There’s been a lot of speculation when it comes to the approach the New York Jets are taking to the 2017 season. And there shouldn’t be.
The list of defections, departures and traded performers is indeed impressive for the New York Jets entering this season.
You have those perennial Pro Bowlers, such as center Nick Mangold and cornerback Darrelle Revis. Those efficient pass-catchers such as Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. You’ve got the reliable defender in 10-year inside linebacker, David Harris. Also on the list, a recent first-round draft choice like safety Calvin Pryor, who was dealt to the Cleveland Browns. Don’t forget the team’s primary starting quarterbacks the last few years in Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith (neither player was re-signed by the club and are now elsewhere).
No matter how you break it down, the New Jersey Turnpike has been pretty busy the last six-plus months as the New York Jets cleaned house in a variety of ways. While Mangold and Revis are still looking for work, the other players listed above have all found jobs elsewhere. Marshall and Smith both signed with the neighborly New York Giants, while Decker latched on with the Tennessee Titans. Harris is now a member of the AFC East rival New England Patriots. And Fitzpatrick took his talents to the Sunshine State, backing up Jameis Winston with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Watching this mass exodus has probably been incredibly uncomfortable for those who bleed green and white. And something that has become very vogue in the world of professional sports these days has crept into the conversation when it comes to this franchise. It’s an ugly four-letter word that ends with a “k.”
First, the idea that the New York Jets or any NFL team would lose on purpose so they can start over again with high draft choices was arguably invented by those who would do the same thing if they were indeed running a professional sports franchise.
Unfortunately, the flaw in that theory is assuming that stockpiling those high picks ensures that you will get a lot of great players. Oops.
The list of first-round disappointments are endless, and that list is just as long as the number of successes in the latter rounds, as well as those who don’t even get selected. Or perhaps you’ve never heard of Tom Brady, Terrell Davis, Richard Sherman, John Randle, etc. The first two were sixth-round choices. Sherman went in the fifth and Randle is a Pro Football Hall of Famer who was never picked by any team.
Second, whether you believe in such things, losing breeds losing. It’s a mentality. And if the people running your organization believe that losing is in your best interest, they’re in the wrong business. Of course, that’s really not the way general managers think.
Again, this was created by those who don’t understand how to build a team. In terms of the draft, it’s not how high you pick but who does the picking. Is it just coincidental that there are basically the same franchises selecting in the upper half of the NFL draft year in and year out?
Okay, off the soap box. The truth is that despite a slew of moves by general manager Mike Maccagnan dating back to February, the New York Jets aren’t getting ready to lie down for anyone or any team. How about a little common sense? The team’s top executive and current head coach are going to produce a product that would likely cost them their jobs, just to ensure the future of a team they would no longer be employed by?
So what about these Jets? Well, we do know they are in dire need of a quarterback. At the moment, it appears to be a battle between veteran Josh McCown, last with the Cleveland Browns, and third-year prospect Bryce Petty. If there was any hope for 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg, it might have ended on Saturday night at MetLife Stadium against the rival New York Giants. Before you could even properly pronounce the former Penn State standout’s name, he served up two pick-sixes. It may have been the worst preseason showing since legendary writer George Plimpton suited up for the Detroit Lions against the St. Louis Cardinals in the late 1960s. Now THAT is recommended viewing.
Still, when Saturday night was done when it came to the fighting. Petty and eventually Hackenberg, to the latter’s enormous credit, rallied the team. Down 29-3 in the first half, the Jets were a failed two-point conversion from pulling out a win. The 32-31 loss really epitomized what the real mindset of the coaching staff and the players is and should be about moving forward.
Let’s also not forget one very key element. The Jets won five games last season after a 10-6 campaign in 2015. Not all, but a number of the players that were let go or that moved on didn’t perform up to snuff this past season. The decisions to part ways with Mangold and Harris really raised a few eyebrows. But Revis had a very disappointing season and Decker couldn’t remain healthy enough to make a difference. And one year after setting a franchise record for touchdown passes in a season, Fitzpatrick resembled the player that has bounced around the league from team to team.
So what about these new-look Jets. Indeed, there’s not a lot to get excited about when it comes to the offense…that with the possible exception of unsung running back, Bilal Powell. It’s a roster devoid of offensive weapons. And the quarterback situation remains a big uncertainty.
It’s a much different story on the other side of the football. This is one of the best defensive lines in the business with Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Steve McClendon, to name a few. Harris will be missed on the inside. In the secondary, Buster Skrine and former Dallas Cowboys’ first-rounder Morris Claiborne make a nice tandem at the corners. Maccagnan used his first two picks in the draft on highly-regarded safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye and the rookie duo has not disappointed.
The preseason loss to the Giants epitomized what the New York Jets’ 2017 season could look like. Here was a club that gave up 29 points in the first half but only one offensive touchdown. Their’s were the two interception returns for touchdowns, as well as Forte being tackled in the end zone for a safety. Throw in two field goals and the vast majority of the points allowed were actually given up by the offense.
Yes, it could indeed be a long year for the offense. And with apologies, we don’t know the NFL record for butt fumbles in one season. It won’t be for a lack of trying, but watching the Jets’ attack could prove to be trying indeed.
Finally, we’ll leave you with this. There’s another team with a fan base in the Empire State that has also made a lot of massive changes this offseason, particularly as of late. The Buffalo Bills were one of the league’s busiest teams over the last few months. Their latest moves include the trade of Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams. They also dealt young cornerback Ronald Darby to the Philadelphia Eagles. They now have their share of additional draft choices in 2018. And like the Jets, the tanking inference has been made.
So when these teams meet on opening weekend at Orchard Park, can we expect a 0-0 tie? For you flawed conspiracy theorists out there, you may want to bring some extra tin foil to Ralph Wilson Stadium. You can always use it to bring home those leftover chicken wings.