Despite their current 0-10 record, Joe Douglas’s New York Jets strangely possess an incredibly bright future.
Zero wins, 10 losses. The story of the 2020 New York Jets can be described in many ways. Bleak is a description that works. Ugly is another word that comes to mind. Let’s get crazy and throw in disgusting, pitiful and alarmingly grotesque.
The owners are fools, the head coach is clueless and the new general manager hasn’t done a damn thing to right the obviously sinking ship.
For the casual, often on-the-go observers, the resounding answer would be yes. The hardcore NFL fanatic and historian would most likely defy that “yes” with a “wait a second.”
At 0-10, this organization has everybody right where it wants it. The often confusing franchise known as the Jets possesses an extremely bright future.
The building blocks
Ten games make a world of difference when analyzing legitimate building blocks. It’s obvious that the overall optimism surrounding the team in August eclipses the current feel, but that strictly deals with the 2020 season.
Today, the organization possesses legitimate building blocks it didn’t yet realize it had just a few short months ago.
A great part of the battle over the last decade has dealt with the talent up front. Not since 2006 had the Jets selected a first-round offensive lineman. And go figure: the Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson choices were the catalysts for a Jets roster that was arguably the NFL’s best from 2008 through 2010 (save for the all-important quarterback position).
Development ceilings are naturally raised when the trenches are legit.
Football is an easy game to understand. For example, a great cornerback can’t raise a pass rusher’s ceiling anywhere near the degree the great pass rusher can for the corner—especially in today’s defensive-discriminatory NFL. The same can be said of the wide receiver-offensive line relationship.
Building from the trenches-out has always been and remains the fast track to team-building football success.
While Becton is an obvious stud, Denzel Mims isn’t too far behind.
Mims possesses every tool necessary to become a legitimate No. 1 weapon in the NFL. There’s no question Douglas should and will look for another to pair with the Baylor product, but the kid’s the real deal.
Denzel Mims has every tool necessary to become a No. 1 WR in the NFL. To feel this comfortable throwing to a rookie (just four games in) in a one-on-one in crunch time is a big deal. #TakeFlight pic.twitter.com/czLld5UY40
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) November 25, 2020
Then there’s the defense, a unit that’s desperately lacking. While the entire world thought the Jets offense would have been, by far, the poorer-performing unit of the two heading into the season—and they’ve been pretty rotten—it’s the defense that’s lagging at this stage of the game.
After a disappointing rookie season, Big Q has come on strong. Just watch the tape. He’s not only pass rushing at a top-notch tilt, but he’s also man-handling offensive linemen against the run.
Hall has dressed in just two games, starting one, but what he showed in Los Angeles is something only serious personnel evaluators can spot: the “extra stuff.”
Hall’s situational awareness is on point, and his aggression is obvious. The athleticism lacks a bit for a cornerback, but what’s most critical in this current NFL, at this position, is that “extra stuff.”
Sprinkle in possible building blocks such as Bryce Huff, John Franklin-Myers, George Fant, La’Mical Perine, Foley Fatukasi and everybody’s favorite punter, Braden Mann, and the Jets are off to a flying start.
No NFL team is as loaded with non-player assets as the New York Jets. Mr. Douglas is no dummy. Realizing this rag-tag group had no chance in 2020, he didn’t sell out last March. Instead, he opted for flexible, value-driven deals to help tide things over.
Many thought Brian Poole and Jordan Jenkins were goners. Many were wrong. Both players’ overall value was exaggerated thanks to an inward look at things. To the Jets, each holds more value than on the open market. Douglas understood this and allowed them to look around, only to secure them both on one-year deals.
The Mike Maccagnan era featured desperate signings and splashy headlines. J.B. Smoove helped get the party started in 2019 when the new uniforms were released. Shiny toys such as Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley were touted while the team’s infrastructure lacked considerably.
It was never real. It was just really fun for the fans—at the time.
The team’s current GM isn’t looking to fool anybody. Pain has arrived in the form of an 0-10 record. But pain should be expected after a decade of terrible talent evaluation. The previous regime just wasn’t willing to share that story so obviously.
Douglas said something on his first day on the job that the previous GM hadn’t uttered over the course of five drafts: “It starts with the quarterback and both lines.” While Maccagnan continuously looked to plug-and-play players at the most important five-man unit in sports (the offensive line), Douglas understands the infrastructure comes first when team-building is the priority.
It’s led to the offloading of names such as the aforementioned Bell, Jamal Adams and others. Robby Anderson didn’t fetch any assets, but as of now—after a torrid start in Carolina—this Breshad Perriman guy looks to have a much higher talent ceiling (although he cannot be trusted from a pure production standpoint via injury).
Hitting on Becton, Mims, Hall and Mann in the draft (with Cameron Clark, Ashtyn Davis, La’Mical Perine, Jabari Zuniga and James Morgan as incompletes), it’s obvious Douglas has a keen eye for talent. And considering how loaded the organization is over the next two drafts (four first-round picks, two seconds and three thirds), the bodies will continue to pile up.
If that wasn’t enough, only one team is projected to have more cap space than the Jets’ $83.1 million this upcoming offseason, per Spotrac. There’s no question that Douglas will be careful with the money. In fact, he probably won’t strike in free agency until 2022—until his young infrastructure really cements itself first.
In any event, owning that flexibility while ridding the organization of bad contracts is a tremendous positive.
Strange is the correct word for the Jets’ incredibly bright future. Strange, due to the fact the team must finish with the top pick in the draft in order to capture the greatest prize of them all.
Considering the Jacksonville Jaguars hold a significant edge in the strength of schedule tiebreaker, the Jets might have to lose out in order to capture the prize at the end of the rainbow. If they do, Douglas’s team will hold scary cards.
Granted, the team is a long way from Lawrence. Additionally, Adam Gase and the current plays want as many victories as possible, and it’s likely they’ll snag at least one over the last six weeks. If that happens, the Jets will gladly work from the No. 2 or 3 hole and make the best out of it. In Douglas’s world, after all, there is no one-way road en route to team-building.
Should they land at No. 1, though, it’ll be an embarrassment of riches that follows an embarrassment of a season, courtesy of Joe Douglas’s long-term planning.
On most occasions, most years, the ugly perception of the Jets usually doesn’t match up with reality. Operating out of the media capital of the world will make that happen. This year, the term laughingstock is correct.
But in a world that sees the spoils dished out to the best-run front offices, at 0-10, Joe Douglas and the New York Jets might just have the NFL in such a state of shock that very few realize just how dangerous the Jets’ stock-up job will be for the rest of the league.
It’s ugly right now, no doubt; but this team’s future is strangely and incredibly bright.