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Joe Douglas relays essential message during tough New York Jets times

Joe Douglas, Adam Gase, Sam Darnold
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New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas relays an essential message Tuesday afternoon during these depressing times.

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The only thing worse than an 0-8 team is an 0-8 team with dysfunction that’s readily available for public consumption. It appears Joe Douglas agrees.

The New York Jets‘ inexperienced general manager took the Zoom stage Tuesday and met the challenge head-on—a challenge that requires a calm hand and gut-wrenching patience.

Douglas did everything in his power to ensure no chaotic headlines could be piled on to a start that matches Rich Kotite‘s 1996 squad. This includes shouldering the blame in any regard possible.

“My message for the fans is we’re all frustrated with where we are right now, but everyone in this building has to own it,” Douglas told the media Tuesday afternoon at his midseason presser. “This record belongs to all of us and it’s incumbent on each of us to figure out how we can improve it and I certainly take my fair share of the responsibility.”

Impactful leaders must take accountability, limit fear and decrease any chance of chaos. Signaling that he not only owns the current dismal situation but the Robby Anderson miss as well is a worthwhile front office message heading into the future.

Anderson—the Jet weapon who built chemistry with Sam Darnold over two years—is flying high in Carolina with the Panthers. With 688 receiving yards through eight games, Anderson currently ranks third in the NFL, while Breshad Perriman (Douglas’s answer at the position in free agency) is stuck at 118 yards in just four games played.

He signed a two-year, $20 million deal to reunite with his former collegiate coach, Matt Rhule. Douglas didn’t run and hide when the topic surfaced.

“We thought Robby’s value was going to be even greater than what he signed for in Carolina, so that’s on me ultimately,” Douglas said. “And that’s on us to get a better handle on every player’s market value. Honestly, we’d all love to see Robby here doing what he’s doing, but I tip my hat to the success he’s having. But we don’t want to be in the business of losing good players.”

Tipping hats to former players may seem like a bland activity, but it’s critical when realizing Douglas’s overall strategy.

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The man who was groomed by Ozzie Newsome firmly believes in team-building through the NFL draft. Free agency will never become an ultra-critical factor until that foundation is first placed down.

“I think when you look at successful organizations, no matter what the sport, you don’t see a lot of teams that build long-term success by buying their way out,” Douglas said. “You see the teams, the organizations that have long-term success … they draft well and they develop their players. I think that’s the model moving forward, our vision moving forward. And when we have the opportunity to strike in free agency, having that flexibility [is a positive]. But none of this is going to work if we don’t draft and develop these guys, especially with the assets we have last year and this year.”

Trading hardworking veterans such as Steve McLendon and Avery Williamson help future draft position, but perhaps more importantly, it creates capital in another area: goodwill.

Although Douglas isn’t an aggressive free-agent spender now, that will change after the infrastructure is realized. Players, agents and everybody within NFL circles remember “respect” moves. Douglas could have shipped Jamal Adams to a loser. He could have sent McLendon and Williamson to far worse destinations. Instead, all three are grinning from ear to ear while playing in winning situations.

Knowing an NFL front office boss won’t say something to your face while screwing you behind your back is gold in this league. Douglas would never admit that extra motivation publicly, but it’s certainly an added bonus.

“Over the last few months, we’ve been able to improve our draft capital,” he said. “As we sit here now, we have nine picks this upcoming draft and we have nine picks in the next draft. Of those picks, eight over the next two years are going to be in the top three rounds, so that gives us a lot of flexibility and a lot of opportunities to really improve the talent on this roster. But ultimately, again, for us to get to where we need to be, we have to continue to develop and invest in our players moving forward.”

The disgruntled screams come when realizing what Douglas had to say about the head coach. Embattled Adam Gase is now 7-17 in his Jets career with few excuses in his arsenal.

When asked about his head coach, Douglas did the right thing.

“This is not all on Adam [Gase],” Douglas said. “I have to do a better job of surrounding him with better players and better weapons. We’re in this together. I’m going through and thinking [about] everything I can try to do to try to help Adam. The goal is to get this fixed together.”

“Yes” was his answer when asked if Gase is part of the team’s solution moving forward.

Honestly, what’s he supposed to say? It boils down to culture. A general manager who doesn’t publicly back his head coach—no matter what the true feelings may be behind the scenes—is a guy who won’t travel very far.

For all anybody knows, a decision on the head coach has already been made in-house. Perhaps not. But either way, it shouldn’t impact Douglas’s poker face.

The same can be said of his quarterback. While Douglas remained noncommital on Darnold’s future, there’s just no way he can commit to a quarterback when Trevor Lawrence is staring him in the face. This guy would never paint himself into a corner when the draft is concerned—the lifeblood for how he envisions building a successful depth chart.

“Sam is an ultra-talented quarterback, and I really can’t say enough about his grit and his toughness,” Douglas said. “Ultimately I have to do a better job of putting talent around Sam and we have to develop some kind of continuity within the offense moving forward.”

Douglas didn’t commit to Darnold as the team’s 2021 starting quarterback.

“We’re trying to get through the next eight games,” he added. “Again, my feeling on Sam hasn’t changed.”

Backing Gase at this moment affects nothing in the personnel department this coming offseason. Publicly backing him is the smart money, as his possible ouster in-season or after the season wouldn’t be impacted based on Douglas’s words. Besides, other potential coaches are paying close attention to how the organization handles the current coach publicly. Does respect remain after it’s all fallen apart?

Committing to a quarterback for 2021 can affect the offseason. It would put the organization in a dicey situation, something Douglas wants to avoid. The goal is to limit the damage; committing to Darnold now creates a chaotic situation that could come back to bite Douglas.

The head coach can be ousted anytime—no matter the words that were once previously conveyed.

From an overall standpoint, it wasn’t pretty. By no means were his words exciting. And no fan is jumping up for joy at the moment. That is until the fan realizes what’s truly at stake.

Witnessing a general manager handle such a depressing situation with accountability and calm is what fans should hold on to. Joe Douglas’s midseason presser didn’t produce what fans wanted to hear, but it’s precisely the essential message required to get the New York Jets to where they want to go.

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