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Uniform number games: Much-needed excuses for NY Jets’ Week 1 loss

Shaq Thompson, Michael Carter
Shaq Thompson, Michael Carter, NY Jets, Carolina Panthers, Getty Images

Season-opening New York Jets loss produces a wealth of excuses

Nobody likes a sore loser; the game’s over. Move on.

Although, when a loss happens to come at the hands of your team’s ex-quarterback … well, that changes things.

Sunday’s five-point loss to Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers certainly cuts a little deeper than the typical loss for New York Jets fans. But on the bright side, the game never felt as though it was truly out of reach, a feeling fans grew accustomed to under the previous coaching regime.

The Jets never seemed to give up and went down fighting until the end. That’s why as Jets fans, it can help ease the sting of the loss to look around for anything that may have unfairly tipped the game in favor of Carolina.

The following are a few “excuses” or outside factors that Jets fans can use to prove that their team was robbed of a would-be victory.

Two Panthers’ starting LBs changed uniform numbers an hour before the game

Yeah, you read that right.

Linebackers Shaq Thompson and Jermaine Carter, both starters in Carolina’s front seven, changed their jersey numbers one hour before kickoff.

Thompson, who had previously worn No. 54 for the Panthers, suited up for Week 1 wearing No. 1 instead. Carter, normally sporting No. 56, suited up with No. 4.

Apparently, this is allowed. We think … ?

The preparation leading up to an NFL game can be long and tedious. Hours upon hours are spent watching film on the opponent. A quarterback must develop an almost muscle memory of the tendencies of the defenders he will face.

So, imagine going into your first-ever NFL game and two of the players in the center of the opposing defense aren’t even wearing the same numbers you’ve been using to identify them on tape.

It may seem like a minor change on paper, but that’s a lot to ask of the 22-year-old Wilson. And what do you know? It was Thompson who snagged Wilson’s only interception of the game, early in the second quarter.

It’s not at all a stretch to say that this may have played a factor in the loss. This is the type of pregame move Bill Belichick would pull to give his team an edge — we all know about Belichick’s questionable integrity.

The Panthers signed ex-Jets QB James Morgan to their practice squad

Nobody should know a team’s playbook better than their quarterbacks.

A questionable fourth-round pick of Joe Douglas’ in the 2020 NFL draft, former Florida International quarterback James Morgan was on the Jets roster up until the very beginning of September. That means he presumably knew Mike LaFleur’s playbook inside and out, or at the very least, quite well.

It doesn’t go against any rules that the Panthers signed Morgan after the Jets cut him, but it does seem a little ethically questionable — it’s not like Morgan is some highly sought-after talent who they would have jumped on regardless of their Week 1 opponent.

You can’t really blame Morgan for playing Benedict Arnold against the team that cut him, but you can definitely blame the Panthers for exploiting his knowledge of the playbook to their advantage. If the Panthers decide to cut Morgan this week, that should only further confirm this.

The Jets didn’t have Carl Lawson

This one may seem obvious and it’s going to hold true all season long, but watching that game, it was evident how much the Jets missed their star edge rusher.

Of course, it’s more hypothetical than the other two excuses, but one can only assume that Lawson being his usual disruptive self out on that field would have made a huge difference for Gang Green. Not only would he have provided pressure off the edge that the Jets were lacking all game, but he likely would have also freed up some plays for Quinnen Williams and company to make from the interior.

The Jets got straight up beaten in the trenches on Sunday, but it probably would have gone differently had the “sawed-off” Lawson been there to get his hands on Darnold.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for next season to finally see Lawson making an on-field impact for the Green and White.

In the end, excuses are just … excuses. The National Football League is an excuse-free zone. Wins are all that matter to the organization and its fans.

Yet, sometimes, the fans need a few much-needed excuses in order to rationalize their way into the week ahead. Besides, walking into the office (virtually or otherwise) on Monday is never a fun thing when you’re team just spit the bit the day prior.

Use those excuses wisely; each fan is afforded only so many before it becomes entirely too old.

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