Joe Douglas swears he was sincere when he spoke so optimistically about this Jets team last summer. Clearly he wasn’t expecting the team he constructed to be the disaster they have become.
But that’s what they are, eight games into a winless season, and spiraling towards a possible place as the worst Jets team of all time.
“We’re all frustrated with where we are right now,” the Jets GM said on Tuesday. “But everyone in this building has to own it. I certainly take my fair share of the responsibility.”
Douglas deserves some of the blame, for sure, but he’s also the man in charge of cleaning up this mess. He didn’t do anything big around the trading deadline this week – though he did dump three veteran players for a trio of Day 3 picks in the 2022 draft – but he’s going to have to make some big moves this offseason to get the Jets on track.
He’s got some big decisions looming, too. Here are a few:
Will Adam Gase be fired?
Douglas didn’t blame Gase for the 0-8 start to this season, saying “I’m going to say that this is not all on Adam.” But let’s face it: Barring a stunning turnaround in the second half, Gase is in his final half-season as the Jets’ coach. CEO Christopher Johnson will have no choice but to make that call.
It’s not just the losing either – though the 7-17 record since Gase arrived is unseemly. It’s the fact that the Jets are non-competitive in most games. And most importantly it’s because Gase’s “brilliant offensive mind”, as Johnson called it, has led to the worst offense in the NFL two years running. Yes, injuries have hurt, but that’s not the whole story.
Gase is responsible for a lot of it and it feels inevitable he’ll pay for it with his job.
If so, who will replace him?
That is a really interesting question, because there are several different ways to go depending on who is really running the search. If it’s Johnson, and he wants a big name, it wouldn’t be shocked to see him dip into the college ranks for someone like Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley. If it’s Douglas, then keep an eye on anyone with Ravens or Eagles ties, like Baltimore defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale or Eagles assistant head coach Duce Staley.
The Jets probably should at least revisit with Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, whom they interviewed last year. San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Salah and Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll should be on everyone’s short-list, too.
Is it time to move on from Sam Darnold?
This will be an incredibly tough call, because there’s a lot of love for Darnold inside the Jets’ front office. Douglas – who notably didn’t draft Darnold – called him “an ultra-talented quarterback” and lamented his inability to surround him with a better cast.
The Jets really do think Darnold is good, and will prove it when he’s surrounded by a better team. And they seem to want to keep him and give him the opportunity to justify their faith.
But if they do end up with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, the opportunity to draft a possible generational prospect like Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence could be impossible to pass up – especially if they can then turn around and trade Darnold for a package of draft picks that includes at least a second rounder. So if they win a couple of games and don’t get the top pick, Darnold could still be a part of their future.
If they end up as the worst team in the NFL, though, they won’t really have a choice but to move on.
Will receivers be the offseason priority?
Douglas’ big regret from last offseason was misreading the receiver market and letting Robby Anderson go for a contract that wasn’t all that big. Anderson, of course, has thrived in Carolina while his replacement, Breshad Perriman, has been constantly hurt and the Jets’ receiving corps has been a mess.
Here’s the good news: If he’s willing to spend, help could be on the way in the offseason. Allen Robinson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chris Godwin and Kenny Golladay could all be available, and the Jets might have more than $50 million in salary cap room, even if the cap drops all the way to $175 million. There’s even a heck of a receiver waiting near the top of the draft – LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase – if the Jets don’t land the No. 1 pick and/or decide to pass on a quarterback.
If Douglas really feels bad that he didn’t give his coach and quarterback enough to work with, this absolutely has to be Priority No. 1.
Does the offensive line need more work?
It sure looks like it does, and it wouldn’t cost much for Douglas to cut bait with some of the players up front if he felt the need. The Jets are really only locked into rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton and center Connor McGovern. Everyone else is ripe to be replaced if the right player comes available. Then again, spending big money on a Joe Thuney or Brandon Scherff doesn’t seem like it’s his style.
More likely he’ll keep what he has and begin the transition to his young players, like rookie tackle Cameron Clark (when he’s healthy) and probably at least one more high pick in next year’s draft.
Will they finally find a pass rusher?
Douglas hasn’t shown an inclination to pursue big-money free agents, so Shaq Barrett or Yannick Ngakoue seem unlikely. Then again, the Jets very likely will have more cap room to spend than almost any other team in the NFL, and this is such a huge need. Spending big bucks on a receiver and a pass rusher would seem like the perfect way to jumpstart this rebuilding project, especially since there’s no up-and-coming pass rusher on the team.
They could pursue someone in the draft, too, but their focus there more likely will be offense – either quarterback or receiver. And no one seems to think there’s a Chase Young or Joey Bosa-like pass rusher anywhere in this draft.
Should he re-sign safety Marcus Maye?
Maye is a good, young player who would make a nice piece to the back end of the Jets’ defense, and someone they probably committed to the moment they traded Jamal Adams to Seattle. The problem, though, is that he’s going to be a free agent and safeties increasingly get paid in the NFL.
It’s hard to argue he’s worth the $14 million per year that top safeties have been getting, but what about $11 or 12 million per year? Or what about that price for one year on the franchise tag? Even that seems hefty when the Jets have so many other needs. Maye’s a good player and the Jets like him, but he’s hardly a huge impact player.
The expense of his next deal makes this a very difficult call.