Week 1, the Jets have managed only 41 points in the past 13 quarters.
“It kind of makes (the Detroit game) seem like a fluke,” Enunwa said. “We don’t believe it was, but I’m sure everybody else does.”
No, they don’t have a bunch of playmakers and, yes, there will be growing pains with Darnold, but this is ridiculous. Against the Jaguars, arguably the league’s top defense, the Jets had no semblance of a plan. When they managed an isolated spark, it was quickly doused by a penalty or a sack.
The only thing worse than the offense was the defense, which turned Bortles into a magician — 29-for-38, 388 yards and two touchdowns. They must have employed their Baker Mayfield game plan, which is to say they had no game plan — or at least that’s the way it looked. The Jaguars scored on their first four possessions, effectively burying the Jets.
Between Mayfield and Bortles, the Jets allowed 589 passing yards — in only six-plus quarters, mind you.
The pass coverage was terrible; too many busted coverages. They were confused by the Jaguars’ shallow crossing routes, leaving open receivers in the underneath zones. They were two major breakdowns — one mental, one physical. They left T.J. Yeldon open out of the backfield, resulting in a 31-yard touchdown. Later, cornerback Trumaine Johnson — their $72 million free agent — surrendered a 67-yard touchdown to Donte Moncrief.
Oh, we forgot to mention the Jaguars played almost the entire game without their No. 1 weapon, running back Leonard Fournette. Good teams overcome injuries. Bad teams don’t capitalize.