NY Jets GM Joe Douglas needs to have a nearly flawless offseason
When the NY Jets' season came to an end, general manager Joe Douglas gave his end-of-season press conference with a noticeable change in demeanor.
After previous seasons with worse records, he never seemed to be thrilled, but he would typically quickly change the narrative to the positive of what the future could hold.
This time around, it was clear that Douglas was shaken up by how the season ended, and in all likelihood, how the decision he made for the most important position in sports had panned out through two seasons.
Douglas entered into a situation where the roster was barren of talent and the cap situation was a mess. The playoff drought that existed prior to Douglas joining the team should have no barring on the work he needed to do, although it undeniably brought baggage from a fan base that is desperate to see their team in the postseason.
The problem that exists now is if you are solely judging Douglas based on his performance as general manager over the past four years, it is getting to the point where it's make-or-break time for seeing the fruits of his labor.
Joe Douglas was hired in 2019. Only four teams other than the Jets have missed the playoffs in every year since that point (Broncos, Lions, Falcons, and Panthers).
All four of those teams' current general managers were hired in 2021, meaning that even just accounting for the time that Douglas has been around, he still is the longest-tenured general manager in the league to have not made the playoffs.
To his credit, Douglas managed to get the Jets out of a very bad cap situation, to the point where they were last in the league when it came to dead money.
He also has brought a level of competence to the general manager position that the team had not seen since Mike Tannenbaum, which has been a breath of fresh air.
NY Jets GM Joe Douglas has a spotty track record
The main issue of the Douglas era in terms of judging his performance has been volatility in the outcomes of his signings and draft picks. When you break things down, the moves that he has made have either gone really well or really badly — there hasn't been as much in between.
Highlights include the majority of his 2022 NFL Draft class with Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, and others seeming like a generational class. He has also found excellent players in Alijah Vera-Tucker and Michael Carter II in previous drafts.
On the other side of things, he has had huge swings and misses, including the one that could define his career in New York, Zach Wilson.
The entire 2020 NFL Draft class is basically a wash (barring a hopeful turn of events for Mekhi Becton) and pieces such as Elijah Moore and Michael Carter are now in question as long-term pieces on the team.
In free agency, he has only made one signing that you could say was a home run and that was this past offseason with D.J. Reed.
Other signings that could have gotten to that level such as George Fant, Carl Lawson, or Corey Davis were each affected by injury which has as much to do with luck as anything. Justin Hardee and Connor McGovern were two solid pieces that added stability.
Nearly all other signings in his three seasons of work have done very little as far as adding players that contribute to winning football games.
The highlight of his moves likely comes from waiver-wire moves where he has picked up players such as John Franklin-Myers, Quincy Williams, Braxton Berrios, Mike White, and others. Those of which, for their ups and downs, have contributed to wins for the team.
No general manager is going to be perfect, but the floor for some of these swings needs to be higher and this will be tested to its full extent this offseason.
It's time for Joe Douglas' plan to yield results
The team faces a tricky cap situation, which will have Douglas needing to make quality decisions over taking multiple swings, as he has been able to in the past.
Needing to clean up the mess he made with the quarterback decision, he will have to overpay (whether it be through trade or free agency) in terms of asset allocation in order to land a high-quality-caliber quarterback that the team desperately needs.
After that decision is made, which cannot fail, there will be a very small margin of error to address the offensive line, continuing to add playmakers on offense and a few holes on defense (linebacker, safety, defensive line depth) to create a more well-rounded roster.
Yes, it's true he can't fix everything in one offseason, but this has been the saying for multiple years already. If the goal is to compete for a championship, the team has more to do beyond getting competent quarterback play to get to the level of the class of the AFC in the Chiefs, Bengals, and Bills.
Teetering between great and terrible decisions, things basically balance out to Joe Douglas being an average GM through his first four years on the job.
Most fans of this team don't want to go through another teardown of the front office. It's easy to look at the process of how Joe Douglas thinks and understand the reasoning behind his vision, but when the moves don't pan out the way they have thus far, it's easy to lose a bit of faith.
Eventually, this long-term plan has to yield results. Douglas knows this, and perhaps that's why his demeanor looked different this time around.
He will have to operate at a very high level this offseason to get the team to where it needs to be in order to ensure his future with the organization.