As the New York Jets prepare for the regular season, they have a lot of work ahead of themselves if they plan to be a contending team.
The incident is almost a week old so by now most people’s attention has focused elsewhere, but the preseason practice between the New York Jets and Washington Redskins that was supposed to be “joint” instead was marred by a major brawl. Countless fights, immature scenarios, and a lot of bickering turned out to be a missed opportunity for the Jets.
It certainly showed during Thursday night’s game as the Jets’ performance was lackluster, at best. More importantly, though, these practices may have revealed a great deal of what to expect and should give many Jets fans pause about the upcoming year.
First things first. What’s at stake here is the fact that the Jets last year struggled immensely in the 4th quarter. If the Jets want to take the next step this year and improve from back-to-back five-win seasons, they will need to not only play better for all four quarters but also must polish up their overall game-day execution. If there is a team in the NFL that stands to benefit from taking practices more seriously it is the Jets. That is why the shenanigans that took place last week need to stop immediately.
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It is true that practice can be painstakingly boring, mundane, and according to some players—even elite ones in other sports—as a waste of time because it’s “not a game.”
But overlooking the benefits of practice would be a mistake because it is also an opportunity—believe it or not—to bond. In other words, performing well, winning, executing, that’s what unites teams, not pointless fights.
While it is understandable for players to get “chippy” during practices—especially during the dog days of summer—ultimately, however, fights are a distraction. They are a waste of a valuable opportunity for the team to work out any remaining kinks so that on game days the team is flawlessly executing the game plan.
Preseason is also especially the wrong time to get bad publicity, which is exactly what happened as these incidents literally made “headline” news for a couple of days. It is important to note that really good football teams don’t seek out negative attention. Unfortunately for the Jets, this has happened way too often. For example, three years ago the Jets lost its starting quarterback, Geno Smith, when he was punched in the face. Who can forget the following year involving Ryan Fitzpatrick’s contract holdout? Most recently, last year’s trials and tribulations of Christian Hackenberg, the Jets second-round pick who had significant accuracy issues.
Although it sickens me to keep bringing them up because they are the Jets’ main rivals, but when was the last time you read or heard about a Bill Belichick-led team getting in a melee during a preseason practice? Not ever. Bottom line is elite teams avoid this type of silly undisciplined behavior because they are too busy focusing on the goal—the only goal—winning.
So who is responsible for ensuring that the Jets stay focused, disciplined, and executing? Jets head coach Todd Bowles, of course. I like Bowles. As I’ve written previously, he’s done a decent job under some difficult circumstances, and yes, he deservedly received a contract extension recently. But this is his fourth year as the Jets head coach so the learning curve is over. The fact that he couldn’t control his players is problematic.
I’d also like to see quarterback Sam Darnold step up. If he is indeed the franchise quarterback of the future, then he should be taking a more assertive leadership role, becoming more vocal when the situation demands it. The same can be said for safety Jamal Adams on the defensive side. Whoever it is, the Jets need leaders on the field who ensure the team stays focused.
Darnold and Adams immediately come to mind but the whole team needs to recognize that there’s much at stake this year and they can’t afford to get distracted. But if last week’s undisciplined behavior becomes the norm then I think there’s a reason to be concerned so let’s just say as of right now I’ll remain cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season until I see more evidence to the contrary.