There are several reasons it’s difficult to believe the New York Jets will finish with the worst record and end up with Trevor Lawrence.
The 2020 New York Jets are a bad football team. Perhaps that’s a little too obvious to even mention.
Their 0-9 record has set the organization’s futility bar. Not even Rich Kotite‘s 1-15 squad 24 years ago could claim such a poor start. Adrian Murrell‘s 199 yards in Arizona put a win on the board after 0-8, separating the two all-time miserable squads.
The ’96 squad has its own infamous claims, but the 2020 version is outpacing its competition in many ways.
New York currently ranks dead last in offense (266 yards per game), dead last in scoring offense (13.4 points per game), 27th in total defense (402.7 yards per game) and 27th in scoring defense (29.8 points per game).
Making matters much worse are the DVOA numbers. Coming in with an absurd -38.1% total DVOA, the Jets are, of course, dead last again. Cincinnati currently ranks 31st with a -23.1% mark. The Jets’ offensive DVOA (-24.7%) is also dead last, and their 9.7% defensive DVOA places them 28th.
How could any team overcome such unpleasantness? Well, they can’t in the form of victories. Fans’ only hope right now revolves around one man.
Trevor Lawrence is the legitimate prize at the end of the dark tunnel. These grotesque numbers are tough to combat when thinking the Jets may not finish with the No. 1 pick, but there are plenty of reasons to believe this team will not finish with the worst record.
After all, these are the Jets. If that was all they had to contend with, it still might be a problem. But there’s so much more.
The trio of receivers
As much as nobody wants to hear excuses derived from injuries, it’s a legitimate reason to believe these Jets will improve the rest of the season.
Monday night’s 30-27 loss to the New England Patriots featured a few impressive things, most notably the wideouts. The first game that featured Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman and Jamison Crowder this season helped Joe Flacco to a 262-yard, three-touchdown night.
Perriman went for over 100 yards and two touchdowns, Crowder hit pay dirt on a beautiful catch on a corner route and Mims impressed with his natural ability. For the first time all season, the Jets offense actually did something to dictate terms. They forced Bill Belichick to adjust defensively—another reason to worry about the tank (as the play-calling and the offensive scheme is improving).
New England ranks ninth in total pass defense, which means the Jets didn’t do it against the worst in the league. Stephon Gilmore missed the game, which helped, but if not for a tremendous time of possession advantage of the Pats in the second half, the Jets would have put up more points. (They only ran 15 total offensive plays in the second half.)
The health of these three receivers is a scary proposition for the tank.
Emerging defensive youth
Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, Bryce Huff and John Franklin-Myers continue to emerge this season.
Huff, the undrafted free agent out of Memphis, ranks third of all edge NFL rookies with a 57.9 PFF grade. Fatukasi’s stellar 85.6 grade places him ninth among all interior defenders. Franklin-Myers and Williams rank 29th and 31st, respectively.
The more this unit comes together, the more everybody else’s ceiling is raised. Trench play is the first barrier to lift development across the board, both offensively and defensively.
It’ll be interesting to track the progress of this unit over the last seven games of the campaign.
The Jets schedule up to this point has been murder. From the Buffalo Bills twice to the Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals and even Miami Dolphins, every game has presented a decently tough opponent.
Only three teams the Jets have already faced currently sport losing records (Patriots, Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers), while the Jacksonville Jaguars schedule ramps up significantly.
New York’s remaining schedule isn’t easy by any stretch. Jacksonville’s is much more difficult.
New England, the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders remain on the Jets schedule. (The Raiders are 5-3 but many questions remain about their legitimacy.) Jacksonville has just one losing team on its remaining eight-game slate (the Minnesota Vikings, a team that can still put up a fight). With a strength of schedule that’s easily edging the Jets’, any tie will go to the Jags.
The Jags schedule has been much easier up to this point, as well. With losses to the dreadful Houston Texans (twice), Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals and Chargers, it feels as though the Jags will eventually catch up in the win-loss column. This could mean the Jags are a far worse team than everybody believes.
It’s not Joe Douglas’s way
So far, so good, as it pertains to Joe Douglas’s eye for talent. The man simply needs more time to accumulate his players.
When tanking is concerned, however, Douglas will have none of it.
“Culture” is Douglas’s religion. Development only occurs at the right pace when the culture is right. What we saw Monday night was a team doing anything but tanking, and it’s doubtful Douglas will allow his name, his organization to be mixed up with any semblance of such a dirty idea—in spite of how he feels about Lawrence.
In Douglas’s mind, teams can be built through a variety of avenues. Sure, he’s fully aware of how important a generational talent at the most important position in sports is, but the man also values integrity to a completely stubborn degree.
If it happens, great. But it’s doubtful to see Douglas pulling any obvious moves that help the tank.
The race for Trevor Lawrence is on. The question remains, “Who’s putting maximum effort into the race?” Which teams are all-in and which are thinking about it while paying much more attention to culture and team building?
Even at 0-9, there are plenty of reasons to believe the New York Jets won’t end up with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft. On the sunny side, they’re still the lead horse—if the word “horse” means “terrible football team.”