I had a harder time thinking of questions to send this week about the New York Jets than I have for any other game this season. There’s nothing “fun” about the Jets right now and I imagine that feeling is multiplied by 13 for Jets fans.
Nobody believes that winless New York is going to come to Los Angeles and beat the Rams on Sunday, as proven by the largest point spread the Rams have been favored by since 2001. That doesn’t mean the Jets won’t win — I could not care less what bettors think about football, at least as it pertains to predictions — it just means that nobody believes it.
Other than the big gamblers.
Finally I mustered up five Qs that I would want to know the As to from a Jets fan in the midst of their worst season since Rich Kotite went 1-15 in 1996.
“How disappointed are you?”
“Is there hope left for Sam Darnold?”
“Are you okay with losing now in order to secure the top pick?”
“Can I somehow build an argument to keep Adam Gase?”
and “Which of these topics are you most sick of talking about?”
I sent those 5 Qs to MacGregor Wells of Gang Green Nation and in kind he sent me 5 corresponding As. Thank you to MacGregor for your time, and sorry.
Q - I am not a fan of media-driven narratives and the attention around the Jets this season as a team that is practically an “insult” to the game of football doesn’t sit right with me either. I concede that the Jets have been the worst team in football this season but I wouldn’t say they are the most “disappointing” compared to expectations. Even teams like the Jaguars and Bengals, I think they are much worse than pre-season expectations. Definitely teams like the Lions, Falcons, Cowboys, Texans, Bears, Vikings, Eagles, Broncos, Chargers, Raiders, 49ers... these are disappointments to me. But that’s just my view from 10,000 miles. What were your expectations of the Jets in Week 1 and how disappointed are you in the team’s performance at 0-13?
A - I thought the 7-9 2019 Jets were a product of a very easy schedule, an exceptionally poor slate of opposing quarterbacks, and some good luck, like the Bills laying down in the last game of the season because they had already clinched their playoff spot. With more of an average-ish schedule I thought the 2019 Jets were probably a 3-13, 4-12 type team. The 2020 Jets didn’t really have a lot of cap space to improve through free agency. So they spread the money around, ignoring the top free agents and trying to find bargains among the second and third tier free agents. You can get lucky and have most of those type signings work out, but it’s not the way to bet.
So after free agency I figured the Jets were probably marginally better in 2020, with the improvement largely confined to the offensive line, which was completely replaced. The draft is usually something that pays off in year 2 and subsequent years more than in year 1, so I didn’t think the 2020 draft was likely to move the needle much for 2020. The schedule looked significantly more difficult on paper. So maybe the 2020 Jets looked like a 5-11 ish type team. Then the Jets traded their best player in Jamal Adams, and their next best player, C.J. Mosley, opted out due to COVID-19. That probably dropped the Jets right back down to a 3-13, 4-12 type team. Of course there is a large degree of variability in any NFL schedule, but that would have been my best guess before the season began.
How disappointed am I the Jets are 0-13? It’s disheartening to rarely even be competitive. It’s disheartening to field the worst offense in the NFL for the second straight year. It’s disheartening to have the owner call the head coach an offensive genius midway through a historically inept season. It’s disheartening to have the young quarterback regress into the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. So, yeah, a whole lot of disappointment, but I can’t say I had any delusions that the Jets had much chance of making the playoffs or being a decent team.
Q - There’s an argument to be made that Kevin Stefanski and Kyle Shanahan were hired by the Browns and 49ers at “the right time,” which is that they came in after one or two “sad sap” seasons of a head coach. The Browns allowed themselves another half-year of Hue Jackson turmoil after he went 1-31 and before one season of Freddie Kitchens. The 49ers went to the “out of nowhere” pile to hire Jim Tomsula for one season, then one season of Chip Kelly.
Point being, is maybe now not the right time to fire Adam Gase? Given that the Jets will probably struggle in 2021 no matter who the coach is, is right now the best time for New York to be making a pitch to the best available free agent coaches? I know that you’ve said in recent Q and As that you can’t wait for Gase to go and that it is inevitable, but looking at the struggles of Zac Taylor, I can’t help but wonder if there’s as much of a danger as ruining the confidence of a head coach with the wrong team as there is of ruining a young quarterback with the wrong coach.
Is there a road towards finding a “bridge head coach” that works for the Jets or is it time to start pitching Eric Bienemy and Lincoln Riley and Brandon Staley to come try and fix a team that could be 0-16 or 1-15?
A - In my opinion the Jets cannot under any circumstances have Adam Gase at the helm when the season starts next year. He has been an absolute disaster in every way, from player development to offensive ineptitude to player relations to press relations … the list is endless. Gase has to go. If you accept that premise, then I can’t see a team intentionally looking for some kind of bridge coach. In my opinion when you fire a head coach and look for a new one you look for the best one available. Is it the best time to make a pitch to candidates? Maybe not. But teams looking for new head coaches often do not present great situations.
The Jets have a ton of cap space (at least $100 million when the obvious cuts are made). They have a ton of premium draft picks over the next two years. They have a young stud at left tackle in Mekhi Becton. They have a guy who looks the part of a future number one receiver in Denzel Mims. And they likely have the #1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft, most likely Trevor Lawrence. Young top talent at QB, left tackle and wide receiver isn’t a bad way to start to rebuild an offense. It’s hardly a great situation, but I would think it’s not the worst situation a new head coach could find himself in either.
The Jets will stink for at least one more year, but with all their cap space and all their draft capital, there is a credible path to being an average-ish team as early as 2022. That doesn’t seem to me something a prospective head coaching candidate should or would likely shy away from, or have his confidence ruined by.
Q - You’ve said that you’re impressed by rookies Mekhi Becton and Denzel Mims, plus Jamison Crowder remains under contract and you also noted that George Fant has been a pleasant surprise at right tackle. It seems like the Jets could be building a nice foundation on offense for the right quarterback to be able to work with. Given that New York also has a massive amount of cap space next year, the Jets could also sign a number one receiver, a tight end and a running back. Any chance that Sam Darnold is the “right quarterback” and the Jets trade down to add more picks to help him?
A - Well, nobody can say you don’t think outside the box. I mean, there is always a chance. It isn’t impossible. However, I would say the scenario where the Jets pass on drafting Trevor Lawrence and roll with Sam Darnold is wildly improbable. If some team makes the Jets an offer of the largest package of draft capital in NFL history to acquire the #1 pick, then sure, the Jets could trade the pick. But even in the improbable case where the Jets trade the #1 pick, I still doubt they would or should be comfortable rolling with Sam Darnold at quarterback.
Darnold is having a historically awful season as a starting quarterback. There is literally no precedent for a non-rookie quarterback to be this statistically terrible and ever become a viable starting quarterback. Even if you believe Darnold’s woes are mostly attributable to his surrounding cast, there are things you can evaluate that are largely independent. He has happy feet and bails in the pocket even without pressure. His accuracy downfield is poor. He has terrible judgment. He doesn’t read the field well. He doesn’t throw with anticipation. He doesn’t get through his reads quickly enough. He fails to see wide open targets on a regular basis. There are just too many things Darnold does wrong to expect him to be fixed.
Is it possible? Anything is possible. But when there is no historical precedent, it’s not the way to bet. If the Jets trade the #1 pick, I would expect them to either take a quarterback later in the 1st round, sign a credible free agent quarterback, or trade for a credible veteran. I just don’t see the Jets deciding to roll with Darnold as the starter in 2021. In my opinion he is done as the Jets’ starter, and it’s likely he is done as a Jet, period. And if any other team is willing to trade a decent (let’s say 2nd round) draft pick to the Jets for Darnold because they think he can be fixed, I think they are going to end up regretting that decision.
Q - Which of these results would you rather see on Sunday: the Jets lose and look bad OR the Jets win and look good? Obviously the answer for most people will almost always be to win and look good, but are you at the point where you’re okay with anything as long as there are no injuries and they don’t lose the number one pick?
A - I’m OK with either one. On an emotional level I will never watch the game and root against the Jets. I will always be happy to see the Jets win. On the other hand, I understand that logically any wins since the halfway mark of this season, and realistically even earlier, are counterproductive and can only hurt the Jets going forward in terms of lost draft capital. So if the Jets win and look good, I am emotionally satisfied. If the Jets lose and look bad, I am logically satisfied. Lucky me, either way I’m happy in some way. There has to be some small silver lining to the depths this franchise has sunk to, right?
Q - Since it is almost the end of another season and I’m sure you’re tired of getting many of the same questions in this series, I’m curious: What 2020 Jets-related topic are you the most sick of talking about? Gase? The draft and the number one pick? Trevor Lawrence? Other?
A - It has to be Adam Gase. Earlier this year I was emotionally invested in seeing Gase fired. I worried the Jets might keep him on if the Jets were bad but not historically bad. That worry has long since evaporated. It has been obvious for some time that the Jets would not fire Gase in season, and that they would fire him once the season is over. It is obvious to everyone he is a horrible head coach. There’s nothing more to talk about regarding Gase. There is nothing to debate. Just wait for the inevitable. Three more weeks. Then it’s over.