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Jets fail to show up with playoff lives on line

The Jets were lousier than the weather. On a raw, wet, miserable night in the Jersey swamp, that was all that needed to be said.

With their credible playoff hopes at stake, the Jets followed the lead of tens of thousands of their ticket holders:

They didn’t bother to show up.

Shame on them. Shame on the Jets, that is, not their fans. The men, women, and children who fought the rain and the darkness and the traffic — many of them from Long Island, two bridges away — deserved some sort of commendation for making the trip to watch the 7-7 Jets become the 7-8 Jets by way of their fourth consecutive defeat.

No, this 19-3 final wasn’t just any fourth consecutive defeat, not with the No. 1 overall pick from the 2021 draft, Trevor Lawrence, looking very much like the big man on campus and the No. 2 overall pick from that draft, Zach Wilson, looking very much like he belonged exactly where his head coach put him — on the bench.

Late in the third quarter, with the Jaguars holding a 16-3 lead and with Jets fans relentlessly booing their quarterback, Robert Saleh turned to a former fourth-stringer, Chris Streveler, a 27-year-old quarterback who has never made an NFL start. Saleh replaced Wilson last month with a player once drafted 171st overall, Mike White, and replaced him Thursday night with a player who wasn’t drafted at all.

Zach Wilson watches on from the sideline after being removed from the game.
Zach Wilson watches on from the sideline after being removed from the game.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Saleh explained that Streveler, a former Canadian Leaguer, was inserted merely to revive the walking-dead run game, adding that it “just snowballed in a good way for Strev.” And in a very bad way for Zach. Wilson seemed deflated enough afterward to inspire some sympathy. He said he had to “look myself in the mirror” and ask himself, “Why are we not moving the ball?”

Hard as it might be to believe, 22 starts into his pro career, it could be all over for Wilson as a franchise player-to-be. Saleh admitted that his quarterback is suffering a crisis of confidence. In the middle of this nightmarish performance, one league executive sent me the following text:

“I believe my predraft comment to you was the following: ‘I would not draft Zach Wilson in any round.’ ”

The executive added that the game looked too big for Wilson, and that the Jets should’ve done a better job tanking at the end of the 2020 season to end up with Lawrence at No. 1, rather than the BYU star at No. 2.

It was hard to dispute either claim. This was Wilson’s first prime-time appearance, and he came up as empty as MetLife’s upper deck.

Robert Saleh walks off the field following the Jets' loss to the Jaguars.
Robert Saleh walks off the field following the Jets’ loss to the Jaguars.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

But in fairness, this no-show wasn’t only about the starting quarterback, not even close. This is on Saleh, too, and everyone who coaches with him and plays for him. Saleh got steamrolled by Jacksonville’s Doug Pederson, a Super Bowl champ in Philly and a longtime NFL quarterback who is developing Lawrence into a beast.

“It starts with coaching,” Saleh said, his only good call of the night.

This meltdown was what they call a total team effort. It was best captured by the official who flagged the Jets in the first quarter before announcing, “False start. Everyone but the center.”

The home team had four rushing yards at halftime — four! — and finished with 66, 54 from the rugged, Tebow-like Streveler. The defense surrendered a 96-yard touchdown drive, and Garrett Wilson, who seemed a slam dunk to become the first Jets receiver to clear 1,000 yards since 2015, only caught four passes for 30 yards, leaving the building four yards short of the mark.

The normally accountable Garrett Wilson also left the building without meeting with reporters at his locker. Honestly, none of this was at all what I’d expected. I thought that Saleh had shown leadership after the Detroit loss by blaming himself for clock mismanagement. I thought that after three tight, tough losses, his Jets would respond to him. And I thought Garrett Wilson would be the one who responded like no other.

Garrett Wilson fumbles in the fourth quarter.
Garrett Wilson fumbles in the fourth quarter.
Getty Images

But Thursday night, the NFL’s best rookie offensive player looked like every other overmatched teammate out there. Streveler was about the only Jet who came to play, and he was about the only Jet who wasn’t even supposed to play.

Man, the Jets need Mike White’s ribs to heal ASAP. They need to find a medical professional willing to clear him between now and the plane ride to Seattle, because they can’t throw Zach Wilson back out there.

The Jets just don’t play for him. They showed energy for White, and they showed energy for Streveler. But the quarterback who was drafted to lead the Jets to their first Super Bowl in more than half a century is the ultimate downer.

Wilson was never supposed to lose his job to White, and he was never supposed to remain benched for more than a drive after the temp, Streveler, got sent into the game. But Wilson isn’t a good player, and the Jets aren’t a good team.

“It’s not about the playoffs right now,” Saleh said.

Damn right. Once again, the Jets should be ashamed of themselves for raining on their fans’ parade.

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