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The Jets aren't helping Geno Smith

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The Jets are counting on second-year quarterback Geno Smith to provide some consistency to their season. He's not doing that, and he's not getting any help from the team around him.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- This was the 20th pro start for Geno Smith -- 16 straight last year, four straight this year. He remains young and raw at quarterback. His Jets teammates keep talking about buttressing him. Taking the heat off. Being a rock.

"We know where Geno is,'' Jets running back Chris Johnson said. "But it's not time to look so much at Geno. It's not even time to look so much at the opponent. We really have to start looking at ourselves.''

That was the only hallelujah moment the Jets offered Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

One of the rare times all day that one of them snatched a situation, soared and nailed it.

They were so blah and so blue in their 24-17 loss to the Detroit Lions, so meek and so small in big moments in this game that it was excruciating for their fans and stupefying for their head coach, Rex Ryan.

Just a bunch of nothing too often when things mattered most for the Jets.

It was so grim that while strolling off the field, Smith lost his cool and yelled an expletive at fans.

"First of all, I want to apologize if any kid saw me saying any negative remarks walking off the field,'' Smith said. "I kind of let my temper get the best of me in that situation. It is part of the learning process. I have to get better with that.''

Geno Smith

Photo via Getty Images

There is so much varied work for the Jets to do.

So much to improve to turn losing ways into winning ways.

Through four games, this team is starting to look as if it needs an overhaul rather than modification.

The Jets sank to a 1-3 record with three straight losses. Smith is now 9-11 as the Jets' starter, and he is feeling burdened. He is hearing the fans' boos and their chants for backup Michael Vick. Smith did some nice things. But he threw a fourth quarter interception. He lost a fourth quarter fumble.

So many Jets played as poorly or worse.

A sampling:

  • The Jets' offense drove 71 yards in 14 plays for a field goal to start the game and then served five consecutive three-and-out drives. The Jets' running game started fast in that first drive, complementing Smith, and then wilted.
  • The Lions continually took advantage of the Jets' defensive emphasis on receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush. First, it was receiver Jeremy Ross. He scored on a 59-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford where Jets cornerback Antonio Allen provided neither coverage nor a tackle after the catch. This play gave Detroit a 10-3 lead in the second quarter.
  • It became 17-3 just before halftime because Jets eighth-year linebacker David Harris was schooled by rookie tight end Eric Ebron on a 16-yard touchdown catch. Harris was spun, lost, beaten in coverage by Ebron in the end zone. Later outside of his locker room, Ebron was clutching that ball tightly. What happened on that play, he was asked? "Sometimes, it just comes down to technique,'' he said. "I won.'' It was a tough cover for Harris. But if he can't do it, why is he asked to do it? And if he can, that was a terrible showing.
  • With 49 seconds left in the third quarter, it was Jets cornerback Darrin Walls' turn to neither cover nor tackle. Golden Tate caught a quick out pass from Stafford and ran over Walls for 16 yards to the Jets' 2-yard line. The Jets had cut the gap to 17-10 minutes earlier. Walls helped set up Stafford's 1-yard run that made it 24-10. Walls, like Allen before, killed the Jets in lack of coverage and in lack of tackling.
  • In the Jets' final possession of the game -- a drive that began at their own 16 down 24-17 with 4:36 left -- the Jets faced third-and-2. Running back Chris Ivory dropped Smith's pass on that play. Why didn't the Jets choose for Smith to scramble for 2 yards just to keep the drive moving? That is what Stafford did later to help kill the clock late for the Lions. That is what he had done earlier to score the winning touchdown. Stafford is not a better runner/scrambler than Smith. Yet, the Lions were smarter. They made those winning plays.

Smarter and Lions are not words that have always found each other.

It says plenty about what Detroit is building and about what the Jets are searching for.

"I think it comes down to mindset,'' said Bush, "and that is something we have been working on under coach (Jim) Caldwell since OTAs.

"I think players have to get their mind into the right frame to be able to win in certain situations and make the plays in those situations. It's a physical game, but you can't put too much emphasis on the mental side.''

It looks like the wrong mind games are running rampant among the Jets leading to breakdowns and letdowns. A young quarterback is struggling, and both young and veteran players around him are fraught in big moments.

That is a rotten mix and a ruinous recipe.

jets

Photo via Getty Images

"It's hard to pinpoint one person,'' said Jets receiver Greg Salas, who was open all day on crossing routes and was the Jets' most trustworthy receiving option. He caught two passes for 60 yards and might have caught five or six more had the Jets smartly featured him.

"We had a lot of pre-snap penalties that threw us off, threw us back,'' Salas said. "We can execute better. I'm just looking for us to come out here and be us.''

What's that? In three straight losses it has been quarterback mistakes punctuated by a slew of miscues all around him. Then add more even when he is not on the field.

"This is a good team,'' Jets receiver Eric Decker said. "We have the ability. It's about executing the plays. Period. That's it. It's a matter of doing it throughout the practice week, everyone pushing each other and being accountable for what your job is. We'll see what happens.''

See what happens?

How will that work in the Jets' next three games against Philip Rivers and San Diego, Peyton Manning and Denver, and Tom Brady and New England?

The Jets may have a quarterback "issue,'' but they have a cornerback calamity and too many big guys playing small.

Sometimes a team learns on the run, and through adversity, figures out how to win these types of games and make winning plays. Sometimes it just takes time.

But how much time does Geno Smith have? How much time does Rex Ryan have?

Games like this one, nasty three-game losing streaks like the Jets have created, make people think overhaul rather than modification.

Improvement, success is required to stay the course.

"We can't dwell on this,'' Smith said. "We have had three tough weeks. Three games in which we have had multiple opportunities to come away with victories, yet we haven't done so.''

Later he added: "The key thing is that I have to lean on my teammates, lean on my coaches, lean on my faith, continue to be myself and understanding that you're going to have some tough times, you're going to have some tough stretches. The measure of your character is how you respond to that. I look forward to responding to that.''

He may be leaning on his teammates, but too often they are crumbling all around him.

He knows he will be benched for Vick, that it will come if things don't start clicking.

That an overhaul could occur.

"At times,'' said Ryan, "he (Smith) looked really good. At other times he wasn't quite as good, which was similar to the whole team. His play was very typical of the whole team. If it was just him making mistakes, we might have a different solution, but I don't believe it's just on one man.''

Never is.

It's the whole gang of green that is painfully steering toward an overhaul.

The entire lot.