The last thing NY Jets fans want is having to endure yet another lost season. Save for a brief hiccup in 2015, the Jets have played meaningless football games in November and December for a decade.
But it goes beyond wins and losses. The Jets franchise has been without purpose, direction, and identity for a long time. Not since the days when Rex Ryan roamed the sidelines have the Jets felt like they were relevant.
Enter Robert Saleh.
From a leadership and vision standpoint, it seems that Jets general manager Joe Douglas picked the right person to redirect and guide the franchise forward.
The Jets needed a leader who could galvanize an entire team and its fanbase. To this point, that's exactly what Robert Saleh has done.
The 2021 Jets just feel different. But the bottom line for some will be the results. And when it comes to that, the message delivered by Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh has been patience.
The NY Jets have quietly tempered expectations for the 2021 season
Recently, both Douglas and Saleh have gone out of their way to temper expectations. Without telling everyone explicitly, the messaging has been, don't expect us to be contenders overnight. And our intention is not to seek short-term gains over long-term growth.
Although, there is an expanded playoff field with one extra wildcard team and an extended 17-game season, the Jets are not positioned to contend in 2021.
The team is purposely going with a youth movement. They have the youngest roster in the NFL. The Jets are loaded with rookies and second-year players as starters and key contributors. They have a first-time head coach, offensive coordinator, and a rookie quarterback.
There are going to be a lot of growing pains for Gang Green in 2021. And that nickname has never been more suited for the Jets than it will be this year, based on the team's overall inexperience in so many areas.
So even though there has been a Jets team in the past with a rookie head coach and quarterback going to the playoffs together — see Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan in 2009 — this current Jets' team is entirely different from the '09 squad, which featured a ready-made all-star veteran roster.
In the tradition of making a prediction, I personally have the Jets going 7-10 this season. Most oddsmakers have New York's win total at six.
A seven-win season won't put the Jets into playoff contention. Although in 2020, seven wins did get Washington the NFC East crown, it won't happen in the AFC East with Buffalo, Miami, and New England.
For the sake of the record, I have Tampa getting to the Super Bowl again but losing to Buffalo. A less-than-ideal scenario for Jets fans to endure, but they have been there before watching the Patriots play the cross-town rival Giants in the Big Game twice.
Seven victories by the Jets in 2021 could also mean that they will not be playing meaningful games in the final quarter of the season. However, if New York can get to seven wins before they close their season against Tampa and Buffalo, it could create a scenario where the Jets are still mathematically in the hunt.
For many Jets fans, that would be a dream scenario. Being in the playoff hunt, even if it's just on paper, with this young team at a late stage of the season, would be an amazing experience for Robert Saleh, his staff, and particularly for rookie QB Zach Wilson.
But ultimately, the number of wins that the Jets get in 2021 doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.
What will matter is how the team grows throughout the course of the season. And most importantly, how the Jets' new franchise quarterback and key young players like Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and Elijah Moore perform.
The NY Jets haven't made the playoffs since the 2010 season. And the likelihood is that they won't in 2021. By doing so, the franchise will match its longest playoff drought set from 1970 to 1980. 11 straight years without a playoff berth.
It's a brutal reality for Jets fans to face. The possibility of another losing season on the horizon. But that doesn't mean that 2021 will be another lost season for the franchise.
If the Jets do turn things around and sustain long-term success in the future, it will be because of what they accomplish and build this season.
The win-loss record might not reflect it now, but if Douglas and Saleh succeed in building a winning program, then 2021 will be looked back upon as a 'W' for the franchise.