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It’s time: AFC East is wide open for NY Jets after big Bills trade

Sauce Gardner
Sauce Gardner, Getty Images

The New York Jets’ AFC East window just swung wide open

1968, 1969, 1998, 2002.

What do these years have in common? 

The answer: They are the only four years the New York Jets won their division. 65 seasons of Jets/Titans football have kicked off and concluded, yet there were just four in which the Jets and their fans could call themselves Division Champions (2 AFL East and 2 AFC East).

The phrase “always the groomsman and never the groom” doesn’t begin to tell the story. A better description would be “always the weird cousin invited to the wedding and never the groom.”

Following the departure of Tom Brady from the AFC East in 2020, the division was wide open for the first time in two decades. Rather than the Jets seizing the opportunity, Josh Allen and terrorist sympathizer Sean McDermott grabbed the crown.

But in the spring of 2024, the tides are changing again.

The Bills are in salary cap hell. Stefon Diggs, arguably their best player, was shipped off to Houston earlier today for a 2025 second-round pick. Diggs joins Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer, Leonard Floyd, Gabe Davis, and Mitch Morse on the long list of key players lost by Buffalo this offseason.

The Patriots are in a full rebuild, with no weapons and a questionable roster. The Dolphins have a high powered offense, but have disappointed in back to back seasons when the lights turned the brightest.

It is officially the Jets’ time to ascend.

Now what does ascension look like for the 2024 Jets? How do you go from the basement to the top dawg? How do you ditch the persona of being the weird cousin who got the pity invite to the wedding and become the groom with a hot wife?

Well, the Jets have built the roster to get it done, and with the upcoming 10th overall pick in the NFL Draft, it will only get better. So for me, it comes down to two main factors:

  1. Health 
  2. Coaching

Throughout the NFL world you will constantly hear “every team deals with injuries.” While that is true and you need the proper depth to make it through an entire NFL season, no team has been hit with the injury bug over the past five years like the New York Jets.

There is someone out there with a Jets voodoo doll and they spend their Sundays in the fall stabbing it over and over again. Clusters of injuries to impact positions, re-shuffling a dozen different offensive line combinations, and the inability to have a quarterback who is consistently under center have derailed too many Jets seasons of late.

This offseason, the Jets made two essential additions to their offense in Tyron Smith and Mike Williams. Yet, each player has a checkered injury history, which does raise a level of concern (side note: the Jets historically sign healthy players who get hurt after joining them – maybe they flip the script and sign injured players who will stay healthy).

All Jets fans can ask for is an opportunity to see the season through as designed, and health is the primary factor.

Second and potentially more important is coaching. By all accounts, it feels like Robert Saleh regressed in game management in 2023. I evaluate coaches’ game management on a binary scale. Did you go for it when I believe you should have? Did you call a timeout in the right spot? For Saleh, it always felt that he was on the wrong end of those decisions (see the Cleveland Browns game with his decisions to punt down multiple scores).

The infamous Athletic article added fuel to the fire of whether he is the right man to lead this group to the promised land. However, it is not just Saleh – it’s his entire staff.

Nathaniel Hackett was pitiful in 2023. Keith Carter has question marks on his leadership style. Jeff Ulbrich … you are doing just fine, no complaints with you, sir.

This entire staff must elevate this roster and tap into its true potential. Every coach, every assistant, every waterboy. 

Long story short, I will end with just one simple question.

If not now, when?

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Nevada Buck
Nevada Buck
1 month ago

Love your style, Matt, both the prose and the thinking!!
I hope to see more from you on this site.