The New York Jets were down three points with 1:49 remaining on Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Zach Wilson got the ball at the 25-yard line and the Jets had three timeouts. All the tools were there for the New York to march down the field and get into field goal range in order to tie it up and send the crucial matchup to overtime. The Jets needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Instead, head coach Robert Saleh's bizarre timeout strategy hamstrung his offense and cost them a potential win.
On the first play of the drive, Wilson got sacked. No timeout. Twenty seconds ran off the clock. Wilson then threw an incomplete pass before improbably finding Garrett Wilson on third-and-19 for 22 yards and a first down. Still, no timeout was called. At this point there was less than a minute remaining.
With a fresh set of downs, Wilson threw another incompletion before hitting Wilson again for another first down at the Jets' 48-yard line. Still no timeout! The clock ran down to 31 seconds before the offense got another snap off and Wilson threw an incomplete pass. As a reminder, the Jets still had all three timeouts at that juncture.
Wilson was sacked on the next play and Saleh's hand was finally forced as he called his first timeout with 19 seconds to go. Wilson threw another incomplete pass before he heaved up a prayer to Elijah Moore, who caught it and ran around before finally going down with one second left on the cock. Saleh used his second timeout. The Jets were forced to attempt a 58-yard field goal, a big ask even for kicker Greg Zuerlein. The kick was wide. The Jets lost.
It's just impossible to grasp what Saleh was thinking. If the Jets had used even one timeout after getting a first down they would've had more time to get closer. Maybe offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur could've schemed up something easy for Wilson during one of those timeouts to get a chunk play. It's not like the Lions boast a fierce defense.
The only mild defense for Saleh is that he hesitated using timeouts too early because he didn't want to give the Lions' offense any time to respond if the Jets did manage to tie the game. But even then! Why would Saleh plan for something that might have happened before his team even managed to tie it up?
It was coaching malpractice. Absolutely infuriating for Jets fans and extremely confusing for everybody else. Maybe someone better than I can find the thread of logic here, but from where I'm sitting, it was just a series of terrible mistakes that may have cost the Jets a shot at the playoffs.