What occurred Sunday at Sun Life Stadium was the culmination of all the Jets’ deficiencies, a season’s worth of mistakes, of problems, of troubles working against them one final time in a lackluster to the .
The offense, directed by an erratic , struggled — again. The defense never bent, it just broke — again. Adding insult to insult, Santonio Holmes, one of the Jets’ captains, re-emerged as a divisive figure, spending much of the team’s final offensive series on the bench after what was perceived as poor body language and an indifferent demeanor in the huddle prompted a confrontation.
“It’s been disturbing for a while,” said guard Brandon Moore, who lashed out at Holmes after Holmes’s comments in October. Told that his remark left much for interpretation, Moore said: “Interpret it. That’s all I’ve got to say about that, really. I don’t have anything else to say about Santonio.”
It was an all-around ugly ending to one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history, a year that began with Coach Rex Ryan pronouncing his team as the best in the N.F.L., possessing more talent than at any point in his tenure. The last two seasons, when the Jets reached the A.F.C. championship game, served as a natural point of reference. They also created a false perception.
The Jets clung to a notion steeped in the past, a myth perpetuated by Ryan — that they are a great team, of timbre. The Jets, though, are not a great team. They are not even a good one, as illustrated by an 8-8 record that is decidedly average. Six teams will represent the A.F.C. in the playoffs, but the Jets will not be one of them.
“We had higher expectations than anybody in the N.F.L., I would say — at least anybody that’s willing to talk about it,” tight end Dustin Keller said.
Much of that swagger begins with Ryan, who strode to the lectern afterward with his eyes sunken and red. At the day’s outset, the Jets owned a 10.4 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Football Outsiders, and needed an unlikely confluence of events in Houston, Cincinnati and Denver or Oakland to turn in their favor — but they needed to defeat Miami first. A man with an answer for everything, Ryan said Sunday’s loss, with pride and postseason hanging in the balance, was difficult to explain, although in Sanchez’s performance he identified a reasonable starting point.
Once celebrated for his ability to perform under pressure, Sanchez has committed three turnovers in each of the Jets’ last three games, all losses. Even if, as Ryan asserted, Sanchez was without a doubt the Jets’ “long-term solution,” they could hardly be encouraged that his three interceptions Sunday all came on checkdowns to his third or fourth receiver.
Two of those came on consecutive fourth-quarter possessions, including Marvin Mitchell’s interception that all but clinched Miami’s victory — Jets ball at the Dolphins 10, trailing, 16-10, and 3 minutes 10 seconds remaining. In the end, Sanchez completed two more passes to Randy Starks, a Miami defensive lineman, than he did to Holmes.
“I’ve got to play better for us to win,” Sanchez said.
As much as the Jets vowed that this week would be different — for Sanchez, for the maligned offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, for unsatisfied fans — it was not. An offense that staggers and sputters for 15 games does not suddenly awaken in the 16th. Though their first touchdown drive was nearly flawless, balancing execution with imagination, their other six possessions before halftime resulted in four three-and-outs; a field goal drive that entailed four momentum-stalling false-start penalties and two burned timeouts; and Starks’s first interception, which led to a Dan Carpenter 58-yard field goal that sliced the Jets’ lead to 10-6. In the second half, their four possessions went punt, interception, interception and touchdown, a 10-yarder to Patrick Turner that was rendered meaningless when Miami recovered the onside kick.