What a difference a week makes.
Last week, around Thursday, I had just about every New York Jets fan in my life telling me about the road trip they were making to Foxborough, where once and for all, they’d see their beloved Jets get the best of Bill Belichick in his building. The streaks were real. Droughts, really. Thirteen straight regular-season losses to the Patriots; 13 straight regular-season losses in New England.
With tepid optimism, Jets fans puffed their chests out, and they made the journey. A win would have made the Jets the first-place team in the AFC East, and their fans knew it.
But here we are, a week later, and the Jets are in last place in the AFC East, coming off an even more embarrassing loss to New England than the one my colleague Mark Sanchez would prefer we don’t mention, and there’s not only serious doubt but some genuine resentment toward second-year quarterback Zach Wilson.
On Wednesday morning, the team announced Wilson would not start Sunday against the Bears.
How did it all happen? So fast? And so catastrophically?
Well, Marcus Jones‘ back-breaking punt return certainly hurt, but it was Wilson’s lack of self-awareness and complete lack of accountability after the game that just blew the wheels off the car.
When Wilson said “no” when asked if he let his team’s defense down after an afternoon in which the Jets had 103 total yards of offense and two yards in the second half, a questionable situation turned to a dangerous one.
The New York media has eaten it up, and rightfully so, and when coach Robert Saleh took his time and opted to defer when asked about his starting quarterback Monday, it reached a different level. Then came the official word Wednesday.
Are Jets ready to move off Zach Wilson?
Kurt Warner joins Colin Cowherd to discuss how the Jets can develop Zach Wilson into a winner like the Giants did with Manning.
My read on the situation is always to look at leadership, both from the players and the coaching staff. There has been no one in the media landscape rallying around Wilson and saying, “He’s our guy, through thick and thin,” and that’s usually a bad sign. I also remember enough New York Giants teams in the 1990s and 2000s when the defense was playing exceptionally but held back by a struggling offense. And at some point, that becomes a point of conflict in the locker room. That hasn’t happened yet, but it’s simmering.
I also think the Jets didn’t expect to be 6-4 heading into Thanksgiving. And now that they are, there are expectations for everyone to hold up their end. The defense has been fantastic, the young players outside of Wilson have all stepped up and when Alijah Vera-Tucker and Breece Hall both went down, young players and veterans all made sure that wouldn’t mark the end of the season.
But the quarterback hasn’t taken a step forward. They’ve all carried him. So when he shows a lack of awareness about that, it stings.
The Jets play a Bears team that has lost a bunch of games but is playing inspired football. If this benching doesn’t light a fire under Wilson — good or bad — I’m not sure if anything will. And I do think this is salvageable.
Every young QB of the last 10 years — perhaps besides Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes — goes through that period when they’ve been doubted, picked apart and blamed for the team’s struggles. In this case, Wilson is feeling that brunt. The real question is whether he can emerge from it. And that will be the real test of what becomes of 2021’s No. 2 overall pick
Is Travis Kelce the greatest tight end ever?
At 33 years old, Travis Kelce is having the best season of his NFL career, and I’m constantly amazed watching him glide through defenses, embarrass All-Pro safeties and seemingly improve from week to week. His performance Sunday against the Chargers was marvelous once again, catching six balls for 115 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner.
After the game, Patrick Mahomes said Kelce was the greatest tight end to ever play the game, and it made quite a bit of noise. Is it that crazy a statement?
His numbers trail Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gatesbut those guys played longer careers. Rob Gronkowski has the four rings and the blocking superiority. Kellen Winslow and Ozzie Newsome were the first of their kind at the position, and some will point to Shannon Sharpe as the real GOAT at the position.
But, gosh, Kelce sure does have an argument, doesn’t he? He’s fifth in all-time tight end receptions with 93 fewer games played than Gonzalez. He’s fifth in receiving yards, and he’s just 200 yards behind Gronk in postseason receiving yards, despite seven fewer postseason games. But the stats are fodder to argue about in a bar. Is there any tight end you’d want on the field, in the flat, in the red zone more than Travis Kelce? Especially in a big spot?
I’d say Sunday’s performance was some career moment, but I’m not even sure it makes his top 10. The consummate pro, I honestly think he still has three or four years at this level left to play. I also look at the way this season began. We saw a lot of hype about the league-wide wealth of great tight ends.
And yet all those preseason favorites — notably Darren Waller and Kyle Pitts — seem to have either gotten hurt or just not delivered. This year, in terms of the tight end spot, it has been Travis Kelce and everyone else.
I am such a fan of his game. I don’t think Mahomes is off-base at all.
The 49ers put the NFL on notice Monday night. But I’m still wondering: What if?
Yes, it was against the Cardinals. But, gosh, if the 49ers can do what they did Monday night in Mexico City, the rest of the league needs to watch out. It was all clicking, and it was downright scary.
Kyle Shanahan has long prided himself as being an offensive innovator, and the game plan Monday evening was sublime. Everywhere you looked, a different offensive player was being put in position to gobble up yards and exploit a weakness.
When you go through the names — George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffery, Brandon Aiyuk, Eljah Mitchell, Kyle Juszczyk — it was like an NBA All-Star team hitting its stride in the fourth quarter after three quarters of working out the kinks.
But here’s my lingering question: what would this offense look like right now with Trey Lance?
I know, this is merely hypothetical for the 2023 season, but it’s more than likely that all of these skill-position players will be back, and Lance will be healthy and once again the QB1 come September.
As great as Jimmy G was Monday night, could this offense have an even faster, higher gear with a mobile dual-threat quarterback at the switch? The 49ers QB situation has long been fascinating, but I caught myself watching the performance by the offense and the game plan from Shanahan, and could only think about what it could look like with a running QB.
Something to ponder, yes. In the meantime, San Francisco can win a championship with Jimmy G playing like he did against Arizona.
What can we make of the Rams?
The 2022 season has been an absolute nightmare for the Los Angeles Rams. If the season ended today, they’d be in line for the sixth overall pick — but they surrendered that selection to Detroit in the Jared Goff–Matthew Stafford trade last March.
Aside from Houston and maybe ChicagoI’m not sure there’s a team I’d pick the Rams to beat on a neutral field this weekend. They are double-digit underdogs for the first time in Sean McVay’s career against the Chiefs on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App), and I think that one could get out of hand if Stafford doesn’t play.
Dothe Rams have the worst offense in the NFL?
Nick Wright believes the Rams, without Cooper Kupp, have the worst offense in the NFL.
Bill Simmons compared these Rams to the 1999 Chicago Bulls on his podcast earlier this week, but I think this is even worse because Michael Jordan didn’t leave the building. Everyone came back. Yes, By Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. aren’t around, and Andrew Whitworth retired, but nobody expected this.
The Rams dressed seven offensive linemen Sunday and four of them weren’t on the opening-day roster. They’ve lost Cooper Coup and Joe Noteboom to injury, and Stafford’s now a question mark. Allen Robinson has been a great disappointment and there hasn’t been a young guy who has stepped up in any real way.
As a result, I often get asked this question: “Will Sean McVay retire at the end of this season and do TV?”
I think the fact this season has been such a disaster is exactly why he’ll be back for at least next season. He can’t go out like this. No way. I know he considered broadcasting in the wake of the Super Bowl title, but it was because of guys such as Stafford, Kupp and Aaron Donald that he felt compelled to come back.
This time around? Leadership is a factor. What would it say about him if he bailed on the organization right when things got rough? In his wildest dreams, McVay wouldn’t have imagined this season going this way.
I don’t speak for him, but I know him well enough to say he ain’t going out like this.
A Giant Thanksgiving note
If there’s doubt and worry amongst the Big Blue Faithful, it’s because Thanksgiving hasn’t been particularly kind to the team. The Giants have not won a Thanksgiving game since 1982 at Detroit.
Thanksgiving Moment: LT’s pick-six
Check out this “Thanksgiving Moment” from 1982, when Lawrence Taylor returned an interception for a game-winning TD for the Giants in Detroit.
Some fun nuggets on that game? It was tied 6-6 in the fourth quarter when Lawrence Taylor — of course — came up with a pick-six to win the game.
The QB for Detroit that day? CBS Sports’ Gary Danielson. The Giants defensive coordinator and special teams coach? That was one Bill Belichick. Forty years ago!
Maybe something changes Thursday. We shall see.
Happy holidays, everyone!
Peter Schrager is an NFL writer for FOX Sports and a host of “Good Morning Football” on NFL Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @PSchrags.
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