Ranking the Top 5 Jets stories of 2021

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·5 min read
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  • New York Jets
    New York Jets
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Mike White
    Mike White
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Zach Wilson
    Zach Wilson
    American football quarterback
  • Carl Lawson
    Carl Lawson
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Robert Saleh and Zach Wilson treated image, both wearing black Jets hoodies
Robert Saleh and Zach Wilson treated image, both wearing black Jets hoodies

We're counting down all of the major storylines for the New York teams in 2021. Here's a look at the Jets' list...

5. Mike White Mania

Zach Wilson suffered a knee injury in the Jets’ Week 7 loss to the New England Patriots, opening the door for unheralded backup Mike White to make the start against the Cincinnati Bengals on Halloween. White, a Western Kentucky product who had never started an NFL game surely couldn’t lead the Jets to a win over the Bengals, right?

…. Right?

White proved all the doubters wrong on that Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium, throwing for 405 yards, three touchdowns and two tough-luck picks in the Jets’ improbable 34-31 win over Cincy. White captured all the headlines that weekend, taking the city by storm.

Unfortunately, Mike White Mania was fairly short-lived. After throwing a touchdown pass the following Thursday night against he Colts, White suffered a forearm injury that forced him back to the bench. The next week was one to forget for White, as he threw four interceptions in a 45-17 blowout loss to the Bills.

At the end of it all, White may have helped himself to potentially pick up a nice next contract as a backup, but no matter what the future holds, White will always have that first NFL win against the Bengals, a game he and many fans won't forget.

4. Carl Lawson signs, but lost for season with injury

The Jets made a number of key changes to the offensive side of the ball this past offseason, headlined by drafting Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore and Michael Carter, while also signing veteran Corey Davis in free agency.

On the defensive side of things, the Jets’ key offseason move was signing defensive end Carl Lawson to a three-year, $45 million deal with $30 million guaranteed. The Jets have struggled to find that elite pass-rusher in previous seasons, and the hope was that Lawson could fill that void while wreaking havoc up front.

But late in August, those hopes came crashing down as Lawson suffered an Achilles tear, an injury that would prevent him from suiting up at all during his first season in the Big Apple.

Instead of coming into the season with a bonafide edge-rusher, the Jets once again had to piece things together up front, leaving a lot to be desired from Jeff Ulbrich’s unit in his first season as defensive coordinator.

3. Sam Darnold traded to Panthers

When the Jets selected Sam Darnold third overall out of USC in the 2018 draft, they believed he would be the quarterback to lead the Jets out of the doldrums and back into the playoffs.

Darnold had an up-and-down first three seasons, compiling a 13-25 record with 52 touchdowns and 50 picks, and with the Jets in possession of the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft, they decided to move in a different direction at the quarterback spot.

The Jets traded Darnold to the Carolina Panthers on April 5, acquiring a sixth-round pick in 2021 and second- and fourth-rounders in 2022. The trade offered a fresh start for both Darnold and the Jets, and with Trevor Lawrence locked in as the first overall pick, that allowed the Jets to go with…

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) runs for a first down in the first half against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium.
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) runs for a first down in the first half against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium.

2. Draft Zach Wilson

Outside of Lawrence, who was indeed taken first overall by Jacksonville, the Jets had their pick of the litter when it came to the 2021 draft quarterbacks, and they went with the consensus, selecting BYU’s Wilson at No. 2.

Lauded for his huge arm and improvisational skills, Wilson didn’t have the success of someone like Alabama’s Mac Jones or even North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, but his arm talent made him too good for the Jets to pass up.

Handed the keys to the car as the team’s starter basically from the get-go, Wilson has had his rookie growing pains, sometimes putting the ball in harm’s way while trying to hit a home run, rather than just taking the easy throws the defense is giving him.

Wilson has missed time due to injury as well, but it’s safe to say the jury is far from out on the Jets’ young signal-caller, as he continues to grow and learn from his mistakes.

1. Adam Gase fired, Robert Saleh hired as head coach

Following the conclusion of a disastrous 2-14 season in 2020, the writing was on the wall for Adam Gase, and the Jets made things official on Jan. 3, firing the head coach after just two seasons.

Hailed as an offensive guru from his time working with Peyton Manning in Denver, Gase took the job in New York after a so-so three seasons with the Miami Dolphins.

Hired to fix the Jets offense and mold Darnold into the next franchise quarterback, Gase’s era was instead marked by offensive ineptitude. The Jets finished 7-9 in his first season, but they still finished dead last in total offense and 31st in scoring. Things only got worse in 2020, as Gang Green again finished dead last in total offense and this time dropped to last place in total scoring as well, while compiling the worst point differential in the NFL.

After a coaching search that lasted a couple of weeks, the Jets found their new leading man in the form of Robert Saleh, the energetic defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers.

Saleh came to New York preaching his "All gas, no brake" mantra, and while the team’s win-loss record certainly isn’t where he wants it to be, it’s clear that Saleh has earned the respect of the locker room and is doing whatever it takes to get the Jets moving in the right direction.

Honorable mention

Marcus Maye's injury; Deshaun Watson trade rumors; rookie class looking strong (Vera-Tucker, Moore, Carter); Jamal Adams trade looking better as SEA struggles and pick gets higher.