The 2020 New York Jets absolutely posses the opportunity to tear through the league and snag the franchise’s second Super Bowl championship.
Rebuilding … what a word. What a loaded idea. What a terrifying yet promising thought often used by organizations during the most terrifying of times.
When one thinks of the “R” word, three certainties must be realized.
First and foremost, it’s a tangible action. Rebuilding personnel in any of the four major American professional sports leagues is a legitimate solution. “Trusting the Process” is all the evidence needed.
Secondly, it’s a franchise’s greatest tool to get through rough spots. The moment fans are ready to jump off a bridge or fight the world, an all-encompassing organizational rebuilding message usually follows.
Lastly, and most importantly, in the NFL, there’s really no such thing. Unlike the NBA or MLB—which oftentimes take years—a rebuild in the National Football League is one tremendous offseason.
The league’s unforgiving hard cap and personnel lifeblood running through the draft create such a certainty. The plethora of examples that have one terrible team turning into a divisional champ the very next season is too much to ignore. It’s why the Mike Maccagnan rebuild going on three seasons can be summed up as a tremendous failure.
It also serves as the reason why the 2020 New York Jets can win the Super Bowl.
At this point, you, the reader, think I’m nuts. I’m off my rocker, standing straight up with pom-poms in both hands, ready to jump at the first sign of progress.
That’s OK. This is the natural flow of big-boy football business. Anybody who called the Philadelphia Eagles 2017 Super Bowl champs in 2016 was asked to put the drink down. The village idiot who put his life savings on Eli Manning as Super Bowl 42 MVP the year prior continued on with the familiar tag.
Of course, grabbing something out of thin air with no supporting evidence could only amount to a lucky guess. That’s not what this is. In this league, certain elements are required to garner attention in the Super Bowl area. A specific formula remains essential. And now that Mikey Mac is out and Joe Douglas has arrived at Florham Park, NJ, the creation of such a bold prediction makes sense to those who pay close attention.
The Existing Pieces
The NBA is a superstar league. The NFL is a value league. The former general manager couldn’t quite understand the notion while the newcomer grasps it completely.
Just listen to G.M. Joe’s message on day one as the front office boss. The two most critical pieces to his message revolve around building the offensive and defensive lines, as well as focusing in on character and the will to win.
“Football is a game of wills,” Douglas told reporters. “We’re going to try to build a team that can impose their will on other teams and to do that you have to be strong up front.”
"It starts with a quarterback and BOTH LINES." Finally … FINALLY, the New York #Jets have a guy who's not afraid to lean on the tried and tested football reality that is building from the trenches-out.
— ESNY (@EliteSportsNY) June 12, 2019
“I think the No. 1 trait is resiliency,” he said. “I think most of the time when you see a Super Bowl team, you remember the confetti, you remember the Super Bowl trophy being held up and the pictures, whether it’s Ray Lewis and Trent Dilfer, Joe Flacco, then Nick Foles, so that’s a lasting memory.”
Resiliency, imposing one’s will, and the offensive line … when did the former GM once discuss these topics?
Within a hard-salary cap league filled with such parity, talent is so incredibly even across the board. It’s the teams with the best front offices, best coaching staffs, best quarterbacks, best offensive lines, and best four-man conventional pass rushes that usually get it done.
Look at the New England Patriots. Do you believe for one moment that Bill Belichick drafts on talent alone? Of course not. He looks for the right locker room guy, the right character who can fit and contribute in a variety of ways.
The Eagles, Douglas’s former bunch, lost their young stud quarterback. All they did was ride an excellent offensive line and beastly balanced defensive front to the team’s first Vince Lombardi Trophy.
With the right man in Douglas (who, thankfully, owns final say over personnel) and Sam Darnold on his rookie deal, the two most crucial aspects for a title shot are in place.
What Needs To Happen
What needs to happen? A lot. Douglas and Darnold alone cannot get it done. Fortunately, only one offseason is needed to make it happen.
Is Adam Gase a legitimate NFL head coach? We know he can call plays. We believe he’s an excellent quarterback man. His ability to run an entire locker room is still up for debate. With Gase offensively and Gregg Williams defensively, the Jets are running with a system closely resembling the 1985 Chicago Bears. It’s a question that remains incredibly in doubt.
Douglas needs to immediately work on the O-line. Over five drafts and 34 total choices, Maccagnan selected just three offensive linemen. Add the fact two were fifth rounders and one was a third rounder, and a misdemeanor turns into an all-out football crime. The best football teams are first built upfront, meaning “best available player” doesn’t work. The completion of a unit must first take place.
Douglas using premium selections on multiple offensive linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft will serve as the key to the magical season. The other keys remain a stud edge rusher, a No. 1 cornerback, and a No. 1-type possession receiver for Darnold’s pleasure.
But remember, the latter two aren’t critical to championship success. Who were Philly’s weapons? Alshon Jeffery is a nice weapon, but he’s no stud. Nelson Agholor is solid. The tandem of Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement is nothing to write home about more than once. Other than tight end Zach Ertz, where are the Pro Bowlers?
Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, Chris Herndon and Le’Veon Bell are more than enough to win a chip (barring injury). The production of each player rises once the offensive line turns nasty, and this includes young Darnold. Douglas knows this.
The missing pieces aren’t many. It only feels like many due to the imbalance of the roster. Without a four-man conventional pass rush and offensive line holding up their end of the bargain, skill declines everywhere.
A left tackle lifts the play of a wideout to an incredible degree. The wide receiver, no matter how great, will always have a tough time lifting the play of a tackle. Jamal Adams earned All-Pro status without a real pass rush doing its thing in front of him. Could you imagine what the man would do behind a respectable four-man unit?
Douglas’s plan will be simple: offensive line, edge and cornerback. He’ll look to flip at least three offensive line starters next offseason, acquire an edge man who complements Quinnen Williams, and snag that cover corner desperately needed.
Is it likely to happen, a Jets 2020 Super Bowl? No. Aside from skill, this is the NFL, a place where predictability is a hilarious notion. Schedules, injuries and unforeseen events pop up to a degree that makes folks silly in the head.
But don’t think for one moment the state of this 53-man depth chart is in shambles or far away from prominence. There is talent, there are stars. Mike Maccagnan just didn’t understand how badly he handicapped that talent.
Completion is needed, and Joe Douglas knows it. Completion in the form of nearly half the offense (the offensive line, 5-of-11 players), the edge (rounding out the four-man conventional pass rush with the beasts in the middle) and a cover corner will turn this run-of-the-mill personnel into legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
It’s always amazing how much players improve when playing behind a nasty front. The New York Jets general manager knows this which means the organization owns a tremendous shot in 2020.