Watching the New York Jets lose to the Detroit Lions in the second preseason game of 2017 was a common feeling for long time fans of this franchise.
After a promising debut for second-year quarterback and 2016 second round draft pick Christian Hackenberg, head coach Todd Bowles decided to reward him with a start against the Detroit Lions. The results were not promising in any way. He was indecisive, confused and looked like the last place he belonged was leading an offense.
Against the Tennessee Titans, Hackenberg completed 18 of 25 passes for 127 yards and looked sharp and accurate. Against the Lions, he had four three-and-outs in five drives and completed just two of six passes for 14 yards. He was also sacked twice for -17 yards, which saw the Jets put up -3 passing yards in Hackenberg’s time on the field.
Patience and understanding is needed with Hackenberg, as well as the rest of the players on this roster. It was expected that he would take a step back. How he moves forward from here will show a lot.
Know and Understand the History of the Jets
Now, while the rest of the NFL is laughing at the Jets (something other fans have done for years to Jets fans) and already predicting them to become the second team in NFL history to go winless, it is important that we look at just what the Jets are trying to accomplish the season.
Finally, it seems the Jets have a plan. While it might not produce immediate results this season, it’s about time that the Jets have taken this action.
It’s important that Jets fans understand just how bad this franchise has been. Super Bowl III was a nice memory and while it gives me butterflies to think that this franchise once played in a game that changed pro football history, that is a distant memory.
Looking at what this organization has achieved since then, it almost makes me think that never really happened. Like it is a Paul Bunyan-esqe myth that is used to scare people at what can happen if you take an opponent too lightly.
Even since that moment, the Jets have lived in mediocrity at best. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, no team has won fewer division titles than the Jets (2). The glory years for fans were when they finished 10-6 and lost in an excruciating divisional round (either at Pittsburgh in 2004 or Cleveland in 1986). They have made it to four championship games but lost them all.
After a 10-6 inaugural season, GM Mike Maccagnan, head coach Todd Bowles and the Jets took a major step back in 2016, finishing 5-11 and seeing just about all of their 2015 improvements lose a step and/or fail. That left owner Woody Johnson, Maccagnan and Bowles uncertain with what that meant for 2017. The Jets could suffer through another mediocre season and go 7-9 or 8-8 with a roster filled with veterans, or they can seemingly start over.
However, starting over would mean that both Maccagnan and Bowles would not be judged by their final record in 2017, because it’s most likely going to be worse than the 5-11 record they suffered through last season. However, what this season would be judged on would be a totally different understanding of success, one the Jets have never really committed themselves to.
Using Bill Parcells as an Example
When Bill Parcells took over the Giants in 1983, he suffered through a 3-12-1 season in which he was almost fired. Who knew then just how big of a mistake that would have been for GM George Young? Parcells was able to learn on the job and learn from the mistakes he made and turned it into a winner.
I think the Jets know what they have in Todd Bowles. While he made some mistakes his first two seasons in handling issues in the locker room and other specific coaching decisions, whether in-game or in practice, he now understands so much more than he did when he took the job. Countless head coaches have failed in their first go around before they finally understood what to do.
From the start of minicamp, through training camp, to how he had a hand in redecorating the entire Jets facility at Florham Park, Bowles has exhibited this new attitude. The players, coaches and others around the franchise have noticed.
Maccagnan has shed the Jets of all their veteran contracts and players that would stop younger players from showing what they can do. His 2017 draft featured Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, both of whom should provide the Jets with many years of excellent play in the defensive back field. 2016 draft selections Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins are the future at linebacker. A young and aggressive defensive line led by 2015 first round draft pick Leonard Williams anchors a defense that the GM is counting on the lead this franchise.
Maccagnan and Bowles now can turn their attention to the building of an offense. By shedding salary cap with their roster cuts this offseason, the Jets have given themselves flexibility in adding pieces. They should add another major piece or two with their 2018 draft, where they picked up an extra pick in a draft day trade in 2017.
Learn From Teams That Have Been Consistent
Consistency is one thing this franchise has never been known for. Behind all successful organizations is the consistency of drafting a plan and sticking with it, knowing the organization can count on the plan they set in place. Seemingly every season, the Jets have changed offensive systems or gone from a ground and pound team to a passing offense. That can have serious effects on not only the players but on the coaches, who are always looking over their shoulder.
The Jets have also never used the draft well. Whether it was taking the best player or drafting for need, the Jets always seem to fluctuate. Knowing how to use each round of the draft is also another major issue the Jets have had. All you need to do is look at the unsuccessful history the Jets have had in the second round.
For years, Jets fans have been jealous of teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens or New England Patriots, who, despite seeing players come and go, have implanted a familiar system that has led to consistent success. (of those five franchises, only six coaching changes have been made since 2000 while they have won a combined 12 Super Bowls.)
SUCCESS FROM CONSISTENCY – Since 2000
Losing Yrs Div. Won Playoff App Coaches
- Giants 6 4 8 3
- Packers 2 9 13 2
- Patriots 1 14 14 1
- Ravens 4 4 10 2
- Steelers 1 8 11 2
Compare that to the Jets, who since 2000 have had five different head coaches, won just one division title, made the playoffs just six times and suffered through six seasons of 10 or more losses.
In 2017, success will be determined not by wins and losses, but by how this young roster learns, develops and improves from game-to-game. By next season, the players will have a clear understanding of both the offensive and defensive systems that they won’t have to learn again.
While it might produce a rough 2017, the years ahead for Jets fans might be something that they have always been waiting for.