Do the Jets need another rebuild?Date: September 25, 2020
By: Jimmy Bliss
Charles Wentzelberg/New York Post
Just end the season. These words sound all too familiar to New York Jet fans around the world after the meme made national headlines in 2017. After the second week of the 2020 NFL season, it appears yet another season is being thrown away in East Rutherford, N. J.
The Jets lost by a score of 27-17 to the Buffalo Bills in week one, but the scoreboard doesn’t even begin to tell the story of the game. New York was outgained by a total of 150 yards, as the Bills put up 404 yards, whereas the Jets gained a mere 254 yards. The two Jet touchdowns came as a fluke, as Jamison Crowder took a short pass 69 yards to the house, and the last touchdown came with two minutes left in the game, as the Bills were playing prevent defense. Only starting safety Marcus Maye showed up ready to play, with every single other player looking lost for 60 minutes.
Maye recorded 10 tackles, two sacks, two pass breakups, and one forced fumble. But apart from that lone bright spot, neither side of the football showed any sort continuity. If you think that Week 1 was bad, just wait until you watched Week 2’s performance. The Jets hosted the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2 and played an even worse game than the first week.
On the first play from scrimmage, Raheem Mostert took a running back sweep, off the right side, 80 yards for the opening touchdown. It took just 17 seconds for the 49ers to take the lead, and they never looked back. The 49ers went on to win 31-13, in a game that saw a rash of injuries. San Francisco endured a multitude of injuries during this game, as they lost their starting quarterback, running back, both defensive ends, defensive tackle, cornerback, center, and backup center to injuries during the game. They were already missing their starting wide receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end, George Kittle, to begin the game, so including these absences brings the 49ers total to 10 players that did not complete Sunday’s game. So, with all of these injuries, you would assume that the Jets starters could outperform the 49ers backups.
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However, that was not the case. The Jets put in the most lifeless performance I have ever seen from any football team in my lifetime. The offensive play calling was absolutely dreadful. Head coach Adam Gase calls himself an offensive guru, but his play calling abilities are those of an 11-year-old who just watched his first game of football. I understand that your talent isn’t among the best in the league, but that doesn’t excuse you from calling some of these abysmal plays. The Jets entered the game with four healthy wide receivers, and when Breshad Perriman suffered an ankle injury, they were left with three subpar playmakers on the outside.
A competent head coach would realize this issue and limit his wide receiver usage, as the Jets would never win any matchups between their wide receivers and opposing cornerbacks. They would look to take advantage of a two-tight end set, which would be difficult for the defense to match up with. Even a few two-running back sets would give the 49ers defense something to account for. But unfortunately for Jet fans, Gase is not a competent head coach, and continued using three-wide receiver sets. Gase set up the offense for failure against the 49ers defense.
Even against a banged-up defense, the Jets could hardly move the ball, as they scored the second least amount of points this weekend. The most disappointing part is that the defense played just as poorly as the offense did. Early in the third quarter, the 49ers were backed up in their own half, facing a 3rd and 33 situation. Kyle Shanahan, Head Coach of the 49ers, realized that it wasn’t very likely that he would convert a third down of this distance, so he decided to run the ball with his backup running back. Jerrick McKinnon had no trouble picking up the first down, as the veteran Running Back ran for 55 yards down the left sideline. That is an inexcusable result for the Jets.
Factor in that the 49ers were without a number of key players on offense, and that only makes the third down run even more disgraceful. Apart from that one play, the Jets defense got torn apart by backups all afternoon long. I repeat, backups. This game resembled what a scrimmage between a Varsity and JV team would look like.
On one side, you have an excellent head coach, a great offensive system, a wonderful defensive system, and a culture that is second to none. And on the other side, you have the Jets. There is no sense of stability anywhere on the football field for the Jets. There’s no leadership from the coaches or players. There is no sense of direction. There has been no progress made in East Rutherford, N.J. since 2016. Everyone on that sideline yields some sort of responsibility for these past few seasons.
If there is something that the Jets do better than anyone else, it’s wasting talent on both sides of the football. Every player that has left the Jets over the past few seasons have found greener pastures elsewhere. Saints linebacker DeMario Davis left the Jets after the 2017 season and was selected as an All-Pro in the 2019 season. 49ers running back Mostert was cut by the Jets in 2016 but carried the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2020. Robby Anderson signed with the Carolina Panthers this offseason, and within two games, he has 223 yards receiving, and looks like a revelation of himself. Kelechi Osemele was released midway through the 2019 NFL season, but since joining the Kansas City Chiefs, he has been one of the best run blocking offensive linemen in the league.
Jamal Adams was a very good player for the Jets since 2017, but his play with the Seattle Seahawks over the first two weeks of the 2020 season has dwarfed everything he had done in New York. One last example comes in the form of Teddy Bridgewater, as he couldn’t beat out then-rookie QB Sam Darnold for the starting QB job but went 5-0 with the New Orleans Saints in 2019 and has impressed many NFL minds with his performances through two weeks with the Carolina Panthers.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that every player who leaves the Jets automatically become a better player. The talent developers in New York have been horrific over the past 5 years, which only furthers the cause for concern about the Jets future. Not only have the developers been subpar, but the talent evaluators have not held up their end of the bargain either. Former General Manager Mike MacCagnan insisted on drafting the best player available for every draft from 2015-19.
Many times, this strategy has left Jet fans scratching their heads. For example, the Jets drafted DT Leonard Williams with the sixth pick in the 2015 draft, when the defensive line was already the Jets’ strongest position. They should have used this pick to draft an offensive playmaker, since their offense ranked in the bottom-five the previous season, and with players such as Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, and DeVante Parker still available, one of those three should have been the pick. But because of MacCagnan’s philosophy of drafting the best player available, the Jets did not improve their team at all with the Williams’ selection.
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A more recent mind-boggling move occurred in the 2019 NFL Draft, when DT Quinnen Williams was selected third overall. The Jets have needed to solve their pass rushing issues since they traded Jon Abraham in 2005 and had the perfect pass rusher in their hands in 2019, in Kentucky DE Josh Allen. Allen won SEC Defensive Player of the Year in the 2018-19 season, sacking the quarterback 17 times and forcing 5 fumbles in just 13 games. The SEC is the best conference in college football, as they produce the most NFL players per year on average, so winning Defensive Player of the Year is an impressive feat.
In his first year in the NFL, Allen recorded 10.5 sacks with the Jacksonville Jaguars, which would have been the most by a Jets player since 2015. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink it, and this wholeheartedly applies to the moves that the Jets have made in the NFL Draft.
The hiring of Gase in 2019 raised many eyebrows across the NFL. After being fired from being the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, Woody and Chris Johnson decided that Gase was the right man for the job. But they couldn’t have made a worse decision. The relationship with former head coach Todd Bowles has run its course, and it was time to move on, but this move was supposed to transcend the future of the Jets.
As a lifelong Jets fan, I wanted to see either former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, or Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy become the next head coach in New York. McCarthy has championship pedigree and helped develop Aaron Rodgers into the QB he is today. As for Bienemy, he helped develop Patrick Mahomes into the best QB in the NFL, as well as learned under one of the best offensive minds in the history of the NFL, in Andy Reid.
Both of these hires would have polished Darnold and could have taken him to the next level, as an elite quarterback in the NFL. But under Gase, all he’s done is regressed. At this point, the damage done to Darnold is unfixable. He looked extremely promising in his rookie season, even if his numbers don’t necessarily back up that statement. He gave Jet fans a reason to cheer and hope for the future, as Jet fans haven’t seen a quarterback with this amount of talent since Chad Pennington.
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Under Jeremy Bates, Darnold possessed great footwork and threw the ball much more accurately than in college. Bates improved the throwing motion of Darnold as well, but since Bates’ departure in 2018, Darnold reverted back to his old college habits. He was able to get away with subpar footwork, inaccurate throwing and inconsistent throwing motions because of the talent that he possessed, as well as the talent surrounding him. But in the NFL, this is a huge issue that must be addressed immediately. Gase was trusted to further develop Darnold into a star but has done everything in his power to run Darnold into the ground.
At this point, where do the Jets go from here? They must begin by cleaning house in the coaching department. It’s clear as day that the players are no longer motivated to play under Gase and the rest of the coaching staff. They put in two inexcusable performances to begin the 2020 NFL season. The Jets have been in the top-five for most penalty yards surrendered over the past 2 seasons, demonstrating how poorly coached they are. The best head coaches in the NFL discipline their teams to not take penalties that have devastating effects on their teams.
The Patriots, Saints, Chiefs, Titans, Rams, and Vikings are consistently among the least penalized teams in the league. This is due to their qualified and competent head coaches, one that the Jets do not sport. Hiring Bienemy of the Kansas City Chiefs would resolve that issue, as well as serving a multitude of issues on the offensive side of the field.
As for the players, most of them aren’t good enough to survive this rebuild. The offensive line has improved piece by piece this offseason and is one of the few positions that may remain in a team with championship ambitions. The only other players that can remain as starters are DT Quinnen Williams, LB’s Avery Williamson and CJ Mosely, and S Marcus Maye. Every other starting player needs to be replaced. This includes QB Darnold, who may not have had a fair chance under Gase, but still makes rookie mistakes that appears he may never shake off.
Taking delay of game penalties off of a TV timeout, as well as constantly throwing across his body and ending as interceptions are moves that are expected from college freshmen. Doing this late in your college career is a bad look and doing it in the NFL is absolutely unacceptable. This may be down to coaching but could also be down to the player’s decision making himself, but either way, it’s horrendous. The best outcome for both sides would be to trade Darnold away and get good draft compensation. Football teams that could be potential trade partners for Darnold include the Chicago Bears, the Carolina Panthers and the Washington Football Team.
The next step in this rebuild is to draft the ideal quarterback. The quarterback is the leader on your team, and teams can’t make progress until they have the right QB leading the way. With the 2020 season starting off on the wrong foot, the Jets should accept their fate and aim to get a high draft pick. This year’s NFL Draft class will include three incredibly gifted quarterbacks, who could turn around the Jets woes over the past 10 seasons.
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The 3 quarterbacks are Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State QB Justin Fields, and North Dakota State QB Trey Lance. While Fields and Lance and supremely gifted, the right man to lead the Jets out of misery is Lawrence. He has the on-field talent to make your jaw drop, and the off-field demeanor to impress not just football fans, but non-sports fans too.
After drafting the right quarterback, the Jets must get key contributors with the remaining picks in the draft. Giving their new QB a new Wide Receiver is a must, as well as adding a star pass rusher, and an NFL caliber Cornerback. If General Manager Joe Douglas uses this strategy to rebuild the Jets, New York will be Super Bowl contenders within the next five years. But as a Jets fan, you can’t get your hopes up too much.
I have been watching the NFL since 2009, or since I was nine years old. I have seen two playoff teams since I’ve been watching sports. Following the Jets’ AFC championship in 2010, they have averaged six wins-per-season. There has been rebuild after rebuild with this football team, and it’s frankly disheartening for Jet fans. The same old Jets will be a thing of the past if the Jets complete the aforementioned offseason moves.
Jimmy Bliss can be reached at email@example.com.