Nov 12, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; New York Jets owner Woody Johnson in attendance at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Jets owner takes aim at Robert Saleh, Joe Douglas, Zach Wilson

New York Jets owner Woody Johnson put head coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas on notice during an interview at the NFL Honors awards show in Las Vegas.

Making his first public comments since opting to stick with Saleh and Douglas, Johnson made it clear on Thursday night that the Jets’ 7-10 record in the 2023 season wasn’t acceptable.

“We have all this talent and we have to deploy talent properly. So I think they all got the message. This is it. This is the time to go. We’ve got to produce this year,” Johnson said. “We have to do a lot better than seven (wins), definitely.”

Sure, expectations were high after the Jets acquired four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers in the offseason. Four snaps into the season opener, however, Rodgers suffered an Achilles tear that Johnson equated to “having your arm chopped off.”

The Jets own an 18-33 record in three seasons under Saleh and 27-60 mark under Douglas. They have a 13-season playoff drought, the longest among the major sports leagues in North America.

When asked about areas need to be addressed this offseason, Johnson took aim at backup quarterback Zach Wilson without mentioning his name.

“You need a backup quarterback,” Johnson said. “We didn’t have one last year.”

Wilson struggled mightily after replacing Rodgers, limping to a 4-7 record this season and 12-21 overall with the Jets.

The Jets are expected to trade Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in 2021, this offseason.

Wilson’s season ended with a 60.1 percent completion mark for 2,271 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was sacked 46 times for 340 yards.

He has thrown for 6,293 yards with 23 touchdowns and 25 interceptions in 34 career games (33 starts).

–Field Level Media

Aug 12, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; New York Jets helmet during the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Former Jets TE Richard Caster dies at 75

Former New York Jets tight end Richard Caster died on Friday. He was 75.

According to the Clarion Ledger in Mississippi, Caster died after a battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Caster played college football at Jackson State in Mississippi before the Jets selected him in the second round in 1970. He played eight of his 13 NFL campaigns with New York and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection.

Caster made the Pro Bowl in 1972, ’74 and ’75. He set career highs of 833 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches in 1972. He had a career-high 47 receptions in 1975.

Caster caught 322 passes for 5,515 yards and 45 touchdowns in 161 games with the Jets (1970-77), Houston Oilers (1978-80), New Orleans Saints (1981) and Washington (1981-82).

–Field Level Media

Jan 7, 2024; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (8)  walks off of the field before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Jets QB Aaron Rodgers fired up for 2024, beyond

His old team is going to the playoffs, and Aaron Rodgers insists he plans to use the next nine months to prepare for the next game that counts with the New York Jets.

Head coach Robert Saleh praised Rodgers, who was recognized as the most inspirational teammate, for his energy and focus as the franchise heads into the offseason.

“Stick with us. We want to be the team holding that trophy,” Rodgers said Monday. “I look forward to building the excitement again — and hopefully we’ll have more fortune next year. We are close. We have a core group of really solid guys. We need some pieces.”

Saleh said Rodgers, recovering from a torn Achilles in September, spent December “carving up the scout team” and could have played in a meaningful game this month if the Jets were in a better position.

Rodgers declined to discuss his comments about late-night host Jimmy Kimmel last week, instead inviting viewers to tune in to his weekly paid interview with ESPN’s Pat McAfee on Tuesday.

“I’m going to talk about it tomorrow on the show,” he said.

The Jets went 7-10 in 2023 for the second consecutive season. Their last playoff appearance was at the end of the 2010 season, when the Jets lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rodgers turned 40 in December and spent much of the season, which he said Monday felt like “a lost year,” as a sounding board for backup Zach Wilson. But Rodgers doesn’t necessarily believe a return for Wilson next season is in his best interest.

“Sometimes a change of scenery can be a breath of fresh air,” he said.

Rodgers said he’s willing to lend a hand recruiting free agents again if general manager Joe Douglas wants an assist. From his perspective, the Jets need work on the offensive line and Saleh said another playmaker at wide receiver is “very important” to take defensive focus away from Garrett Wilson.

But Rodgers doesn’t doubt the “scheme” or offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and described New York as being “close” as contenders in 2024.

“I’d like this to be more than just next year,” he said.

–Field Level Media

Jan 7, 2024; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) under pressure from the New York Jets in the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Jets end 15-game skid against Bill Belichick, Patriots

Breece Hall rushed for 178 yards and a touchdown as the New York Jets completed their season with a 17-3 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, Mass.

New York (7-10) beat the Patriots for the first time since Dec. 27, 2015. New England had won the past 15 meetings between the teams.

Sunday also potentially marked the end of Bill Belichick’s tenure as coach of the Patriots. Belichick is reportedly set to meet with New England owner Robert Kraft this week to discuss his future with the organization.

Hall had a career-high 37 carries to take pressure off the Jets’ passing game in snowy, frigid conditions. He sealed the victory by rushing for a 50-yard TD with 1:47 left in the game, then punched in the ensuing two-point conversion.

New York quarterback Trevor Siemian completed 8 of 20 passes for 70 yards.

Bailey Zappe finished with 88 yards and two interceptions on 12-for-30 passing for the Patriots (4-13), who lost at least 13 games in a single season for the first time since the 1992 campaign.

Ezekiel Elliott picked up 54 yards on 13 carries as New England was outgained 254-119 and went 1-for-14 on third down.

Just over four minutes after the Patriots failed to convert on fourth-and-1, Greg Zuerlein made a 33-yard field goal to put the Jets up 9-3 with 8:08 to play in the fourth.

Zappe was later picked off by Ashtyn Davis, who then fumbled on the return, and New England recovered with 2:44 left.

However, Zappe and the Patriots weren’t as fortunate two plays later, as Tony Adams came down with another interception and held on to set up Hall’s trip to the end zone.

Neither team managed to record a first down until Hall rushed for a gain of 3 on third-and-1 with 5:28 left in the first quarter. Seven plays later, Zuerlein booted a 21-yard field goal to give New York a 3-0 edge.

New England’s Chad Ryland made good on a 30-yard field goal to tie things at 3 early in the second.

Zuerlein put New York back up by three with a 40-yarder with 6:07 left in the first half. He had a chance to make it 9-3 by the break, but his 49-yard attempt with 21 seconds to go clanged off the left upright.

–Field Level Media

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and franchise owner Robert Kraft are expected to huddle about the outlook for 2024 in the coming days. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick downplays curtain call as Patriots, Jets wrap woeful seasons

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick might be unsure what the future holds, but he realizes now certainly isn’t the time to get sentimental.

Belichick has patrolled the New England sideline for the past 24 seasons, but doubts have doubled that he’ll return for a 25th as the Patriots prepare to face the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, Mass.

NFL Network reported last Sunday that Patriots owner Robert Kraft has yet to speak with Belichick about a potential return in 2024. Belichick getting fired is unlikely, but a mutual decision to part ways is still a possibility, per the report. The tandem that makes up the Patriots’ power center met two days after the season last January, when Belichick emerged to make changes to his coaching staff.

This might not be the offseason Kraft opts to change course. Belichick (333 victories) plans on coaching next season as he chases Don Shula (347) for the all-time wins record, raising the question of whether he can find the right fit elsewhere.

For now, Belichick maintains he’s only focused on beating New York (6-10).

“I’ll deal with that some other time,” Belichick said of reflecting on his time with the Patriots. “Right now, I’ll just try to get the team ready for the Jets.”

The Jets have split their past four games following a five-game skid, most recently falling 37-20 to the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 28.

Trevor Siemian completed 32 of 45 passes for 261 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his second start of the season for New York, which has never fully recovered from losing Aaron Rodgers to a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 1.

Siemian will start again on Sunday against the Patriots (4-12).

Like Rodgers, running back Dalvin Cook, another offseason addition, was supposed to provide a jolt to the Jets’ offense after rushing for at least 1,000 yards in each of the past four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.

Cook struggled to make an impact in New York, rushing for 214 yards on 67 carries. He was released on Wednesday.

That could lead to opportunities in the backfield for Breece Hall, who has already been heavily utilized. In addition to leading the team in rushing (186 carries, 816 yards, four TDs), Hall is also second on the team in receptions with 74 for 579 yards and four TDs.

“Earlier in the year, coming off the (torn ACL last season), we were trying to be judicious how we used him,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said. “We ramped him up, there was a lull in the middle, to get him more opportunities on third down, find ways to get the ball in his hands.

“He’s really starting to hit his stride.”

Quarterback Zach Wilson, tight end Jeremy Ruckert and center Jake Hanson are all in concussion protocol and missed the Jets’ practice on Wednesday. Rodgers (Achilles) and guard Wes Schweitzer (calf) were limited.

New England will attempt to bounce back from last Sunday’s 27-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills, but it could be without offensive tackle Trent Brown and cornerback Myles Bryant. Both missed Wednesday’s practice due to illnesses.

Tight end Hunter Henry (knee) and safety Jabrill Peppers (hamstring) were among 10 players the Patriots listed as limited.

–Field Level Media

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) tries to elude the pressure of Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins (94) during the first half of an NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Dec. 17, 2023.

Zach Wilson’s season, perhaps Jets career, over

Jets quarterback Zach Wilson remains in concussion protocol and won’t play Sunday against the New England Patriots, ending his season and perhaps his career in New York.

Head coach Robert Saleh told reporters Wednesday that Wilson remains out, meaning veteran Trevor Siemian is in line to start his third straight game.

Saleh was noncommittal Wednesday when asked if Wilson, the much-maligned No. 2 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, would return next season.

“We’ll see,” said Saleh, whom owner Woody Johnson has said will be back in 2024. “It’s all things that we’re gonna have to talk about once the season is over but whether it’s here or somewhere else, I believe he’s gonna have a helluva a career.”

Wilson was forced into action as the starter after four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers, acquired in the offseason from the Green Bay Packers, tore an Achilles on the first drive of the season. The goal heading into the season was for Wilson to sit behind Rodgers and learn from the future Hall of Fame player.

Despite Wilson’s 4-7 record as a starter this season — 12-21 overall with the Jets — Saleh was complimentary of the 24-year-old quarterback.

“I thought he had great OTAs, a great training camp,” Saleh said of Wilson. “I thought he battled, he fought. He’s a fighter. He really is. Obviously there’s things that I know he wishes he could have back. I know there’s a lot of things that he improved on. Some things were out of his control, but I’ve said and I’ll say it again, I think he’s gonna have a long career in this league.”

Wilson sustained the concussion in the Jets’ 30-0 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 17.

His season ends with a 60.1 percent completion mark for 2,271 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was sacked 46 times for 340 yards.

He has thrown for 6,293 yards with 23 touchdowns and 25 interceptions in 34 career games (33 starts).

Wilson signed a four-year, $35.1 million rookie deal in July 2021.

–Field Level Media

New York, NY, US; New York Jets running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs the ball against the Los Angeles Chargers defense, at MetLife Stadium, Monday, November 6, 2023.

Report: Jets to release RB Dalvin Cook

The New York Jets and running back Dalvin Cook mutually decided to part ways, NFL Network reported on Tuesday.

Cook, 28, is trying to catch on with a Super Bowl contender before the playoffs begin, according to the report.

The four-time Pro Bowler was linked to the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys during his free agency last summer, but he signed with the Jets to serve as a complementary back to Breece Hall with Aaron Rodgers helming the offense.

After Rodgers’ Achilles injury on the Jets’ first drive of the season, the team has stumbled to a 6-10 record with one week left in the regular season.

The Jets barely used Cook after giving him a one-year, $5.8 million guaranteed contract. After playing 27 offensive snaps (50 percent) in Week 1, Cook never played more than 19 snaps in a game again. He did not see the field in the Jets’ Week 17 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Cook had 67 rushing attempts for 214 yards this season and added 15 receptions for 78 yards over 15 games (one start). He did not score a touchdown.

In 88 career games (73 starts) for the Minnesota Vikings (2017-22) and Jets, Cook has rushed for 6,207 yards and 47 touchdowns and caught 236 passes for 1,872 yards and five TDs.

–Field Level Media

Dec 28, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco (15) throws a pass against the New York Jets during the first half at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Browns clinch playoff berth by thumping Jets

Joe Flacco eclipsed 300 passing yards for the fourth straight game, Jerome Ford made two touchdown catches and the Cleveland Browns clinched their second playoff berth in 21 years by beating the visiting New York Jets 37-20 on Thursday night.

Cleveland (11-5) won its fourth straight game and improved to 4-1 with Flacco starting at quarterback. The 38-year-old former Jet, a midseason signing, finished 19-of-29 passing for 309 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

The Browns used a high-octane first half to take control. Flacco piled up 296 of his 309 passing yards in the first half, and tight end David Njoku had 113 of his team-high 134 receiving yards in the first quarter.

Browns receiver Amari Cooper (heel) did not play four days after his 11-catch, 265-yard, two-touchdown performance in a win over Houston.

Another former Jet, receiver Elijah Moore, had an 8-yard touchdown catch Thursday to make it 27-7 Cleveland before suffering a head injury late in the first half. He did not return.

Trevor Siemian completed 32 of 45 passes for 262 yards, one touchdown and one pick for the Jets (6-10). Breece Hall had 84 rushing yards on 13 attempts, and 42 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions.

Flacco engineered a quick seven-play drive to open the game, culminating in a 7-yard scoring pass to Ford. The Jets responded when Hall caught a pass and sprinted in for a 21-yard tying score.

Njoku’s 43-yard reception brought the Browns to New York’s 7-yard line, and Kareem Hunt rushed to paydirt on the next play. With new kicker Riley Patterson missing the extra point, it was 13-7 Cleveland.

New York’s night went from bad to worse when Siemian threw straight to Browns safety Ronnie Hickman, who followed his blockers 30 yards for a touchdown and a 20-7 edge late in the first quarter.

After Flacco’s touchdown pass to Moore, Jermaine Johnson batted a throw by Flacco, corralled the interception and returned it 37 yards for a Jets touchdown to cut it to 27-14 with 2:02 before halftime.

Flacco responded by creating the play of the night. He escaped a rush, rolled left and completed a pass to an open Ford, who made multiple defenders miss en route to a 50-yard touchdown and a 34-14 lead.

Greg Zuerlein gave the Jets a 46-yard field goal as time expired in the half. He then had a 31-yard field-goal try blocked by Shelby Harris on the first possession of the second half.

The Browns’ offense slowed down after halftime. But after Zuerlein tacked on a 44-yard field goal with 8:50 remaining, the Browns took advantage of a New York turnover on downs and got a 33-yard field goal from Patterson with three minutes to go.

–Field Level Media

Dec 24, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Amari Cooper (2) on the sideline during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Browns WR Amari Cooper (heel) out vs. Jets

Four days after one of the best games of his career, wide receiver Amari Cooper will sit out when the Cleveland Browns face the visiting New York Jets on Thursday.

Cooper had been bothered by a heel injury and did not practice during the short week. He was officially considered questionable entering the day, but he was on the list when the Browns declared their inactives 90 minutes before kickoff.

Cooper caught 11 passes for a career-high and franchise-record 265 yards to go with two touchdowns in Sunday’s 36-22 win over the Houston Texans. He had a 53-yard reception on the first play of the game and later scored on a 75-yard catch.

The Browns will be missing a four-time Pro Bowler who has recorded a career-best 1,250 receiving yards in his ninth season in the league and his second in Cleveland. Thursday will be Cooper’s first time missing a game in two years with the Browns.

The Browns also made kicker Dustin Hopkins (left hamstring) and punter Corey Bojorquez (left quad) inactive. They are set to roll with Riley Patterson at kicker and Matt Haack at punter after elevating both specialists from the practice squad to the active roster.

The Jets made veteran wide receiver Allen Lazard inactive due to an illness. Jets kicker Greg Zuerlein, who was being monitored for right quad tightness, is active.

–Field Level Media

Dec 24, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco (15) throws the ball during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

TNF Week 17: Preview, Props, Prediction

All the New York Jets wanted in 2023 was one healthy and productive quarterback. Looking back, they might wish they had answered when Joe Flacco knocked in September.

Flacco instead played catch with his brother an hour away from the Jets’ facility and waited three more months for the Cleveland Browns to call.

And did he ever answer.

Flacco has the Browns (10-5) on the doorstep of an improbable playoff bid and gets a visit from his old team, the Jets (6-9), on Thursday night with a chance to hand-deliver a reminder of what might have been for the beleaguered New York franchise.

Beat the Jets, and the Browns can clinch a spot in the playoffs.

“We talked about it a little bit this past week. Every week you look at the game and you’re like, ‘Man, it’s a big win. Another big one,’” Flacco said.

Journeyman Trevor Siemian is the Jets’ fourth starting quarterback of the year and his experience is very valuable, especially behind an inconsistent offensive line. However, that will be put to the ultimate test on the road, on a short week and against Cleveland’s top-ranked defense with the Browns trying to clinch a playoff spot.

Prediction: Browns 23, Jets 13

The Browns are consensus 7.5-point favorites. That includes at BetMGM, where the line moved from opening at 7.0 with Cleveland backed by 73 percent of the bets and 67 percent of the money.

The Browns’ moneyline has also been popular, with it shifting from -300 to -350 while drawing 78 percent of the money. However, the Jets have been backed by 52 percent of the total bets at +280.

The Over/Under has been split with the point total settling at 34.5 by Thursday. The Over has drawn 57 percent of the bets and 51 percent of the money at the book.

Browns TE David Njoku Anytime TD (+185 at DraftKings): Njoku has found quick chemistry with Flacco, catching 22 passes for 239 yards and four touchdowns over the past three games. He’s also averaging 10.3 targets over that span. Njoku has been a popular player in the prop market at both books, but you’ll get a slightly better payout at DraftKings than the same prop at +160 at BetMGM.

The fourth quarterback to start for the Browns this season, Flacco took over in Week 13. Since then, he leads the NFL with 1,307 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Jets have 10 total TD passes in 2023.

When New York and 30 other teams passed, Flacco said he fell right into the ideal spot with the Browns.

“You think you are coming into a good situation,” Flacco said of signing with the Browns. “There’s a possibility for this. I think you assume from the outside this is a pretty good situation. When you get here it’s an even better situation than you’ve imagined.”

The Jets expected to be in this position but with another heavily seasoned quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, at the controls. Without Rodgers, a championship-caliber defense wasn’t enough to consistently generate wins using Zach Wilson, Tim Boyle and Siemian at quarterback.

Running back Breece Hall is proving to be a lifeline for the Jets’ offense with 39 receptions in the past six games. Hall had 191 yards from scrimmage (95 rushing, 96 receiving) in last week’s win against the Commanders.

The Browns’ defense has allowed fewer than 300 yards in five of its past six games. Cleveland is first against the pass (160.1 yards per game), total defense (260.3 yards per game), yards per play (4.46 yards) and interception rate (3.46 percent).

“I think the fans are going to bring the energy, I think we’re going to bring the energy,” Browns guard Joel Bitonio said.

Defensive end Myles Garrett has 13 of the Browns’ 44 sacks in 2023.

Wilson will not play because of a concussion. Siemian is expected to get his second consecutive start after throwing for 217 yards and a touchdown during Sunday’s 30-28 victory over Washington.

The Jets will also be without offensive tackle Duane Brown (back) and tight end Jeremy Ruckert, while running back Israel Abanikanda (ankle), wide receiver Allen Lazard (illness) and kicker Greg Zuerlein (right quadriceps) are questionable.

The Browns have lost multiple quarterbacks to season-ending injuries. Deshaun Watson (shoulder) and rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson (hip) are on injured reserve along with running back Nick Chubb (knee) and both of the Browns’ starting offensive tackles.

Also out for Cleveland are defensive end Ogbo Okoronkwo (pectoral) and linebacker Anthony Walker (knee). Punter Corey Bojorquez (left quad) is doubtful, while wide receivers Amari Cooper (heel) and Marquise Goodwin (knee) and free safety Juan Thornhill (calf) are questionable.

Jets head coach Robert Saleh, who interviewed to be Cleveland’s head coach in 2020 and coached Flacco in New York, isn’t surprised by Flacco steering the Browns into the playoff picture.

“I’ve said it before, he’s like a Ford pickup truck. You might not like it in the summer but in the winter months that son of a gun starts humming,” Saleh said.

–Field Level Media