Obviously the NY Jets' 2023 season was a massive disappointment. Most fans and media alike are already looking ahead to the 2024 season, but with the Super Bowl of this season yet to be played, I'd like to take one last look in the rearview mirror to assess how things got so bad.
Is it as simple as saying Aaron Rodgers got hurt? The Jets had no chance of even making the playoffs by their fifth offensive snap of the season?
Of course not — teams lose players all the time, even franchise quarterbacks, and lots of them persevere and make adjustments to look way more competitive than the Jets looked after the bye this past season.
In this article, we will look at three teams that made the playoffs this season and dissect key decisions they made to ensure they stayed competitive through January. All three of these teams faced issues nearly identical to the 2023 NY Jets but made the opposite decision of Joe Douglas and company en route to playoff berths.
From Weeks 14-18, these three teams combined for a record of 12-3, with two of those three losses coming because that team was resting their starters to get ready for the playoffs.
One of these three teams will be competing for a Lombardi Trophy this Sunday, so perhaps it's worth taking a look at these three crossroads. Let's get it started.
1. Urgently signing a replacement for their injured QB: The Cleveland Browns
This was a big year of several QB1s going down. Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles, Joe Burrow battled a calf injury before losing his season to a wrist injury, and Deshaun Watson had season-ending shoulder surgery. There were plenty of other QB1 injuries, but those were just to name a few of the bigger names.
Of course, none of these injuries quite exemplify the pure devastation that Jets fans felt when Rodgers was done after four plays, but the overall sentiment is the same — the franchise QB is gone.
For Cousins and Watson, the Vikings and Browns wasted no time signing a replacement, acquiring Josh Dobbs and Joe Flacco, respectively, in the same week their franchise quarterback was hurt.
You can also try to point out that the Bengals stood put and decided to roll the dice with Jake Browning, an undrafted signing who floated around practice squads his first few years a la Mike White. Browning performed admirably, breaking records while winning four games to three losses and helping the Bengals reach a winning record (9-8).
My rebuttal to those points is that Mike White would've been great for the Jets, but unfortunately, they opted to roll with two quarterbacks who each have their own extensive history of playing very poorly in the NFL.
Tim Boyle came into the season with a streak of throwing at least one pick in every single start of his career and had zero career wins with a career TD:INT ratio of 3:8.
It should've come as no surprise to anyone on Earth that he continued that interception streak in the three games he played this season with the Jets for a record of 0-3 and a career ratio of 4:12.
We'll talk about Zach Wilson a little bit later, but the point is that this roster didn't have a Jake Browning or Mike White in its QB room.
They had two players proven to be developmental projects at best, and they should've used 100 percent of their Wi-Fi and phone data to research players, call players, and absolutely beg a viable option to come in and compete for the job on September 12, 2023.
Instead, they sat on their hands and thought they'd be fine. They declined Carson Wentz's offer for assistance, and after a month, they signed Trevor Siemian for virtually no reason. He was never a threat to compete for the job, and thus, the Jets as a team were never a threat to compete for a playoff spot.
The Browns, who also had to deal with 10+ combinations at their offensive line this year, had to deal with the anguish of losing their franchise running back Nick Chubb in Week 2 and eventually losing Deshaun Watson.
They rolled with each punch, adjusted to each offensive replacement's skill set, and rode their elite defense to survive. With a very old Joe Flacco in tow, they finished the season 4-1 and could've gone 5-0 if they hadn't rested their starters for the playoffs.
Every Jets fan knows that Joe Flacco isn't at all the stud that mainstream media has propped him up to be en route to promoting him as a Comeback of the Year Nominee over true candidates like Breece Hall.
Still, credit the Browns' front office for acting swiftly in the eye of chaos and their offensive coaching staff for being able to maximize the abilities of their new addition. Speaking about coaching...