The New York Jets won a game but lost the top pick in the NFL Draft. However, after making some important progress, that’s perfectly fine.
FLORHAM PARK, NEW JERSEY—So cursed are the New York Jets that even when they win, they lose. For example, on September 23, 2001, the team earned a 10-3 win over the New England Patriots. The win was secured when New England lost Drew Bledsoe to a Mo Lewis hit, one that brought in some little-known backup named Tom Brady.
Nearly two decades later, the Jets are perhaps no closer to a Super Bowl. It’s safe to assume that there would be some help available in the early stages of the NFL Draft. The spring selection meetings have become beacons of hope to downtrodden teams. Throughout the fall and winter, losses are soothed by seemingly holy chants of “At least we get a better draft pick!”
Over the past six weeks, that incantation reached a deafening roar amongst Jets fans. A hexalogy of defeats, each more embarrassing than the last, moved the Jets up the draft board faster than a New York City Marathon winner. The Jets entered Week 14’s Sunday slate in the third slot, behind only a wretched Bay Area duo of Oakland and San Francisco (a combined 4-20 entering Sunday).
Little did the Jets, or anyone in the NFL circles for that matter, know, the Raiders and 49ers were able to pull off unexpected home victories over AFC playoff contenders. Oakland held off a furious late rally from the Pittsburgh Steelers, while San Francisco more or less closed the door on the Denver Broncos’ playoff hopes. The 49ers came out even bigger winners, as even with the Denver win, they remained in the draft’s top overall slot. Oakland would drop to third, leapfrogged by an Arizona Cardinals team that slept through a 17-3 home loss to Detroit.
The Jets, on the other, paid no mind to this concept. Given several opportunities to take a loss and walk away, they instead rallied from multiple deficits against the Buffalo Bills on the road. At the end of the day, the Jets were four-point victors in Buffalo, but two-slot losers on the draft board, falling to fifth behind reeling Arizona and Atlanta.
This being NFL football, vocal droves of Jets fans spoke out against the win. It didn’t matter that this was their first taste of victory in nearly two months. All that mattered was a draft order formed by deficiency, a spot in a draft process defined by unpredictability. Adding to the Jets’ conundrum is the fact they have no second round pick, making the first selection all the more vital.
But, considering what the Jets showed on Sunday, it was worth it.
Sunday marked the return of Sam Darnold, a return from injury that nearly ended before it truly began. In the walking Murphy’s Law that is New York Jets football, Darnold’s anticipated homecoming to an NFL field lasted just three plays before he was sent back to the locker room to deal with another foot injury. With the Jets falling behind 14-3 early, they could almost be commended for packing it in, living to fight another day.