The NY Jets have won just six games over the last two seasons combined. While the organization has undoubtedly made important strides over the last few years, that perceived progress has not translated to on-field success.
Most would anticipate that a team like the Jets would be about as far away from contending as any team in the NFL. But the Cincinnati Bengals are providing proof that a quick turnaround is very, very possible.
The Bengals are on their way to the Super Bowl after a miraculous season that saw them finish atop the AFC North with a 10-7 record.
Led by rising star quarterback Joe Burrow, a phenomenal wide receiver corps, and an overachieving defense, the Bengals proved in 2021 that rebuilds can happen quicker than expected in the NFL.
Their success should provide the blueprint — or at least provide hope — for the Jets and other struggling teams around the NFL.
The NY Jets have the potential to compete in 2022
The parallels between the Jets and Bengals are plentiful. The Bengals won just two games in 2019 giving them a top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They used that pick to select a highly-touted quarterback who could go on to start as a rookie.
Unfortunately, that quarterback missed time due to injury in his rookie season and the team finished with just four wins — and dead-last in their division for the third consecutive season.
If any of that sounds familiar it's because it's a near-exact description of the Jets over the last two years.
The Jets finished with a 2-14 record, drafted Zach Wilson, and Wilson was hampered by a knee injury as the team went on to win just four games. Six wins in two seasons. That's where the Jets are at entering the 2022 season.
They're currently tied for the lowest Super Bowl odds going into next year. Switching back to the Bengals for a moment, they had the third-worst odds to win the Super Bowl this season, even behind the Jets.
Now, this isn't to suggest that they are in identical situations. Zach Wilson is not Joe Burrow, and it's highly unlikely he will look anywhere near as good next season.
The Bengals are the exception, not the rule. Countless teams around the NFL attempt to rebuild on a yearly basis, only to fall flat on their faces. The Bengals didn't rebuild in one season despite what their records might indicate.
This was a three-year process that involved hiring a new head coach, parting ways with a former quarterback, and injecting a youth movement into the roster. The culmination of their efforts is what we've seen take place in 2021.
The Jets are already multiple years into their rebuild. Again, the results haven't shown on the field yet, but that doesn't mean they're as far away from competing as many might believe.
There's a big difference between a four-win team like the Jets with the youngest roster in football, one that was plagued by injuries this past season, and a four-win team like the New York Giants.
The Giants are moments away from undergoing a rebuild of their own, one that will attempt to strip the roster of its veterans, feature an overhaul of the coaching staff, and likely see a change at quarterback.
That won't all happen in one season. Rebuilding a roster like that takes time, just as it did with the Jets. Dave Gettleman left behind a Mike Maccagnan-sized mess for new GM Joe Schoen to clean up.
The Jets are in a different situation altogether. This will be Joe Douglas' third offseason with the franchise. The clock is ticking on Douglas and everyone in that organization to field a competitive roster.
The Bengals have shown that it's possible to go from two wins to four wins to Super Bowl contender. No one is asking the Jets to do that.
But a team that could play meaningful games in December? A team that can appear on the "In The Hunt" graphic as late as Week 16 or 17? That shouldn't be too much to ask for.
The Bengals are the quintessential template the Jets should look to as a beam of hope. The future doesn't always have to be as dim as the present.