There’s nothing quite like watching your team get its ass kicked in person.
And it was an ass-kicking, an unquestioned beating from a division rival witnessed while surrounded by tens of thousands of delirious, screaming and largely intoxicated Bills fans. A worse environment, I could not envision.
Maybe that’s why this one stings worse than the Jets’ other four losses, at least two of which were just as miserable from an on-field perspective. But I wasn’t in Cincinnati or Nashville and I can’t imagine Bengals or Titans fans being quite as unbearable as Johnny Bills Fan who spent his paycheck on two-for-$25 tickets and the other half on an 18-pack of Bud heavies.
Bitter? Sure. I entered Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday expecting to gloat and gleam as the Jets battered E.J. Manuel. I thought I’d chug from the keg of victory as Muhammad Wilkerson and the Jets’ defense trampled their way to an overly-satisfying victory in front of my close friends, most of whom are card-carrying members of "Shout Nation."
Instead, I glumly walked to my car in a seven-sizes-too-small Jim Kelly jersey to pay up a yearly bet I hadn’t lost since before Mark Sanchez was a Jet. And the friends who I spent the weekend trash talking to rightfully gave everything back to me, 10 times over.
It was miserable, which matched the Jets’ on-field performance Sunday and Geno Smith’s effort for far too much of his rookie season.
It’s impossible to cast the die on a player only 10 games into his NFL career, but the inconsistencies and faults that were clear when he exited West Virginia have yet to dissipate or even improve noticeably:
“Ball will float or sail if his feet are not set or he fails to transfer weight, either in the pocket when facing pressure or when throwing on the run. Blitz awareness is only adequate, will miss guys coming free to his left and right. Will back up from pressure at times instead of unloading the ball or stepping up to make the throw. Seemingly regressed each week, especially when locking on to one side of the field.”– NFL.com draft analyst Mike MayockThrough 10 games, Geno appears thoroughly unable to deal with pressure or free rushers. On Sunday, he struggled to process the brief amount of time he had in the pocket. The Jets’ offensive line did him no favors, either. Whatever praise that unit garnered for its performance against New Orleans two weeks ago was long gone by 7 p.m. Sunday.
In all but one of the Jets’ five losses, Geno has handled the ball like a loaf of bread – a trait Mark Sanchez carried with him until the end. From the behind-the-buttfumble to Kyle Williams’ strip-sack of Smith on Sunday, Geno’s disregard for the ball is eerily reminiscent of the man he replaced.
And while not all of Geno’s three interceptions Sunday – or his 16 on the season – were his fault, his difficulty with ball placement has been noticeable since training camp in Cortland.
Geno deserves credit for his positive moments. His play against Atlanta had the look of a franchise quarterback and his game-winning drives against the Bills and Patriots gave hope for a brighter future. He’s also as physically gifted as any player the Jets have had at quarterback in the last decade and isn’t afraid to try and fit a ball into a tight window to make a play. But when the day goes poorly, it goes horribly awry. One mistake becomes four and suddenly the Jets are in a hole from which they can’t recover.
I don’t know whether Sanchez or Matt Simms would’ve made Sunday afternoon any more bearable. I know the Jets defense played too soft to stop the Bills underneath, yet the secondary was too slow or too confused to keep up with the Bills’ third- and fourth-string wide receivers down the field. I also know the Sons of Anarchy were largely unable to get past Buffalo’s healthy offensive line this time around and the lack of an impactful edge rusher has become a glaring issue since Antwan Barnes’ injury.
Sunday’s loss was not just on Geno, just like my miserable evening was not on the entirety of Bills fans, but rather a select few who couldn’t even celebrate one of Buffalo’s four touchdowns without falling down a couple rows.
It was a team meltdown of sound and epic proportions which kept the Jets from taking advantage in the mediocre AFC wildcard race and made me miserable for nearly 48 hours.
Thankfully, with Week 11 in the past and Week 12 another day close, I can move on from Sunday’s nightmare and focus on more important things. Like how I can make all those Bills fans eat their words next year.
With Johnny Manziel at quarterback.
Corey works for NBCSports.com as an editor and can be reached at @cgriffin415 on Twitter or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.