Leonard Williams (92) before the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports” width=”850″ height=”590″ /> Sep 15, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Leonard Williams (92) before the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
How bleak is the New York Jets situation moving into the offseason? Let us count the ways.
The New York Jets finished their disastrous season 5-11, after a meaningless 30-10 home win over the Rex Ryan-less Bills. It was a fitting farewell to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who quarterbacked his finest game in over a calendar year. The only thing we learned from that game is that Buffalo’s 2013 top ten pick, quarterback EJ Manuel, has no upside over Geno Smith, Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg.
2016 ended with way more questions than answers. Who do the Jets build around? What exactly are the team’s strong points moving forward? Do they just blow it up and start again, or do they try to fix what they’ve got? Remember, the goal is to build for a championship, not to re-tool for mediocrity.
After the season, six of head coach Todd Bowles‘ assistants got canned. The team’s esteemed 65-year-old offensive coordinator Chan Gailey retired from the game after his most frustrating season. But one would not be wrong to ask why Mr. Gailey was so hellbent on pushing his prize pupil Fitzpatrick to stand in the pocket and throw for 300 yards when the roster’s strength was running the ball, and passing on the move? And why did it take until late into the season to unleash game-breaking threat, Bilal Powell?
Chan’s fired/retired scenario weighs heavily on the direction of this franchise. What offensive coordinator worth his pay-grade is gonna sign with this team, knowing head coach Todd Bowles is on the hot seat, unless they’re looking at the chance to become the next “head coach of the NYJ.”
Going into the 2017 season, the Jets might have the worst quarterback situation in the game. At best, rising star Sheldon Richardson could be leveraged as a pawn to overpay for Mike Glennon or A.J. McCarron, the only possible young available quarterbacks in the league with upside.
The somewhat-shocking return of defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers means that Bowles still plans to design the schemes, and wants his best friend to figurehead the in-game calls. The equally stunning return of special teams coach Brant Boyer is an admission that the roster is so bereft of talent on the back-end, that he is not solely to blame.
Where’s the owner been during all this? Woody Johnson will employ his brother to run the operation once he gets that much-rumored Trump administration UK ambassadorship. At first, Jets fans saw the hope of Woody’s hiatus, in line with Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner’s forced exile that ushered in Derek Jeter and the Core Four. But that’s not what’s goin’ on here. And it’s not like the end of those bad ol’ days of Rich Kotite when the late Jets owner Leon Hess did the right thing and hired Bill Parcells. Almost 20 years later, this franchise is back to Square One.
If the low-key Bowles can lead with strong leadership, if general manager Mike Maccagnan can sign and draft immediate impact players, if a bold new offensive coordinator can quickly integrate Petty and Christian Hackenberg into a different offensive vision, and if the well-documented broken locker room can be fixed, then the Jets will have a fruitful 2017. Are you all in with that, Jets fans?
Here are a few songs by doom metal pioneers Black Sabbath that best explain the Jets’ fan impending sense of doom.
Next: 3. Into The Void
Nov 27, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles coaches against the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
3. Into The Void
We all now know that Bowles lost the locker room in that Week 3 fiasco in Kansas City — getting thoroughly outplayed in every phase of the game.
Brandon Marshall‘s Inside The NFL gig has proven toxic to locker room chemistry. Brandon went low when he likened the Jets 2016 season to a dirty diaper that never got changed. But where was evidence of the eleventh year pro’s veteran leadership when he angered both young (Sheldon Richardson) and old (Darrelle Revis) with his antics? The former UCF Knight has offered to take a pay cut to return, but does the prospect of his “Three Amigos” reunion with Eric Decker and Quincy Enunwa out-weigh Bowles’ urgent need to gut this roster of “me” guys?
There are many reasons for concern moving forward with Bowles. It’s worrisome that as a highly touted defensive coordinator, his defenses get shredded weekly, and that he and his staff were unable to fix the same issues regarding blown coverages, missed tackles, misreads, mistakes, missed assignments, and clock mismanagements. It is very troubling that his leadership is not more deeply respected, especially as a Super Bowl-winning baller who rose through the NFL ranks. And then there’s that little thing about his caring less about the offense than even his defensive-obsessed predecessor Rex Ryan!
Bowles’ biggest mistake has been in treating his cadre of man-children like real men. Coaches can entrust players to police their own locker room, so long as its leaders command the respect to dole out the discipline. In both his on and off-field demeanor, Bowles is a very nice guy. But you know what they say about nice guys.
Next: 2. Heaven and Hell
Aug 27, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets GM Mike Maccagnan talks with New York Jets Owner Woody Johnson in the 1st half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
2. Heaven and Hell
Maccagnan may or may not have deserved his accolades as 2015 NFL Executive of the Year after an overachieving 10-6 season. But his 2016 moves backfired big-time.
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Trader Mike gets a pass in terms of the staggering 20-plus players on the opening season 53-man roster that ended their seasons on Injured Reserve or got designated Injured/Waived. One starter had to depart the team to deal with an alcohol relapse. But that “next man in” mentality cannot work when there’s a steep drop-off in on-field talent and football acumen.
That’s a disturbing development, especially in light of the unheralded video-room rat’s ascension to a general manager being based on his talent-evaluation prowess. And he gets no free pass for his hiding until the post-season from the local media, who rightfully demanded answers for this mess. For instance, who okayed the decision to start the year in a 4-3 defense with Steve McLendon on the inside, and Sheldon Richardson dropping into coverage? Or making Long Island-bred pass-rushing force Mike Catapano cover tight ends over the middle? Those were some season-crushing ideas.
Maccagnan’s two drafts at best rank an incomplete. Last season’s first-rounder Leonard Williams should be a future Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate. Second-rounder Devin Smith, third-rounder Lorenzo Mauldin, and fourth-rounder Bryce Petty may or may not develop, but are currently marginal pros. One of the best moves was seventh-round selection Deon Simon, who’s come on strong of late, as that run-stuffing nose tackle they’ve needed since the loss of Damon Harrison. How bad does Maccagnan’s decision to pay Muhammad Wilkerson look now?
This year’s first-rounder Darron Lee has a serious motor and may grow into a star with his unique skill set at inside linebacker. This year’s third-rounder Jordan Jenkins could one day live up to his billing as the second coming of Mo Lewis. Feisty fourth-round corner Juston Burris is a keeper. Fifth-round tackle Brandon Shell, the nephew of Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Shell, could be ’17’s starting right tackle. Sixth-round Aussie punter Lach Edwards booted well under duress. Second rounder Hackenberg, and seventh rounder Charone Peake need lots of work.
Florham Park insiders have been floating anonymous quotes, that say it will take two more drafts to rebuild this roster. That sounds about right. But are you still confident that Maccagnan is the man for the task?
Another strong indicator of successful talent development is player elevation from the practice squad. In 2015, the team paid top-tier undrafted free agent bonuses to Julian Howsare, Taiwan Jones and Deion Barnes (all currently unemployed in professional football), but reaped a promising lineman in Steelers castoff, Wesley Johnson. 2016 practice squadders include potential possibilities in Appalachian State safety Doug Middleton, CFL star linebacker Freddie Bishop, and Montana State cornerback Bryson Keeton.
They still really like 2016 training camp invite, former Ferris State quarterback-turned-tight-end Jason Vander Laan, giving him another look-see with a Reserve/Futures contract. A similar pact was bestowed on training camp casualty kicker Ross Martin — which speaks to the team’s wavering confidence in Nick Folk.
How excited does that make you, Jets fans?
Next: 1. Symptom of the Universe
1. Symptom of the Universe
The answer to the Jets $15M question is Darrelle Revis. The future Pro Football Hall of Famer recently laid down the gauntlet, questioning the organization’s class in terms of his continued employment. Unfortunately, the once foreboding Revis Island got destroyed in 2016 by a raging hurricane of torched single coverage. It will be interesting to see how little over his $6M buyout he’d be willing to accept to play free safety, with Marcus Gilchrist rehabbing from season-ending surgery?
Buster Skrine is a nice nickel corner but gets burned like toast mano-a-mano. A case could be made for his return in third down schemes behind Marcus Williams and rookie Juston Burris. Calvin Pryor and Rontez Miles — third-year safeties with rough 2016s — were on the receiving end of far too many blown big plays.
As for the offensive line, it needs a complete overhaul. D’Brickashaw Ferguson‘s retirement was a season-killer; Ryan Clady crumbled as his stand-in. Nick Mangold finally broke down and will retire in the next year or so. Breno Giacomini‘s back woes render discussion of his return a non-starter. Brian Winters blossomed in his third season, but how much would you pay for his return — and how much does he just wanna get out of here? Ben Ijalana and Brent Qvale got exposed, but they’ll be in the mix for 2017 starting positions — based around the team’s only real stud blocker, James Carpenter.
Many of 2016’s nadirs involved the tight end position. Veteran starter Kellen Davis was long since designated Injured/Waived before images of Eric Tomlinson in set position as Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake nearly destroyed Petty in Miami, or Austin Seferian-Jenkins dropping that gimme touchdown in their penultimate game with the Patriots down just 13-0. You know it’s going bad when former Packer pariah Brandon Bostick looks good.
A recent New York Post article spoke to a New York psychologist, who said that years of brutal Jets letdowns will inevitably lead to clinical depression. Sometimes you gotta wonder if it’s really all worth it.