Thoughts and observations on the New York Jets:
1. Geno's future: Geno Smith will be a player to watch over the next few months, especially if the Jets re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick. Judging from his season-ending interview with reporters, Smith wants no part of being a backup. He refused to even acknowledge the possibility, saying, "We don't know what's going to transpire." Well, know this, Geno: Fitzpatrick will be the starter if he returns. Todd Bowles said so himself. Unfortunately, Smith wasn't available to comment on Bowles' declaration.
Smith, under contract for 2016, doesn't have many options. What could he do, demand a trade? That would be laughable. The Jets would be hard-pressed to get more than a bucket of Gatorade for Smith, whose career was altered by IK Enemkpali's fist. Smith should grin and bear it for another year; that would be the best thing for both sides.
He's not the present or future anymore, but Smith has value as a backup because he's experienced (29 starts) and counts only $1.6 million against the cap. That's less than half the price of what seasoned backups are making these days. Some fans want him gone, but there should be no rush to send him packing. Bring him to training camp and let him compete with Bryce Petty for the No. 2 job. If Petty is lights-out in the preseason, there's a decision to make -- a good decision. It would be risky, though, to give the No. 2 job to a player with no regular-season experience.
As for Smith, he could benefit from another year with the Jets. He can continue to be a good soldier, rehabilitate his image in a no-pressure situation and hit the open market in 2017. If he gets a chance to play and plays well, he'd draw considerable interest.
2. 10 x 2: The Jets were one of only five teams that ranked in the top 10 in both total offense and defense. Can you name the other four? Answer below.
3. Williams a top contender: Everybody these days is handing out their postseason awards, and defensive end Leonard Williams is generating a lot of buzz in the NFL Defensive Rookie-of-the-Year conversation. In fact, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. named Williams as his top defensive rookie. His top competition will be a couple of cornerbacks, Marcus Peters (Kansas City Chiefs) and Ronald Darby (Buffalo Bills).
It was a blue-collar rookie year for Williams. He established himself as a fantastic run defender, but he didn't make many game-changing plays (only three sacks). To validate his draft status, he will need to become a better pass-rusher. After all, who takes a run stopper with the sixth overall pick? It's no cause for alarm, though. Players improve, and Williams has a high ceiling. People forget that Muhammad Wilkerson had only three sacks in his rookie season.
4. The Big Short: The Jets improved in most statistical categories from 2014 to 2015, but one area that lagged behind was their short-yardage offense. They converted only 68 percent of their third-and-1 rushes (ranked 16th), down from 75 percent in 2014. Right guard Willie Colon, known for his physical style, said in a radio interview he could have made a difference if he hadn't been on injured reserve for most of the season. As for Colon's future, all signs point to him retiring.
5. Time for an encore: The 10-6 season showed the new regime is capable of winning. Now the question is, can it win consistently? Therein lies the bugaboo that has haunted the Jets for, like, forever. Only twice in their 55-year history have the Jets recorded double-digit wins in back-to-back seasons: 1968-1969 and 1985-1986. So there's your challenge, Mike Maccagnan: Build something sustainable.
6. Revisiting the Buffalo debacle: Sorry, I know the wound still is fresh, but I'd like to focus on two plays from the game that illustrate how the Jets and Bills hoped to exploit the other by recycling a play they saw in their film study. It worked for the Bills. For the Jets, not so much.
Tyrod Taylor's 18-yard touchdown run. Remember the 61-yard bomb to DeAndre Hopkins in November, the one on which Darrelle Revis was burned? Of course you do. The Bills ran a similar play, loading up with a heavy formation and using a play-action with only one receiver on a pass route -- Sammy Watkins. The Bills went after Revis, just like the Houston Texans did. This time, Revis, with help from the short field, was all over Watkins. It didn't end well for the Jets because Taylor improvised, breaking containment (Sheldon Richardson was out of position) and running for the touchdown. (As an aside, the play also was reminiscent of Tim Tebow's game-winning run against the Jets in 2011.)
Fitzpatrick's end-zone interception. The Jets used a play they saw from the Washington Redskins two weeks earlier. In that game, Jordan Reed beat Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin on a post route with a single-high safety in the middle of the field -- an 18-yard touchdown. McKelvin defended it so poorly that it's easy to see why the Jets dialed up the same play. They tried it from the Bills' 14 -- against the same coverage, no less. This time, McKelvin saw it coming. He was in better position than receiver Eric Decker and ... well, you know the rest.
7. Strange game plan: A few days ago, I touched on the Jets' unusually passive use of Revis against the Bills. It seemed like a play-not-to-lose mentality, but that wasn't the case across the board on defense, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In fact, their blitz percentage increased by quarter -- 22, 50, 56 and 67 percent.
8. Season in a nutshell: The season began with their quarterback getting punched out by Enemkpali and it ended with Enemkpali's new team knocking out the Jets. Sorry, I had to say it.
9. Trivia answer: The New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers also finished in the top 10 on both sides of the ball. The Bucs and Jets were the only teams in that group not to make the playoffs. The Bucs fired their coach.