If ever there was a cruel display of the dichotomy between the employer and employee — which is as much an American tradition as apple pie and white-picket fences — it was seen late Sunday afternoon in the bowels of MetLife Stadium.
Taking the virtual podium to face the intimidating collection that is the New York football media — which often resembles a pack of wolves more than reporters — was 22-year-old Jets cornerback Lamar Jackson, fresh off allowing a game-winning 46-yard touchdown to Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III with five seconds left in regulation, blowing a four-point lead and relegating the Jets to 0-12.
It was a touchdown that was as much Jackson’s fault as it was the Jets fan at home screaming at their television when Derek Carr’s rainbow pass fell into the open arms of Ruggs, who used a quick double move to get past Jackson down the left sideline. The rookie cornerback was set up to fail from the get-go — a victim of egregiously bad, selfish playcalling from defensive coordinator Gregg Williams given the situation.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, this was the 253rd instance over the last 15 years that a team was trailing between four and eight points with 15 or fewer seconds remaining in regulation and further than 40 yards away from the end zone. The Jets were the first team of that bunch to rush six or more defenders, sending seven toward Carr while the secondary was in a “Cover-0” format, meaning there were no deep safeties to help the cornerbacks covering receivers man-to-man.
“I couldn’t believe they all-out blitzed us,” Carr said. “As soon as I saw it, I was thankful.”
But while Williams was afforded the opportunity to hide from answering for his boneheaded decision-making, Jackson took the stand like a pro and placed responsibility on his shoulders.
“I heard the call, and I gotta execute it,” Jackson said. “I didn’t execute it to the best of my ability or how I wanted to. It’s tough, but at the same time, I also know that call is not going to define me or my career.”
He at least had the backing of his teammate, safety Marcus Maye, who questioned Williams’ decision to sabotage the Jets’ chances of a first win in roughly 49 weeks.
“That situation just has to be a better call,” Maye said. “We gotta execute, but you gotta help us out at the same time.”
Williams normally speaks with the media every Friday as is mandated by the NFL. Coaches are required to speak at least once-a-week. But instead of leaving out his young players or even his head coach — who often deserves the brunt of the blame — Williams needs to take some form of accountability and explain what he was looking at that literally no one else saw on Sunday afternoon.