Before the Jets played the Patriots last week, diehard optimists pointed to the final five games of the season as reason to keep hope alive.
The Cardinals, Jaguars, Titans, Chargers and Bills are five of the select teams around the league who have an argument that they have worse situations than the Jets and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Jets as favorites in each of those games. Beat the Patriots and anything was possible, or so went the argument.
We all know what happened when the Jets and Patriots actually took the field, but the humiliation of the 49-19 loss doesn't change the realities of the Jets schedule. The Jets are capable of beating all of these teams and the prospect of a 9-7 season isn't nearly as far-fetched as a play that ends with your quarterback fumbling the ball after bouncing into his right guard's rear end.
The question now is whether or not that's actually a good thing for the Jets. The one positive that comes out of hitting rock bottom (or Brandon Moore bottom) is that it is impossible to gloss over any failings.
The last thing the Jets need right now is gloss. The decisions made about the future of the franchise right now are vitally important and seeing the glass as half full simply isn't productive.
Woody Johnson needs to decide if Mike Tannenbaum is worthy of running this team in the future based on the entire picture, not on a finishing kick that has more to do with the opposition than the team in place. The same is true of Rex Ryan, although the gut feeling is that he's safe barring a total meltdown in the final weeks.
Win a few games and, suddenly, it becomes easy to argue that the injuries to Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes were a stumbling block to a more successful season. They were, but they are hardly enough to explain the extreme degredations of this season.
More than that, they aren't enough to explain the Tim Tebow trade or thinking Wayne Hunter could start at right tackle or assuming Aaron Maybin would be enough to carry the pass rush. They aren't enough to explain why Stephen Hill was picked in the second round when he can't catch the ball or why Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples are the only young players drafted in early rounds to make a real impact on the team in the last few years.
This isn't an argument for tanking. As Herman Edwards said, you play to win the game.
If the Jets run the table, they can make the playoffs and that's a good thing even if they get bounced by 40 points in the first round. If they are 7-9 instead of 5-11, so be it in a year without any really appealing top five draft picks. A winning streak can't be allowed to erase what came before.
The Jets ignored the problems with their foundation last year and they've paid the price this time around. They can't be fooled again.