Sports

Future ominously cloudy for Jets and their frustrated fans

NEW YORK — These are tough and uncertain times for the New York Jets and their fans.

Turn on local sports radio or check Twitter, and the frustration and desperation oozes right out of the speakers and jumps off the screen.

It's open season on just about everyone, from owner Woody Johnson to general manager Mike Maccagnan to coach Todd Bowles to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and cornerback Darrelle Revis.

That's what happens when the team is 3-8 after high hopes just a few months ago — and the future is ominously cloudy.

"Sometimes in life, you take body blows," wide receiver Brandon Marshall said Monday. "We all get hit and we all fall down and it hurts. It's disappointing, it's scary and there's a lot of frustration and there's a lot of emotions there. You've just got to pick yourself back up and deal with reality."

After a 10-6 season, led by Fitzpatrick's franchise-record 31 touchdown passes, huge years by Marshall and Eric Decker and a solid showing by Bowles' defence , the next step for the Jets was expected to be a playoff appearance.

They finished a win short of that a year ago, and a daunting early season schedule did little to temper those hopes within the organization. Then, the losses began piling. So did the injuries and the critical mistakes.

"We've hit stumbling blocks throughout the year," Marshall said.

And, now, the Jets are here: They'll likely miss the post-season for the sixth straight year.

Bowles' seat is getting warmer by the week in only his second season and many fans are angry.

The clusters of empty seats at MetLife Stadium on Sunday were as clear a signal that they've had enough with the losing as the banners that flew around the practice field imploring Johnson to clean house two years ago.

It would seem that Bowles is safe, at least to get to next season. But his repeated decision to stick with Fitzpatrick rather than turn to second-year quarterback Bryce Petty for the final stretch of games has been met with a collective shaking of heads from fans who have already put this season aside and want to start planning for next season.

"Frustrated. It's definitely not what you want," Bowles said of this season. "None of us got to these positions by not handling adversity or going through adversity. We just have to keep fighting and keep swinging."

But Bowles' in-game management has been criticized, and the revelation that defensive line stars Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson were late for a team meeting earlier this season had some wondering if cracks in the foundation are starting to show.

"No, no coaching change," cornerback Buster Skrine said. "Todd Bowles is a great coach. We just need to finish (games). Coach can't go out there and play the game.

"Obviously, he's coaching us well enough to get us in situations to win. We just have to make plays at the end of the game."

Such as in Sunday's loss , when Tom Brady marched the Patriots down the field 83 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

Five of the Jets' eight losses have been by margins of 10 points or fewer, and the blame from fans and media has often been directed at the coaching.

"They all hurt the same," Bowles said.

Many Jets fans, however, aren't sure where to turn to feel better. Well, other than that high draft spot.

Fitzpatrick is a free agent and so is Geno Smith, leaving Petty and Christian Hackenberg as the only signed quarterbacks on the roster heading into the off-season .

Revis has stunningly gone from being a shutdown cornerback to looking like a shell of himself. He's due $13 million next season and his $15.3 million salary cap hit could make him an off-season casualty.

Marshall is scheduled to make $7.5 million next year, and Decker is due to make $7.25 million.

"You never know in this business," said Marshall, when asked if he thinks he'll be back before adding that he'd like to retire someday with the Jets.

Center Nick Mangold has played all 11 of his NFL seasons with the Jets, but his $9.075 million cap hit could have him looking for a new team next off-season .

New York looked into trading Richardson during the deadline this year, and could be even more inclined to make a deal this off-season with him scheduled to make $8.069 million with the fifth-year option on his rookie deal.

That's a whole lot of money and familiar faces that could be cleared from the roster.

There are still five more games to go before all of that, though. Bowles hopes there are a few wins along the way.

"You have to keep fighting and you have to become smarter at the same time, and only then will we get better," he said. "We're working on that every day. We're fighting going forward and we've been through adversity before and we'll come out of this one."

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