EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The current state of New York football might be best summed up by what didn’t happen Sunday afternoon, rather than what did in the Jets’ 34-27 victory over the Giants. No booing, no cheering, just silence when the teams went to the locker room at halftime.
Two lost seasons. Two lost teams, desperate to not be perceived as what their records indicate they are for now — roadkill along the New Jersey Turnpike.
For a week, at least, the Jets — now 2-7 — will get a reprieve. From the coaching hot seat for Adam Gase. From the regression analysis for Sam Darnold. From the despair of having lost to the previously winless Dolphins. There is little comfort to be found in a season that has spiraled so far down. But for the Jets, inflicting as much emotional distress on a rival about which they have long had an organizational inferiority complex is about as good as this winter is likely to get. Darnold mused about the Jets going on a run, which is not as laughable as it sounds, given the Jets entered Week 10 with the league’s easiest remaining schedule. That would salvage some respectability — no small thing for a team that had last week’s loss compared to the Butt Fumble on the humiliation meter — and, well, mediocrity.
That is a fall off a cliff compared with the Jets’ preseason hopes to be a playoff contender — remember those? — but it is a soft landing compared with the crash against the rocks the Giants are absorbing right now.
There is a narrow walkway between the equipment truck and the entrance to the Giants’ locker room. On the wall is a mural of the franchise’s four Lombardi Trophies, a vivid reminder of just how lofty the expectations usually are for the Giants. To get a read on the current state of the organization, you need only to have stood there for a few moments late Sunday afternoon.
Team president John Mara walked by, stone faced, exiting with his family and making no eye contact with a group of reporters inches away. Running back Saquon Barkley, a towel draped over his head, walked the few steps into the X-ray room. Both were as frustrated and angry as you are likely to ever see them, Barkley having gained one rushing yard — one — on the day, Mara faced with the fact that his team’s rebuild is slower and uglier than his braintrust forecast. Mara is as rational an owner as there is — he is the one who reminded reporters that it was just one game after Daniel Jones won his first start back in Week 3– but now he and the Giants have two weeks to marinate in their misery because the team has a bye next week.
Barkley would not say why he went into the X-ray room, but he summed up where things are succinctly.
"Frustration, disappointment, anger, everything you said," Barkley said. "No one wants to be 2-8. Everybody’s upset. Everyone’s frustrated."
Bad things happen to bad teams during bye weeks, although Coach Pat Shurmur said he will not make staff changes. He had talked last week about the sense of urgency surrounding this game, although that seemed to be lacking when the Jets drove for two first-quarter touchdowns without much resistance. The injury-wracked offensive line, made worse when left tackle Nate Solder went out with a concussion, gave up six sacks, including one in which Jets safety Jamal Adams took the ball out of Jones’ hands and sprinted for a touchdown. Thanks to two touchdowns each by Darius Slayton and Golden Tate, the Giants led by three going into the fourth quarter. But the defense, a sieve all season, gave up 10 fourth-quarter points.
At 2-8, the Giants, like the Jets last week, are left to wonder when they will ever win again, whether their team will collapse into the same apathy that manifested itself into thousands of empty seats Sunday.
No, the Giants insisted, they will not fold. They will not lay down.
"Whatever happens, we’re going to take it in stride like grown men and move forward," safety Michael Thomas said.
Thomas was asked if he expects changes.
"Gotta be," he said. "I don’t know what’s going to happen. Whatever happens, we’re going to take it in stride, but at this point, yeah."
He added: "The reality is that we’ve lost six games in a row, we haven’t made enough plays to get a win. This is a production-based business. Players go, coaches go when you don’t produce."
This, of course, is exactly the same conversation that was smothering the Jets last week. The Jets’ victory notwithstanding, there seems little doubt that, for teams that share little more than a stadium and their crushed hopes, the Jets and Giants are likely to also share upheaval to at least some degree this offseason.
Shurmur maintained, maybe incongruously, that he sees positives coming from this season and that probably applies to the Jets, too. It has been a devastating disappointment in New York, one that inspired Newsday to say this game was for "gagging rights." Neither franchise’s fan base wants to hear that anything good is coming of this. But with the teams taking turns being the source of gridiron embarrassment, the future is the only thing left to sell.
"I think I’m seeing the things that will help us in the long run," Shurmur said. "Certainly, we haven’t done enough in the short run. We’re all going to get to see now, all of these young players, and we added a few more out there today, we’re going to get to see them develop as we go forward."
"That’s not for here," Shurmur said.
The question, really, is who will be for here after this season is over.
Follow Judy Battista on Twitter @judybattista.
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