What a difference a year makes.
This time a year ago, the Jets were the surprise team of the NFL. Picked to have a record that rivaled an expansion team, they went into Week 17 at the Dolphins with a 7-8 record. The season ended with a Gatorade bath for head coach Rex Ryan and a .500 record signaled a team suddenly on the ascent. It was supposed to be a playoff-caliber team in 2014.
It didn't quite work out that way.The Jets limp into Week 17 of 2014 with a 3-12 record and in all likelihood will lose Ryan and general manager John Idzik after this final game. In Miami again this year, this Jets' season has gone downhill fast with just two wins since the season opener.
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Ryan, to his credit, continues to pimp his team as one better than its record. He does have a point as in seven of New York's losses this year, the Jets have lost by a combined 34 points. That's a lot of close games.
“I think we’re getting better ... The team’s better than (three wins). It is,” Ryan said. “Some teams win two, three games, or whatever, they’re non-competitive in games. We’ve had a chance in almost every single game (and) had the ball in hand, but again, we’ve found ways to lose instead of finding ways to win. But, I think this team’s has a good nucleus to have a chance to be really good in the near future.”
Last year's news - The Dolphins surely remember that loss last year in Week 17, a game that dropped Miami to 8-8 after an offseason in 2013 where it spent big money. A win this Sunday would push the Dolphins to 9-7 and give the franchise their first winning season since 2008.Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said they don't dwell on that loss and he had praise for the Jets and how they've played better than their record this year.
“No, that was almost 365 days ago. This is a new season. This is an important game for us. We’re totally focused on playing well against a team, again, that I think is playing extremely well,” Philbin said. “They could have been 4-0 the last four games. Coach Ryan and his staff and the players, they’re doing a good job.”3 things to watch:
The End of an Error – This could well be Geno Smith's final game with the Jets or at the very least, his final game as starting quarterback of this team. 2014 has seen precious little progress since his rookie year. Smith still can't read defenses, has little touch on his deep ball and continues to struggle with his progression. Other than that, he has shown flashes of Pro Bowl potential. He still sees himself as the future of the team.
“I know that it takes hard work and not everyone is going to see the same things, but within this locker room, within this group of guys, we all see the potential we have as a team,” Smith said. “Obviously, that’s not saying much with the record that we have right now but we believe that if we work hard enough and we do what’s right, we can turn things around. At this point, that’s not even important because we have another game out there to go and play. We’re really focused on that. We have a tough bunch of guys and we’re not going to change our demeanor now. We’ve got one game to play and everyone’s focused in and locked in on that game.”
The Narrative – Get ready for the television broadcast to get ugly towards the Jets if they go down early on the scoreboard to the Dolphins. With the specter of a general manager and a head coach being fired, the narrative will be nothing but change, change and more change from the talking heads. Get ready for plenty of banter about what players stick around, who will leave, the future of Smith in New York and the expected shakeup in management. Fun times.