Top 5 items on the 2017 To-Do List for the Jets
By Bob Lederer
Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; A general view of a New York Jets helmet and an NFL football during the game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
This upcoming season could be a tough one for the New York Jets but on their 2017 to-do list, here are the top five things that need to happen.
Make no mistake about it, this upcoming season by the New York Jets could be their toughest one yet. They only won five games last year and could very well replicate or even post a worse record in 2017.
The truth of the matter is, the Jets are rebuilding and will have a tough road ahead. They might not win a lot of football games but should benefit from giving valuable regular season reps to their younger talent.
It will take patience for everything to come together as the Jets have the right leadership regime in place to make the most of the situation. Fans are in for a letdown in 2017 but the building blocks should be on full display to help give clarity to the future.
Without further ado, here are the top five things on the to-do list for the Jets heading into next season.
Next: 5. Ensure new coaches are all on the same page
Nov 13, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets coach Todd Bowles (center) reacts in the second half against the Los Angeles Rams at MetLife Stadium. The Rams defeated the Jets 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
5. Ensure new coaches are all on the same page
Here’s to hoping that head coach Todd Bowles‘ new assistant coaching staff is substantially better than those he recruited three years ago. Replacing a coach or two is standard, and top coordinators are always ready to trade up for a better job with another organization. However, tearing up all the offensive and defensive guidance after only two years is something of a condemnation of Bowles’ assistant coaching choices.
Admittedly, a head coach doesn’t always get all the guys they want; sometimes they can’t wiggle out of existing contracts. But, of his 23-member staff, eight will be new in the 2017 season – including offensive coordinator, running backs, defense line, outside linebackers and defensive backs coaches. The special teams and quarterback coaches were replaced after 2015.
“Coaching up” players is about as important as who is drafted. Assistants have to be able to take the raw talent; smooth the rough edges; and preach and teach intensive film study to identify opposition tendencies and minimize blown assignments. The end-goal: molding them into contributors who can fit into the offensive or defensive scheme. If they are up to the task, the incredible number of position coaches and the specificity of each assistant’s positional responsibilities should enable each to work towards building a cohesive, forceful offensive or defensive unit.
Next: 4. Keep Mike Maccagnan for the long haul
Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan before a game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
4. Keep Mike Maccagnan for the long haul
I don’t believe in throwing general manager Mike Maccagnan to the wolves after a few years on the job (like the Jets had to with John Idzik). Still, after two pretty mediocre drafts in 2015 and 2016, I believe the Jets are approaching the moment when an educated assessment of the Maccagnan scouting staff should be on the table.
Ditto for the competency of Mike Maccagnan as a college talent evaluator. Picking sixth a second time in three years should reap significant talent. It didn’t happen in 2015 – and, for Maccagnan and the Jets’ sake – there had better not be a repeat in 2017.
Next: 3. Create a culture of working hard
Oct 23, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Quincy Enunwa (81) runs for a touchdown after catching a pass from Geno Smith (not shown) during the first half of their game against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
3. Create a culture of working hard
We need to see a determination by the Jets of their type of player. It can be quickness and intelligence like in the 1960s Weeb Ewbank era, something similar to that under Walt Michaels in the 1980s, but I don’t think it should be a total emphasis on formidable physicality.
Being the “baddest” and the most intimidating team (see the Rex Ryan era) is easily overcome by any other team. Every NFL squad has a massive offensive and defensive line composed of 300-pound and heavier “big fatties,” as Ray Lucas refers to them. Find something else.
The Jets need a distinctive offensive and defensive scheme, and the time for that is now, with the massive roster turnover we’re seeing and will continue to see for at least a few years. The more distinctive the better; I think the Jets should force the rest of the NFL to adapt to a widely different offense and defense than is used by every other team. It can cause substantial confusion, or worse, for the opponent.
Next: 2. Take the best player available in 2017 NFL Draft
2. Take the best player available in 2017 NFL Draft
Sure, the Jets need to select the best player available in the 2017 NFL Draft. Of course, they should trade down in the first round (assuming someone who should have been picked in the first five isn’t surprisingly there like low-hanging fruit). There isn’t a crying need at defensive line, wide receiver or quarterback. (The latter holds off until next year.)
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Except for a super stud offensive lineman, a guard, a tackle and a center that can become part of a championship squad are always available well after round one. The Jets’ New York newspaper team scribes seem to agree that a tight end can wait until the later rounds, too.
I make no pretense of having scouting skills, but I like the idea of a fullback-type with speed – someone who can run over people – in the first round, but only if he can also block for the quarterback, lead block for the halfback and catch passes. (Or have an innate ability to develop those attributes.)
If there is no top notch running back, get me a potentially great linebacker, an edge rusher, then a cornerback. But whoever Maccagnan and Jets’ scouts covet, please avoid players with a history of college injuries. Not tough enough to play and stay healthy in college ball? You will never become anything more than a warm body in the rougher, more savage pro game.
The Jets have too many of those already. Grab every smart, quick collegian who can become a difference maker, at least an offensive, defensive and, in the last rounds, special teams’ building block.
Next: 1. Lose football games
Dec 17, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty (9) looks to pass against the Miami Dolphins during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
1. Lose football games
Bite the bullet and, as painful as it will be, lose a lot of games, period. The Jets need a great young quarterback. The Jets want a great young quarterback. The Jets need to lose a lot of games, preferably more than anyone else, to have a shot at that great young quarterback.
Next: Mike Maccagnan tapping the CFL for talent
Patience is critical. Joe Namath didn’t arrive until well over a year after Weeb Ewbank identified him as the Jets’ target. Based on the veterans already released (with more undoubtedly to come), the mediocre quarterbacking that is in place and this year’s humdrum free agent signings, the Jets have taken major strides towards potentially landing USC’s Sam Darnold next spring.