By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In the midst of an absolutely miserable, pathetically dreadful 2020 season in New Jersey, the ONE thing that could keep the New York Jets warm at night was the comfort in knowing they’ll be getting Trevor Lawrence, the best quarterback in college football, in next year’s draft.
Yet now, the Jets may have even screwed that up.
Entering Sunday with an 0-13 record, the Jets were 17-point underdogs in Los Angeles against the Rams. The Jets got out to an improbable 13-0 lead, blocking a Los Angeles punt and intercepting a Jared Goff pass to help lead to a pair of field goals. The Jets stretched their lead to 20-3 in the third quarter, when the ageless Frank Gore plunged in from the 1-yard line to cap off a 72-yard touchdown drive.
For a team that entered the week having been outscored by 210 points this season, a 17-point second-half lead doesn’t come around too often.
And it showed. The Rams chipped away at the lead, getting two touchdown passes out of Goff. The Rams cut it as close as 23-20 in the fourth quarter, but Marcus Maye’s defense on Gerald Everett led to an incompletion from Goff on a fourth-and-4.
The Jets gained possession at their own 37-yard line with just under four minutes left in the game. The offense leaned heavily on Gore, who picked up a pair of first downs — one on the ground, one through the air — to help kill clock. The second one came after the Rams used their final timeout, and it converted a third-and-6 just before the two-minute warning, allowing Sam Darnold to kneel down to end the game and give the Jets their first win since Dec. 29 of last year.
The win improves the Jets to 1-13, tying them with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the worst record in the NFL. If neither team wins in the final two weeks of the year, then the No. 1 pick will be awarded via tiebreaker.
Draft order will be determined by strength of schedule. The Jets entered Week 15 with a .594 strength of schedule, while the Jaguars’ was at .547 after their loss on Sunday. In this case, the weaker strength of schedule is what’s desired, as the better pick will go to the team with the easier schedule.
UPDATED 2021 NFL Draft order:
1. Jaguars: 1-13
2. Jets: 1-13
3. Bengals: 2-10-1
4. Panthers: 4-10
5. Falcons: 4-10
Two weeks to go…
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 21, 2020
The Jaguars will host the Bears (7-7) before visiting the Colts (10-4) in Week 17. The Jets will host the Cleveland Browns (9-4) before visiting the Patriots (6-8) in Week 17.
The one way the Jets could guarantee the No. 1 overall pick — and thus, franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence — was to finish the year with zero wins. Now after coming out of nowhere and beating the Rams, they’ve very likely cost themselves that opportunity. Of course, the Jaguars could change that if they win one of their final two games, but as it stands now, the Jaguars — who haven’t won since Week 1 — are in prime position to land Lawrence.
Could it be…? pic.twitter.com/pRZZFSJZXR
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 20, 2020
While no draft pick is ever a sure thing, Lawrence is as close as it gets. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound 21-year-old has thrown for just under 10,000 yards, with 88 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in his three years as the starter for Clemson. He led the Tigers to a national championship as a freshman in 2018, and he’s 34-1 as the starting quarterback.
It’s still not really known if Lawrence would have accepted his fate and gone to the Jets. He technically could have decided to return to school for another year, or he could have decided to pull an Eli Manning on draft day. Now though, it seems as thought that answer will remain a theoretical, as the Jaguars are now in the driver’s seat to pick first in April’s draft.
In a year when the rest of the AFC East received instant glory in the first year without Tom Brady, the Jets were expected to at least get some relief in the form of Lawrence. Now a few days before Christmas, the Jets organization and their long-suffering fans have been dealt this most unexpected blow.