If you thought the New York Jets were long since done with playing important games, you'd be wrong. This Sunday, the Jets will be playing in the Reverse Super Bowl, a game of gigantic meaning for the future direction of the franchise. When the Jets travel to Tennessee to take on the Titans, their chances of drafting either Oregon's Marcus Mariota or Florida State's Jameis Winston will be on the line.
In a Reverse Super Bowl (which I completely made up on the spot, if you couldn't tell), you want to lose the game, and the Jets are no different. They must lose to the Titans.
Right now, there are five teams sharing the NFL's worst record at 2-11. The current draft order, based on strength of schedule tiebreakers, which obviously could change, has Tampa Bay picking first, Tennessee picking second, Jacksonville picking third, the Jets going fourth, and the Raiders fifth.
The problem with that order for the Jets is both Tampa Bay and Tennessee need a quarterback, and if both decide to go that route, Mariota and Winston would both be off the board by the time the Jets pick. That would be a disaster for the franchise, as the fall off to UCLA's Brett Hundley is huge, with some saying the Bruins quarterback could be a third-round pick. Yes, some later-rounds picks on quarterbacks have hit, but the odds are dramatically low.
If the Jets defeat the Titans on the road, which is extremely possible, as Tennessee is terrible, the chances of taking either potential franchise passer become next to nothing. If the Jets lose, then one of the teams ahead of them in the draft order would be knocked down a peg.
The other teams in the 2-11 jumble won't be favored to win any of their games Sunday, not surprisingly. Tampa Bay is at Carolina, which could be a spot for an upset, especially if Cam Newton's injuries from his car accident Tuesday keep him out of the lineup. Oakland is at Kansas City and Jacksonville is at Baltimore.
If you're a Jets fan, you should be rooting for the teams you're fighting with, as in Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Oakland all winning. You might not outwardly root for Tennessee to beat the Jets, but it's what needs to happen for the team to take the next step and become a consistent winner again.
Everyone knows by now Geno Smith is not a franchise quarterback. He might not even be fringe starter. Michael Vick is old and would be a waste to bring back next season. He was a waste to sign this season as well, especially when the Jets refused to make him the starter when the season was still salvageable. Vick didn't do much when given the opportunity, anyway.
The free agency options are beyond light, unless you want Mark Sanchez back or Brian Hoyer, who was just benched for Johnny Manziel for playing horrible football recently. Trades just don't happen involving quarterbacks, so that's out of the equation.
That leaves the draft and the two stars, Mariota and Winston.
Mariota would be the clear choice, as he has the talent and the mental makeup to succeed in the NFL, and especially in New York. He's thrown for 3,783 yards with 38 touchdowns and just two interceptions, all the while completing 68.3% of his passes this season. Mariota has also rushed for 669 yards and 14 touchdowns. He should win the Heisman trophy in a rout the day before the Jets play Tennessee.
Winston is a more special case, as he is immature and makes horrible decisions off the field, which are terrible traits for someone not only joining the big-money NFL, but doing so in New York as well. Winston could get in a lot of bad situations in New York. But you can't argue with the talent. The Florida State quarterback won the Heisman trophy last year and hasn't lost a game in two years. But he did have a down season, throwing 24 touchdowns passes and a whopping 17 interceptions. Based on talent alone, Winston is a franchise-caliber quarterback.
The two quarterbacks will meet in the first semifinal of the College Football Playoff on Jan. 1, so Jets fans can watch the two go head-to-head and figure out which they like better. The Jets better do the same.
But the only shot the Jets and their fans may have at getting either one could be by losing to the Titans on Sunday. It's a situation no fan would ever want to be in, hoping their team loses, but it's become a necessity now for the Jets.