New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas faces one key challenge: break the organization’s cycle that breeds the “definition of insanity.”
FLORHAM PARK, NJ—Everybody is aware of the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. Well, that’s at least Albert Einstein’s definition.
Einstein, of course, is a man who made New Jersey home during the latter years of his illustrious life. Sadly, what he represented in and around Princeton for so many years hasn’t rubbed off on the New York Jets. There has been no Einstein sighting over the decade in Florham Park.
That doesn’t mean the Jets avoided his definition of insanity.
Deploy a terrible offensive line and no edge rushers, let them fail on Sunday, only to completely ignore those very same units the following spring. Sprinkle in several can’t miss defensive tackles, rinse and repeat.
Since the tail-end of the Mike Tannenbaum era, Einstein’s definition of insanity has ripped the heart out of the organization.
It’s Joe Douglas’s job to interrupt the cycle, and, on Monday afternoon, he put his first stamp of approval en route to doing just that.
Douglas sent Leonard Williams to the New York Giants for a 2020 third-round selection and 2021 fifth-rounder. (The fifth becomes a fourth in the same draft if Williams re-signs before the start of the 2021 NFL year.)
Head coach Adam Gase wouldn’t comment directly on the unofficial deal, but did send Leo off with kind words on his regularly-scheduled Monday conference call.
"Leonard's done everything we've asked him to do. He's worked hard in practice. He's fought hard," Adam Gase on Leonard Williams. Won't go into detail on the actual trade itself since it's not official. #TakeFlight
— RobbySabo (@RobbySabo) October 28, 2019
“Leonard’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s worked hard in practice. He’s fought hard,” Adam Gase.
The words are nice in a friendly sense, but serve no purpose in the grand scheme of team building. In fact, it can be viewed as an indictment of the overall direction for so long.
Year after year, training camp after training camp, the current Jets general manager and head coach are asked what they think of a talentless group such as the offensive line or edge spot. With every answer, without missing a beat, the correct thing is uttered: complete faith was revealed.
Gase and even Le’Veon Bell, who continues to struggle mightily behind, arguably, the league’s worst five-man unit, always bring positive vibes about their players, their teammates. It’s their job to do such things.
It doesn’t mean those positive words were true in nature.
The Williams deal simply ends the latest cycle of insanity. Much like Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson before him, the drafting of an overloaded in-house position once again gets the Jets nowhere.
In 2015, New York employed both Wilkerson and Richardson. Instead of looking for offensive line or edge help, Leo was the choice, the “can’t miss” prospect out of USC. Suddenly, Todd Bowles possessed three studs with only two positions to play with. It led to Richardson hilariously attempting to play outside or even at linebacker, whiffing in space continuously.
Three-hundred-pound lineman can’t play in space in the NFL.
Just four seasons later, already employing Williams and Henry Anderson, Mike Maccagnan selects another “can’t miss” prospect in Quinnen Williams. Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen was ripe for the plucking. A trade-down scenario that featured collecting assets and drafting multiple offensive hogs was also reportedly present. As usual, Maccagnan went with “best available player.”
Just eight weeks into the 2019 NFL season, Leo is now gone and Anderson is struggling mightily while trying to play the edge. Kyle Phillips, who’s absolutely a keeper, is also struggling to play in space as offenses continue to abuse him in the flat when he’s called upon to play in space.
Over five drafts in the Maccagnan era, only three offensive linemen were selected, two fifth-rounders (Brandon Shell and Jarvis Harrison) and a third-rounder (Chuma Edoga). With the hope of an entire franchise on Sam Darnold‘s right arm, Maccagnan selected zero linemen in 2018 and only one third-rounder the following season. An acquisition of an oft-injured Kelechi Osemele was his only legitimate move in protecting a franchise quarterback and even that couldn’t be the sole move.
Today, No. 14 is running for his life. He’s developing bad habits while the entire offense suffers at the point of attack.
Douglas, a former offensive lineman, uttered the words every Jets fan wanted to hear upon his arrival—the very same words that weren’t mentioned once in five drafts under the previous GM
“It starts with the quarterback and both lines,” Douglas proclaimed upon taking the job.
From all indications, Douglas understands how football teams are built. He fully realizes it begins in the trenches. The man they called “The Turk” in his early days with the Baltimore Ravens—while starring in HBO’s first Hard Knocks season—must be sick to his stomach when realizing his franchise hasn’t drafted a first-round offensive lineman since 2006. (And what a coincident 2006 was, as the last truly talented Jets team started at that draft when Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson were selected.)
It’s entirely possible he’s suffering through visions of his own ghosts in the box on Sundays. How could he not with Darnold running for his life on every five-step drop?
Football is the ultimate team game. This is not the NBA. No one player can reach his full ceiling unless all 10 players around him do their job sufficiently. A Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley signing simply based on the merits of their talent isn’t always the correct decision.
Signing a stud workhorse back without a proper offensive line can serve as a counterproductive move based on so many salary-cap ramifications. It’s a roster-completion move, not a team-building one. Not until the infrastructure is complete can such a move even be contemplated.
Unfortunately, the Jets infrastructure hasn’t been completed since the 2011 and maybe, 2012 season.
Adam Gase is saying all the right things. Sam Darnold continues to also say everything to perfection. But real football people understand what’s really at play here. Nothing works offensively and no young quarterback can properly be evaluated if the blocking isn’t sufficient. It’s football 101.
The Leonard Williams deal is a great start. But Joe Douglas won’t fully conquer this vicious New York Jets “definition of insanity” cycle until he selects premium offensive line talent in the NFL Draft. Free agency doesn’t cut it, nor does trade acquisitions.
Look around at the best teams in the league. It always starts up front and it always starts in the draft. It’s on you to make it right, Joe Douglas.