The New York Jets and their fans can finally come together after the 2021 NFL draft: The turning point that will lift the franchise.
It’s no secret to anyone that the New York Jets and their fans have suffered through a relationship crisis for the better part of the last decade. Bad front office decisions that led to uncompetitive teams ultimately resulted in a disillusioned group of fans at a loss for words.
Actually, it’s a sad thing to see since Jets fans are oftentimes irrationally confident. Confidence was the mark of this fanbase during the Rex Ryan era, but as quickly as that new mentality arrived is as fast as it vanished.
From a Jet fan point of view, Gang Green was always better than advertised. The team was at least usually better than the “Same Old Jets” moniker used by mainstream sports media.
The idea allowed Jets fans to feel a unique bond. It allowed them to fight against the big bad media that needed to be knocked down a peg or three. Yet, thanks to the last several seasons, that fight suddenly vanished.
From believing to doubting, to simply not caring: This was the unfortunate course for a fanbase that became completely numb to the team and its results, and there’s no worse feeling than that for the organization itself.
It’s true that most of the fans had been down on the team for quite some time, but the downfall of Sam Darnold was the final straw for many. If the sure-to-be savior, all of sudden, was not the savior anymore, what’s next?
Post-Sammy Savior, it was tough to not feel the fanbase’s complete disdain towards the team. The hopelessness. The disbelief.
The Jets and their fans had tacitly parted ways and wouldn’t get back together until palpable reasons for hope were shown.
Enter the new regime.
Providing belief to a starving fan base is Joe Douglas‘ mission. What did he have to do to get Jets fans back on their side? While difficult, Douglas knew it would be made more difficult thanks to opting for the correct approach, the patient one that would allow longstanding success.
It started by bringing in Robert Saleh – the best head-coaching candidate on the market this past January – to be the team’s next head coach and culture changer. A great first step, fans could start subtly smiling again.
Then came free agency, and Douglas once again showed he is a man with a vision/ Corey Davis, Carl Lawson and company arrived, forming a well-rounded free-agent class that fulfilled needs and fit the team’s new culture. Jets fans’ smiles began to widen, yet still timidly.
Then the big-boy moment arrived, the 2021 NFL draft when Douglas brought in both Zach Wilson and Alijah Vera-Tucker aboard. Arguably the two most wanted players by Jets fans during the pre-draft process are now in New York.
Fearlessly, Jets fans are now smiling ear to ear without hesitancy, for an actual plan that was put in place when Douglas arrived post-2018 draft continued to be hammered.
By grabbing the BYU signal-caller and netting a smart trade-up to select the best interior offensive lineman in the draft, Douglas has finished his process to make amends with New York Jets fans.
Obviously, however, the job isn’t done. He simply brought the fans back to the table.
Douglas knows he needs to surround Wilson with talent, he’s doing just that. Day 2 saw the Jets snag Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore in the 34-hole. A true X-factor weapon that’s can score whenever he gets his hands on the ball is something the franchise hasn’t had in years.
And that’s precisely what’s so exciting about Douglas: He knows what needs to be done, yet he won’t mortgage the team’s future to satisfy his wishes. That’s the benefit of placing a value on everything.
So, mission accomplished? Not quite. As much as the process matters in football, results mean a whole hell of a lot more to the fans. But so far, so good.
A strong head coach. A well-rounded free-agent class. A signal-caller and his bodyguard. An offensive game-breaker. And more to come.
This is the way it has to be, the way it should have been with Darnold. In essence, the Jets tipped their cap to the fans on draft night, showing this fanbase that the organization won’t screw it up this time. This Jets brass knows what needs to be done.
As long as that plan is visible and sensical, there’s no chance the fanbase rejects the new regime’s actions. After all, they were just looking for something, anything, and now that something is here.
Some say it’s impossible to precisely define the word “hope” for all it’s worth, yet anyone can understand its meaning. I have a funny feeling that’s how Jets fans feel heading into the weekend.
There’s a joyful sense of hope flying around this fanbase right now. There’s also still a long way to go, but for now, it’s tough to deny that optimistic feeling flowing through your veins.
And I bet you can all understand that.