By Lenn Robbins
Salvation lost. Hope vanquished.
Yes, for perhaps the first time in the history of the National Football League, a win is a loss. Had the winless Jets continued on their off course and finished the season 0-16, they would have won the right to make the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
A disastrous season could have been spun as a success of failures.
But only the Jets – only the Jets – could throw their fans under a wilted, mid-January Christmas tree instead of leaving a present under trimmed one like this organization. The Jets beat the Rams 23-20 Sunday, an outcome that needs a recount if not an investigation.
This organization has held a season-long fire sale, retained a schlemiel of a coach, fired a dubious defensive coordinator and hampered the development of a prior first round QB draft choice only to hold the tantalizing thought of getting the No.1 pick for 14-plus weeks.
Then came Week 15. The very weekend when the football-loving world was reminded that there is one, and only one, college quarterback who checks all the boxes for pro football greatness, the Jets won.
Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence missed games this season after testing positive for COVID. A bevy of talented quarterbacks – Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Florida’s Kyle Trask and Alabama’s Mac Jones – have jockeyed for Heisman Trophy frontrunner. Fields has struggled in the passing game, especially when he must make plays with his arm. Trask had had one excellent season, but only one. Jones runs like a who doesn’t like to go for a jog.
Lawrence was on the sidelines when Clemson lost its only game of the season, 47-40 double overtime crusher at Notre Dame a month ago. He was on the field Saturday, leading the Tigers to vicious revenge over the Irish, 34-10. Lawrence completed 25-of-36 passes for 322 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He ran for another 90 yards and a score.
Lawrence is the rare player that intimidates the opposition the entire week of a game, not just in the game. His physical skills, his mental toughness, his overwhelming adoration among his teammates and coaches, his competitiveness, his small-town humbleness countered by those flowing blond locks would have made Lawrence the 2021 coming of Joe Namath, lighting up the Big Apple.
Now Lawrence will likely be going to Jacksonville, Florida, basking in the glow of the nation’s 42nd largest media market. Now he will bring promise to a franchise that has never played in a Super Bowl instead of one that hasn’t lifted the Lombardi Trophy since we landed men on the moon.
That’s what the Jets lost in winning on Sunday.
By virtue of strength of schedule the one-win Jaguars overtake the formerly winless Jets for the No.1 pick. According to Profootballnetwork.com, the Jets, picking second, will take BYU’s Zach Wilson a former three-star recruit out of Draper, Utah.
Lawrence was the nation’s No.1 quarterback prospect coming out of Cartersville in 2018, Georgia and he’s validated that status since Day 1 at Clemson. He’s thrown 88 touchdown passes and just 16 interceptions. He’s run for another 16.
He led Clemson to a national championship as a freshman and might win another as a junior, which means he’s lived the last four years of his life in the public eye. He wasn’t going to blink in New York spotlight, or so we thought.
But the Jets ruined their perfect losing record by doing something they have been so inept at – they won. We can’t blame the players on this team. They get paid to practice and compete and Sunday they produced a win against one of the league’s best defensive teams, a that would have clinched a playoff berth with a win.
It doesn’t make sense. As Jets fans know, it rarely does.