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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – The end of the season can't arrive soon enough for the New York Jets.
Tim Tebow's presence, a rash of injuries, lots of infighting and a whole lot of losses added up to a season to forget for the J-E-T-S.
On Sunday, it all comes to a close when the Jets (6-9) finish off their first losing season in five years against the also woeful Buffalo Bills (5-10).
The Bills, too, thought they were headed in the right direction by signing defensive end Mario Williams, only to fail to make the playoffs for the 13th straight year.
The AFC East rivals met in the season opener, with the Jets winning 48-28 on Sept. 9. It ends at snow-bound Orchard Park in a game that means little to either team.
"It seems like forever ago," Jets center Nick Mangold said of the opener. "I thought we had a pretty good team coming together. Unfortunately, our execution wasn't where it needed to be. And as a result, we're not in the playoffs."
For the Bills, the loss to the Jets foreshadowed the many problems — injuries, turnovers, sputtering offense and porous defense — that plagued them the rest of the year.
"We were hoping it was going to be an anomaly, that we'd put it behind us and move on," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "We won some games after that, kind of got on a little roll, I guess. But things have kind of gone downhill since."
The Bills have lost three straight and seven of nine. No matter the outcome Sunday, Buffalo's already guaranteed a last-place finish for a fifth consecutive year.
Fitzpatrick's future is uncertain as is coach Chan Gailey's because the Bills have shown no signs of progress since he took over three years ago. They're 15-32 and 3-13 against division rivals under Gailey.
In New York, much of the attention and blame has focused on a bumbling offense that's dragged down the team no matter who's at quarterback.
Coach Rex Ryan refused to describe the offseason addition of Tebow to run the Jets wildcat offense as a failure.
"Fail might be a real strong word," Ryan said. And yet, he'll acknowledge the offense hasn't "panned out" the way he had envisioned.
"You'd rather have your team have high expectations," Ryan said. "But unfortunately, we've had a season that's clearly not been up to our standards."
Tebow can certainly draw a crowd, as he did during training camp at Cortland, N.Y., and yet he's made more headlines than difference-making plays, and could be on his way out soon.
Mark Sanchez has lost whatever "Sanchize" luster he had left after losing the starting job following a comical, five-turnover outing in a 14-10 loss at Tennessee two weeks ago.
That left third-stringer Greg McElroy as Ryan's final option to close out the season. Those plans have now changed after McElroy, who turned the ball over twice and was sacked 11 times in a 27-17 loss at San Diego last week, complained of concussion-like symptoms Thursday.
That re-opens the door for Sanchez, who is back as the starter, in what could be the former first-round draft pick's chance at closure in what's been an up and down four-year career in New York.
Even Ryan couldn't help but find humor in the latest twist to the Jets QB quandary. Before announcing McElroy was out on Thursday, Ryan began by saying: "You're not going to believe this."
No one's laughing in Buffalo, especially Gailey, who was in no mood to entertain questions of what might be wrong with the Jets.
"Oh gosh, I have no idea," Gailey said. "There seems to be a lot going on there now. But we've got enough to handle here that I can't worry about their problems."
Buffalo is bracing for another offseason of changes. How many and how significant remains to be seen. Owner Ralph Wilson has been silent. CEO Russ Brandon said Gailey's future is general manager Buddy Nix's call. And Nix has stopped answering questions about Gailey's status since backing the coach last month.
The uncertainty and speculation has left Gailey with few defenders in the face of mounting criticism. Hardly a day has gone by over the past three weeks in which Gailey's not been asked about his job security.
"I wish we had won more so it wasn't an issue," said Gailey, who has at least one more year on his contract. "I'm trying to do the best I can every day."
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