Following Bills Debacle, Jets Fans Should Be Howling A Familiar Refrain: Joe Must Go
Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson and cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner submitted performances well below their standards in Buffalo on Sunday, which, I guess, isn’t unusual for players in their second NFL seasons.
The problem, however, is that the pair represents the cream of Jets General Manager Joe Douglas’ four-years long drafted crop, so when they make mistakes, you get results like the 32-6 debacle to the Bills.
The loss, Gang Green’s third in a row following a pair of miraculous victories that masked their true colors, dropped them to 4-6 on the season and to 24-52 since Douglas took the reins from predecessor Mike Maccagnan in 2019. (Note: Since he was hired in June and had little responsibility for that season’s roster, his real record is 17-43, which equates to a .283 winning percentage, the third-lowest in this tortured franchise’s history.) Other than All-Pro defensive lineman Quinnen Williams and long snapper Thomas Hennessy, every single member of the 2023 Jets has been hand-picked by Douglas.
Yet Douglas’ team is in no better overall shape than when he arrived and was stuck with Adam Gase as his Head Coach. Though you couldn’t judge it by Sunday’s outing, New York’s defense has grown into a high-end unit over the last couple of seasons, but it still has been more than offset by a historically inept offense.
The Jets went 7-9 in 2019; given their current quarterback situation, with future Hall-of-Famer Aaron Rodgers now free to proceed with his recovery from Achilles surgery at a more luxurious pace and Zach Wilson benched in Sunday’s fourth quarter in favor of future hospital patient (given his immobility) Tim Boyle, New York might not reach that win total no matter which lesser teams remain on its schedule. Not to mention the futility that comes with piling on meaningless victories when you own your first round pick in 2024.
Not that I would have trust in Douglas to make that pick. With Rodgers in tow at April’s Draft, he reached to select a tenth defensive lineman in Will McDonald IV instead of providing Rodgers with more help on the offensive line or at a skill position.
While seething at Sunday’s abhorrent effort, I got nauseous just thinking about the sheer volume of Douglas’ wasted Draft capital during his term that has resulted in four more lost seasons (and yes, I’m including this season) to stretch the team’s playoff drought to 13 seasons. This is the NFL; it doesn’t take five years for a savvy executive to turn things around, even from rock bottom. In fact, this league doesn’t really give GMs five Drafts to do it.
Nor should the Jets give it to Douglas.
He had the opportunity to do a complete reset after the Jets lost their last six games last season but chose to run it back with the defensive-minded Head Coach Robert Saleh. He then went for the high-risk, all-in gamble on a 39-year old QB in Rodgers to be the savior, only that came with the added price of hiring uncoordinated (at scheming and play-calling) Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and several players who can no longer play.
Then, when Rodgers went down, the organization didn’t have the foresight to bring in a better backup than Wilson, who has continued this season to show why he is on track to posting a Ryan Leaf-type career, or maybe like Mitch Trubisky if he figures some things out at his next stop.
NFL GMs miss on No. 2 overall picks like Wilson in 2021 more often than you might think. I just looked at the list. My issue with Douglas wasn’t selecting Wilson—would Justin Fields or Mac Jones, who went later to, respectively, Chicago and New England in that Draft, have made a significant difference given the Jets’ overall environment? I highly doubt it. Instead, it’s that Douglas didn’t recognize the mistake earlier when it should have been obvious to a professional talent evaluator. I’m not even sure he considers it a mistake now.
The area where Douglas exhibits the most pride in his acumen as a talent scout is the offensive line—and he’s had several big-time whiffs there too.
2020 No. 11 overall pick Mekhi Becton, a perennially injured tackle, over All-Pro Tristan Wirfs
2021 trade up to No. 14 to select another injury-prone lineman, Alijah Vera-Tucker, when they could have stayed put and just taken Christian Darrisaw
Gave nearly $24 million and $18.5 million guaranteed to interior linemen Laken Tomlinson and Connor McGovern, respectively, for multiple seasons of subpar results.
And, for the coup de grace, relying on 38-year old Duane Brown, coming off offseason shoulder surgery, to protect Rodgers’ blind side. Four plays into the opener, Brown didn’t touch Buffalo’s Leonard Floyd on an attempted chop block and Rodgers’ season was over.
And, for all practical purposes, so was the Jets’.
I’m not going to get into all the Day 2 and Day 3 Draft picks that are now employed elsewhere, some outside of pro football, or rehash Douglas’ successes (he found pressure-generating edge rusher Bryce Huff in the undrafted pile in 2020—hooray.). The bottom line is the Jets’ bottom line in each of the last four seasons.
It’s grotesque. Whereas teams like the Lions, Jaguars, and 49ers were bunkmates with the Jets in 2020, all three programs have gone from last place that season to the top of their respective divisions just three years later. Only the Jets remain in football hell.
Jets owner Woody Johnson might be tempted to give his GM/Coach team a mulligan due to the Rodgers’ injury. He shouldn’t.
I’m old enough to remember the chorus from the Meadowlands crowd nearly 35 years ago when Head Coach Joe Walton stoically roamed the sidelines, one that I hope will be repeated should the Jets, as I expect, get pounded by Miami on Black Friday: Joe Must Go.