An open letter to Woody Johnson about Jets
By Anthony Sciglitano
When it comes to the New York Jets, here is an open letter about the current state of the franchise and what needs to happen in the future.
Dear Mr. Johnson,
I write this letter on Thanksgiving. It is an odd time to write to you, I know, given the Jets’ record this season. Despite that record, I feel grateful to you and the New York Jets organization. And it is from this place of gratitude that I respectfully ask that you not give in to media silliness regarding your general manager, Michael Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles.
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You have genuine professionals at the top of your organization who are dedicated to making our beloved Jets a playoff contender. Continuity is essential to success in the current NFL. Teams that succeed build over time. Before the Dallas Cowboys won three championships in the 1990’s, they went 1-15. Before Mean Joe Green won a championship, he went through awful years with the 1970’s Steelers. I plead with you to give these two five years and no less to turn the team around.
Always remember that the New York media is wonderful, but also wonderfully hysterical. This week they cannot fathom why one would start quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick over backup Bryce Petty after at least half of them were sharpening pitchforks should you not re-sign Fitz in the offseason.
Forgotten is his victory over the Patriots last year; forgotten is Petty’s need to develop into a professional quarterback from a Baylor one-read system; forgotten is Petty’s third-string status until Geno Smith went down with injury; forgotten is his lack of practice snaps or that your coaches see him in practice every day. They rightly refrain from saying that Petty is going to be an excellent quarterback. They have no evidence for this just yet. Instead, they argue that we “need to see him to know what we have”—as if this is not possible in the future. Please never forget that New York media reflect back to the fans the very impatience of the fans themselves. This does not mean they are right—only that they are frustrated.
If we review the draft picks and moves of your general manager, we can only be impressed. True, he has a tremendous amount of work to do to get this roster in the top tier of the NFL, and he is still learning to navigate the vagaries of the cap system. But he has made a good start. Darron Lee, Jordan Jenkins, and Leonard Williams all look to be solid (Lee and Jenkins) to excellent (Williams) players. Of course, Lee and Jenkins may turn out to be more than solid as well.
We do not yet know what fourth-string quarterback Christian Hackenberg or Petty will be. Bowles and Maccagnan seem to be old school when it comes to young quarterbacks: let them develop before feeding them to the wolves. Sure, if you have Dallas’s offensive line and running game, you can put a backup in and not worry. If you don’t, you are inviting disaster.
Can we seriously say that a new approach to the quarterback position is unwelcome? Have the Jets’ attempts to throw quarterbacks in straight away succeeded so well that to wait looks contrary to good sense? Bowles has been consistent in his claim that they are going to play to win. Surely at some point, he will decide to give Petty the ball. But he also wants his team to know that winning is the priority in Jets land and will be going forward. As difficult as Fitz has been to watch this year, this is most likely the right approach.
Nov 27, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) and quarterback Bryce Petty (9) during warm up prior to their game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The most impressive transformation for this team has been at the wide receiver position. Prior to Maccagnan, Idzik picked up Eric Decker and Quincy Enunwa. But the key was getting Brandon Marshall so Decker could be a very high number two receiver instead of a low number one. The addition of a talented late round pick and two undrafted free agents to this roster by Maccagnan looks special. This position suggests a bright future with speed and talent, just what Maccagnan and Bowles said they wanted.
So what happened this year? Clearly, a combination of things went wrong to lead to this point. And the coach needs to bear some blame.
First, the 2016 season has revealed that against top talent, the Jets’ roster remains vulnerable. The offensive line needs more athleticism; the secondary requires better and smarter players. Their quarterback is too easy to read for an upscale secondary such as the Seattle Seahawks. In short, the roster needs serious turnover at this point.
Second, there have been some legitimately awful losses. The loss to the Bengals in the first game stands out. With seven sacks, there is no way the Jets should have lost. But poor play in the secondary, a missed PAT and a blocked field goal started the season off on a bad foot. I hate the phrase “should have won,” but if any game deserves that label, this one did. No need to rehash all of them, but know that this is the NFL now: a play here or there is all the difference between a successful and unsuccessful season.
Third, the secondary has hurt this team badly. This is surprising and here the coach may have to rethink his approach. It may be the case that basics need to be stressed more often than he imagined. I sometimes think that Bowles believed he could start this season mostly from where last left off.
But it is more accurate to think that repetition and execution of the basics are what will win. These need to be near perfect before anything else is introduced. Of course, it may be that new talent is needed. It is difficult to tell which or how much of each is needed without seeing the practices and film. What is clear is that something needs to be done on the back end of that defense.
Fourth, Fitzpatrick made an enormous error. Whether this is hubris or just a need to get paid I do not know. But he simply is not the kind of quarterback who can miss practice time and have a great season.
I believed Maccagnan was right to play hard ball with him; his career does not suggest top or even high mid-tier money. At the time, I secretly hoped you would let him go. However, the pressure was too much and he was brought back late and without the necessary time to nail down timing, reads, communication and to work with the new talent.
So these are some of the problems that need to be addressed. Surely you know all of them well. However, you also hear the roar of unfriendly voices angry that Bowles is not sufficiently forthcoming at press conferences or that they refuse to start Petty. Please ask yourself the simple question: Did Bowles forget football from last year to this? Hardly. He is not the problem and the team needs to understand that you know that.
Any great franchise we currently see: Steelers, Patriots, Cowboys, Giants have opted for continuity and have been rewarded once the roster had the necessary talent. And let’s not forget, if the Jets’ season is a disappointment, what should one say about the Panthers? Should they fire Ron Rivera? He has a tier one quarterback. Please.
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Maccagnan and Bowles need time to learn, to teach and to develop. They are consummate professionals dedicated not only to winning but to mentoring young men. These are the leaders the Jets’ organization and the fans can root for with pride.
Stay the course. Let them make the Jets into a solid, annual contender rather than a flash in the pan success story. You will not regret it.
Anthony C. Sciglitano, Jr.