Despite an 0-3 record and a Sam Darnold illness, the New York Jets great hope moving forward remains exceptionally authentic.
FLORHAM PARK, NJ—It’s quitting time. Unofficially, a great portion of the New York Jets fanbase has thrown its hands up and exited the building.
The thought of extending the pregame tailgate while washing away sorrows crushes the idea of rooting for a squad without a chance to win. And let’s be honest; without Sam Darnold, that’s a realistic fan perspective.
In painstaking fashion, this campaign differs from the rest. The overhyped nature of the entire offseason has led to disillusion. The party that was new uniforms (even new color names), free agent studs in Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley, and a brand-new coaching staff brought a new optimism that hadn’t been realized in nearly a decade.
The party was placed before the task equating to this particular 0-3 start crushing the Jets fans’ souls to an even greater extent. Another week brings another Darnold-less contest and, eventually, another loss in Philadelphia to the Eagles.
So yeah, it’s quitting time for the fan.
Obviously, this is the NFL. Not one Jets employee is sulking, playing the “woe is me” game. Every one of the 16 regular-season contests means the world to every independent contractor in this league. Livelihoods are at stake and can never be taken for granted.
With that notion comes one exceptional reality Jets fans must keep in mind.
The great hope is in the building. Joe Douglas represents everything true about building a successful NFL program. Additionally, the greatest factor in building a winning organization is the top dog in the front office, the personnel decision-maker.
This is a hard salary cap league. Thirty-two NFL franchises are blessed with incredible talent, whether it’s witnessed or not. The difference between the team with the greatest talent and the team with the least is incredibly small.
Salary caps force this hardened reality while heightening the importance of coaching and front office play.
Just take one gander at New England. There’s no chance in the world that franchise has showcased the most talent year in, year out for nearly two decades. The evil empire up north wins via smart personnel decision and coaching.
The Jets, unfortunately, haven’t employed the right guy at the top in ages. The Mike Tannenbaum-Eric Mangini duo represents the last legitimate personnel era in Florham Park. Several glaring mistakes highlight such an idea.
I was against the Kirk Cousins signing. It’s well-documented. Historical evidence suggests signing veteran free agent quarterbacks never yield championship teams. It’s a salary-cap game, this NFL place, meaning building the program during the rookie contract years is everything.
Nonetheless, Mike Maccagnan offered the man big dollars. If Cousins hadn’t said “no,” he’d be here instead of young Darnold.
I was against the Le’Veon Bell signing. Despite the remarkable qualities the workhorse brings to the table—and Bell’s been nothing short of tremendous thus far, on and off the field—employing a stud back in concert with one of the worst offensive lines in football only brings suffering. Saying no to Bell isn’t about him as a player or person. It instead highlights a proper strategy in building long-lasting success. The Jets weren’t ready for that “put you over-the-top” addition.
Due to terrible personnel decisions over the last decade, the infrastructure of the depth chart ranks with the worst in the league. It’s a thought rarely agonized over by the media, the pundits who oftentimes urge the Jets to sign big names such as Cousins and Bell.
Douglas, a former offensive lineman, understands this notion better than anybody in the building. In fact, words coming from his mouth the very first day on the job reassured an entire fanbase.
“It starts with the quarterback and both lines,” Douglas said at his introductory presser.
“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.”
No “best available player’ nonsense, no pocket-protector analytical noise, etc. Not once in the Maccagnan era were these football-true words uttered. If you can’t block ’em, nothing works. If you can’t get to the quarterback with four men, forget about it. Yet, twice (Leonard Williams and Quinnen Williams), Maccagnan selected interior defensive lineman during times the offensive line and edge spots needed desperate help, eventually forcing pieces that don’t fit defensively.
Darnold’s absence has magnified the team’s ills in the trenches. Imagine the Los Angeles Rams drafting Darnold and the Jets snagging Jared Goff. Does anybody in their right football mind envision Goff as a success in that scenario? What if Darnold was already a world champ under Sean McVay?
Football honesty oozes from Douglas, a man who’s extremely familiar with winning squads. It really began nearly two decades ago in Baltimore. A fresh-faced youngster hopped on the HBO small screen as “The Turk,” the doomsday big fella whose responsibility it was to grab cut players.
Fifteen years and two Super Bowls later, off to Chicago Douglas went. After a sole season in the Windy City, he took his football ways to Philadelphia, the very same franchise his new organization visits in Week 5 action. This move, of course, resulted in another Douglas-involved Super Bowl.
Similarly to Dave Gettleman, whose impressive resume includes four Super Bowl appearances in Buffalo, one championship in Denver, two titles in New York and another Super Bowl appearance in Carolina, Douglas brings with him championship experience.
Douglas knows, he understands the way the game works. As a former offensive lineman himself, football leadership qualities involve every man, no matter how small the role, understanding his job is essential for team success.
The now-front office veteran realizes all 53 can’t fully reach that ceiling of potential unless an entire unit is first completed. Believe it or not, Jamal Adams has been playing handicapped for two-and-change seasons. Without a legitimate four-man conventional pass rush in front, he’s yet to hit his ceiling. The same can be said for every offensive player behind the most important unit in football, the O-line.
Darnold, no doubt, is one specific type of hope. Quarterback play, in this league, remains a critical piece of the recipe. But nothing holds a candle to the big man with the final say over personnel (and yes, the Jets provided him final say). He’s the guy who picks the quarterback and molds an entire depth chart how he sees fit.
For the disillusioned and downtrodden Jets fan, that’s the hope. This is not Rex Ryan influencing Mikey T. This is not John Idzik. And we certainly know this isn’t Mike Maccagnan. Why is it different this time around? Just look at the resumes. Fully take in Douglas’s words. The previous folks had won nothing (only Mangini, who remains the best personnel man the Jets employed since Bill Parcells). The previous guys had never once uttered the truest football words that “it begins with the quarterback and both lines.” Instead, they continued to pile up “best available players.”
That’s the one firm ace in the hole the Jets fan needs to keep in mind and grasp tightly.
Front offices win in the NFL and the New York Jets finally employ a good one in Joe Douglas. It’s the hope that remains exceptionally authentic moving forward.