The New York Jets acquisitions of Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley have driven expectations to a wildly irrational level that’s hard to believe.
October 1991, the month that changed New York Rangers history. Mark Messier’s arrival brought a sharper, more arrogant tone to an organization riddled with the nagging year of 1940.
Messier, upon his grand entrance, couldn’t understand why expectations had remained so low for so long. A point in time had arrived in which expectations weren’t raised due to the continuing notion of bitter disappointment the fan base had suffered through the decades.
Nobody inside the organization wanted to discuss 1940. It was taboo, akin to a hockey plague.
The Messiah intentionally changed it all. He flipped the script. He discussed 1940 aloud and made no bones about the fact the hockey club’s goal was a Stanley Cup. To him, that once in a generation leader of men, if expectations weren’t set high enough, achieving greatness was an impossibility.
Joe Namath, the charmed philanderer who was always simply “trying to get by,” abided by the same thought process. His guarantee is quite literally the only bold New York sports act that could dare surpass Messier’s Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 conviction.
Setting that bar high with the appropriate leaders in place is a stone-cold proper move. Namath’s current version of the New York Jets, whether intentionally or not, are now starting to re-enter that stage.
There’s just one nagging issue: Unlike Messier and Natha’s squads, the ingredients aren’t present.
The superstar acquisitions of Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley have created irrational expectations. Admittedly, most are unwarranted. Most of the noise isn’t coming from the organization itself. This isn’t Rex Ryan predicting Super Bowl appearances. Adam Gase is talking playoffs and Christopher Johnson does, appropriately, want to raise the bar, but the Bell and Mosley offseason has the fan base talking Super Bowl in 2019 or 2020.
Great. Fine. It’s a beautiful thing to raise the bar.
… but only when you’re truly ready. The Jets team, until further notice, isn’t ready.
Sam Darnold is in the house. The burly righty is everything a locker room could possibly ask for at the position. He’s honestly what truly drives these expectations. Without him, nothing would be possible.
Jamal Adams is a flat-out stud. The strong safety position has silently become one of the most valuable spots in all of sports. Due to the high-flying offensive football (per league rules), matchups run wild. A do-it-all athletic safety is literally the only way to shut down running back/tight end matchups in today’s game. The man is the best safety in the league.
Bell and Mosley, sure. The two add legitimate production to the depth chart. Bell, 27, is a workhorse back who can do it all. (At least he was the last time we saw him in 2017.) Mosley is a bonafide defensive quarterback whose sideline-to-sideline speed is unprecedented in many ways.
Sadly, we’re not talking NBA basketball. The NFL is not a superstar league. It’s a value league. More importantly, when ranking the most critical depth chart aspects, two of the most important units of a team still rank among the league’s worst.
- Quarterback: Check, with Sam Darnold.
- Offensive line: Void
- Four-man conventional pass rush: Void
New York’s offensive line and four-man conventional pass rush still rank near the bottom of the league and yet the expectations are so wild that Rex Ryan would clam up a bit in fright.
Let’s quickly break down the offensive line.
- LT: Kelvin Beachum (30 by the time camp opens)
- LG: Kelechi Osemele (30 by the time camp opens)
- C: Jonotthan Harrison (28 by the time the season opens)
- RG: Brian Winters (28 by the time camp opens)
- RT: Brandon Shell (27)
Folks, what is everybody looking at when they claim “Super Bowl?” This is a line that finished 26nd on the ground and 18th in pass protection a year ago via Football Outsiders (the best damn statistical football site on the planet). From an overall standpoint, the Jets five-man unit finished dead last with a 3.59 adjusted line yard mark.
Kelechi Osemele, a man coming off one serious down year who’ll be 30 this coming season, is not nearly enough to make anybody excited about O-line improvement. Frank Pollack can be discussed until we’re all blue in the face. The fact is his Cincinnati Bengals O-line wasn’t anything special a year ago either, and it was a unit that including promising rookie center Billy Price. (Rick Dennison was the savior heading into 2018.)
Talent comes first, coaching second. When Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum simultaneously took over in 2006, there were many holes. Rationalizing a wide receiver pick early could have come easy. Instead, they took the boring route, the D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold avenue. In fact, it took the duo only one season to turn around an awful offensive line (flipping three starters). Over four seasons under Mike Maccagnan, just two linemen have been selected in 28 total picks (both coming in the fifth round).
Defensively, Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson make for one legitimate interior pass rush. Again, great. But it does nothing if both edges rank as the worst in the NFL. Look around at the better teams; sure, quarterbacks will always win, but they don’t when the O-line and four-man conventional pass rush are lacking.
The Philadelphia Eagles formula was exactly that: offensive line and pass rush. The New Orleans Saints didn’t take off until Ryan Ramczyk was drafted in Round 1, thus cementing an O-line that featured premium talent from the draft pool. Tom Brady would have no chance if Dante Scarnechhia wasn’t a genius. Damian Williams equalling Kareem Hunt’s output makes no sense if the O-line meant so little.
What Rex Ryan had in his offensive line he didn’t have in a four-man conventional pass rush. His exotic blitzes worked early. They stunned the league in the early going (until offensive minds caught up). From there, instead of the exotic looks, everything worked off Darrelle Revis‘s brilliance. Getting to the quarterback with only four is so incredibly important in today’s three-step NFL.
What the four-man rush does for the players behind it is equivalent to what the O-line does for its supporting cast. The Jets simply aren’t there yet.
The NFL Draft can put a dent into these two nagging problems. (“Can,” of course, is the keyword.) Until then, the expectations must be halted. What LeBron James did for the Cleveland Cavaliers is what Le’Veon Bell won’t do for the Jets.
There’s nothing wrong with raising the bar. Expect more. Achieve more. Aim for greatness. Just make sure it’s being done when greatness is possible. If expectations are raised prior to an impossible mission, fool’s gold and altered paths are taken. Dangerous times result from such a journey.
In 1991, Mark Messier knew that Rangers team was nearly ready. For the New York Jets in 2019, the house (the trenches) remain incredibly subpar.
Not yet, Jets fans. Not yet.