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The Jets Will Have the Most Attractive Head Coaching Vacancy

Last Sunday was a perfect rendition of the comedic material the Jets on-field theatrics have provided for us in 2020. For the first time all season, Sam Darnold looked like “the guy,” or at least someone capable of starting at quarterback in the NFL. In the first half, he seemed to be right on track for what he has done all year – he had three turnovers in the second quarter alone and helped the Raiders take a 24-13 in the second half. But then something clicked.

The Jets marched on and scored 15 unanswered led by Darnold and their for-once potent rushing game. 

Fast forward to under two minutes to go, it’s the end of the game and the Jets had turned the Raiders over on downs inside the redzone. It seemed like they finally did it. They’d secured their first win of the season.

But as we’ve learned – anything with this Jets team is anything but secure. With 19 seconds left, Derek Carr dropped back and overthrew a wide open Nelson Agholor in the endzone. It was over – that was the Raiders’ chance. Their season was slipping away right before our eyes and the Jets were about to break through. Or at least, we thought.

The very next play, the Jets sent an all-out, 8-man pressure. Without being touched, Derek Carr stepped up in the pocket and delivered a perfect strike to Henry Ruggs: 

Jets 28, Raiders 31. Gregg Williams did the unthinkable – according to ESPN Stats & Info., since this data was recorded in 2006, the Jets became the first team to meet all these qualifications:

  • Send 6+ pass rushers
  • Final 15 seconds of regulation
  • Hold between 4-8 point lead
  • 40+ yards from the endzone

There had been 251 previous plays that met these qualifications and the Jets rewrote history. Many believe that Williams did this, intentionally sabotaging the Jets in order to lose the game and keep the first pick.

But why would Gregg Williams or Adam Gase or any coach on this Jets staff for that matter care about where they stand in next year’s draft? At this point, their firings are inevitable, what better send-off to the Jets would there be than to get them out of the hunt for Trevor Lawrence?

So, yes: Gregg Williams really decided to put the “other” Lamar Jackson, an undrafted, backup corner, pressed into a starting role 1-on-1 against Henry Ruggs III. Ruggs ran a combine-best 4.27 40-yard dash versus Jackon’s anemic 4.58. He was provided without any help over the top where only a touchdown can hurt the Jets in this situation. 

It would be one thing if the Jets had watched the “Hail Murray” a few weeks ago and wanted to avoid any big-bodied, contested catcher with the caliber of a DeAndre Hopkins to get settled in the endzone. But we all know that wasn’t the case.

It was truly an unjustifiably, indefensible call. Unsurprisingly, the Jets relieved Gregg Williams of his duties:

In one instance, the Jets are thanking Gregg Williams for helping fortify their chances at securing the first overall for Trevor Lawrence. But in another instance, it’s truly bewildering that Williams has had the role of a defensive coordinator or head coach in the National Football League since 1997. Williams has held 11 different positions with 8 different franchises in his last 22 years – his longest stint being three years including many 1-year stops. According to Pro Football Reference, since 2010, Williams has only led two of his defensive units to top 10 finishes in terms of yards allowed. 

This is the same coach who orchestrated a bounty on Frank Gore, and admitted to putting forward some of his own money to have the star RB hurt. Not only has his lack of professionalism and conduct been detrimental but it further proves he is undeserving of holding a leadership role. There are only 32 teams – the Jets can do better, the NFL can do better than Gregg Williams.

Now, let’s jump into the meat of this article. The end of this game was a perfect encapsulation of all the frustrations and shortcomings the Jets have had in 2020. They’re the laughing stock of the NFL; they haven’t made the postseason since Mark Sanchez led them to the AFC Championship in 2010. Since then, their starting QBs have been:

  • Greg McElroy
  • Geno Smith
  • Michael Vick 
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Bryce Petty
  • Josh McCown
  • Luke Falk
  • Trevor Siemian
  • Joe Flacco
  • Sam Darnold

The Jets have been the epitome of instability and incompetence. Even with Darnold under the helm, a top 3 selection at QB in his third season, they’ve never looked so pathetic and outclassed than they do in 2020. It’s easily the low point for the Jets in the past decade.

0-16 seems inescapable at this point as they’ll take on the Seahawks, Rams, Browns, and Patriots in the coming weeks. Yes, it’s embarrassing but Jets fans are also relieved because it’ll lead them to Trevor Lawrence – a “can’t miss” prospect at a position that doesn’t get more polarizing or confusing when it comes to evaluation and projection. Lawrence has been compared to guys like Andrew Luck and John Elway; quarterbacks that seemingly check every box and practically have zero reason to not thrive in the NFL.

But let’s look beyond the surface of Lawrence coming to New York. Football is a team game and no matter how good one player is it’s much more complex than one guy changing an entire franchise’s fortune. Beyond drafting Lawrence, here are five reasons why the Jets head coaching job is the most attractive vacancy come 2021:

  1. Job Security

The NFL is about as impatient as it’s ever been. We just saw Matt Patricia get fired in the middle of his third season; Zac Taylor is in the middle of year two in Cincinnati and is on squarely on the hot seat. Even Doug Pederson, who won a Super Bowl in his second year, can’t be feeling too safe about his job these days. In 2018, we saw Steve Wilks fired after one season in Arizona.

You get the point. No professional sports league or industry for that matter best embodies the expression, “What have you done for me lately” than the NFL. For coaches and players alike, the NFL has become such a lucrative industry that owners and front offices don’t have time to waste and jeopardize future costs when it comes to finding the right coach. It has become normalized to just rip the band-aid off and cut all their losses.

However, this Jets job does not fit that criteria. As I stated above, the Jets have been a doormat of the NFL for the past decade. Whoever GM Joe Douglas decides to bring aboard, there will be a holistic, long-term vision that requires a minimum of three years. 

The only way to go is up after finishing 0-16; the acquisition of Trevor Lawrence will most certainly help any prospective coach that can help mold Lawrence and the Jets into whatever direction they want the Jets to take for the next ten plus years.

  1. Draft Capital

As we’ve discussed ad nauseam, Lawrence gives them “their guy” at the most important position in the sport. But there are plenty of reasons to get excited beyond the Clemson QB. The Jamal Adams trade that took place in July yielded 2021 first and third round picks along with another first in 2022 from Seattle. Not only do the Jets now have four first round picks in the next two years, but the 33rd pick in the 2021 draft may as well be an extension of the first round. The Bengals enjoyed that selection in 2020 taking Tee Higgins. 

The Jets already have three picks in the top 33 but Sam Darnold is also an interesting piece of the puzzle that can further help their draft capital. 

Darnold is still only 3 years removed from being a top 3 selection in 2018. He has those same tools and toughness that draft evaluators fell in love with.

He can make every throw and undeniably, has shown glimpses. But for Darnold, it comes down to consistency and decision-making. The Jets have failed Darnold in every capacity but there’s no reason to think a contending team wouldn’t take a shot at trying to groom and fix Darnold themselves. At the very least, Darnold would garner a late second in addition to another day three pick. There’s definitely still a possibility of a contending team obtaining him for a late-first if they fall in love with him. After all, it wasn’t too long ago, having registered one of the worst rookie years in NFL history, Josh Rosen was acquired for a late second.

Darnold has three years of playing experience, top three draft capital, and is younger than 2020 first overall Joe Burrow. With the potentiality of receiving a solid haul for Darnold that gives the Jets:

  • 2020 1st overall
  • 2020 SEA 1st
  • 2020 33rd overall
  • 2020 65th overall
  • 2020 SEA 3rd
  • Sam Darnold picks via trade

These haul of picks looks eerily similar to a team’s 2020 picks in their division that:

  • In 2019, started 0-7 with a first-year head coach
  • Has gone 13-8 since
  • Currently standing comfortably in a wildcard spot

Behind head coach Brian Flores and GM Chris Grier, the Miami Dolphins accumulated high draft capital and have built one of the more exciting young rosters in all of football. They stand 8-4 and have a chance to reach the postseason much earlier than anyone expected in their rebuild.

No less than 14 months ago, sports writers were questioning if they were the worst NFL roster ever

High draft picks are the quickest way for a team to change their fortunes – the Jets will have more than their fair share of chances to reverse their future. They could have anywhere from 5-7 extremely enticing draft selections in 2021.

  1. Joe Douglas

The haul of draft picks doesn’t matter unless they have the right guy picking them. Insert: Joe Douglas – the Jets GM who was brought in June of 2019. Before becoming the Jets GM, Douglas was a scout in Baltimore for 15 years working with longtime GM Ozzie Newsome who had cultivated some of the best drafts and homegrown talent in all of the NFL. His next stop was in Philadelphia where he was an instrumental part of building a perennial playoff contender and Super Bowl champ in 2017 as Vice President of Player Personnel.

His sample size making critical decisions as the Jets GM isn’t enough to make an overlying judgment. But what we can say is he’s come from two of the more stable and unwavering franchises in the NFL in Baltimore and Philadelphia. He knows what winning looks like and his 2020 NFL draft was a good start:

 

In a draft that was full of big-time prospects at OT, Becton may just be the ultimate prize:

Becton fits the bill as a franchise blindside tackle for the next decade. 

In addition, Denzel Mims missed a solid portion of the early part of the season but has come along quite nicely. In each of his six games, he’s accumulated at least 40 yards on this putrid offense. He has the mold of a nice starting receiver in this league standing at 6’3”, 207 lbs., running in the 4.3s. He doesn’t necessarily have the ball skills or route tree of a true alpha yet, but the potential is definitely there to pop in the future.

Ashtyn Davis is a nice centerfielder, true free safety that has range and an ability to fill nicely in the run game.  

Perine, Hall, and Mann have also picked up valuable playing experience this season. Time will tell just how good this 2020 draft class will be for New York but it’s fair to say Joe Douglas has gotten off to a pretty nice start.

Joe Douglas was not the GM who brought in Adam Gase – that move was made by former GM Mike Maccagnan who has not been employed in NFL circles since his departure. Douglas needs to bring in his guy and go from there.

  1. Cap Space

There may just be more uncertainty in this 2021 offseason than there was in 2020. With the amount of opt-outs in college and the rumors of the cap shrinking to around $175 million dollars, a lot of executives will be entering a scary offseason. 

Nevertheless, it should be cathartic for the Jets – no matter where the cap lies in 2021, the Jets will have the second most cap space just behind Jacksonville lying anywhere between $71-$98 million

Similar to what the Dolphins did last offseason, Joe Douglas and the new head coach will have a chance to splurge on positions they put a premium on whether that be retooling the OL, similar to Cleveland, or at CB/EDGE like Miami. Many teams will be forced to be frugal and can’t be flexible in terms of roster movement. Not the Jets.

The Jets would have to overpay for any big-time free agent but their current roster presents an opportune time to overpay. Because of how young their best players are, they won’t have to pay their young talent for a minimum of 3-4 more years.

Depending on who the coach is, some free agents the Jets may be able to target this offseason are safety Justin Simmons, offensive guard Joe Thuney, or wide receiver Allen Robinson, among many others.

  1. Foundational Pieces

We’ve talked about the impacts Mekhi Becton and Trevor Lawrence can have for the future of the Jets. Teams would kill to have one of these players and the Jets have an opportunity to groom both of them without having to pay for either of their services outside the confines of a rookie deal for four years (five for Lawrence).

But we’ve haven’t even discussed Quinnen Williams. Williams, who went 3rd overall in 2019, was rumored to be on the trade block this past deadline. However, GM Joe Douglas shut down those rumblings immediately. Along with Becton, Williams has been one of the only Jets that has really flashed on tape. He has taken significant strides from his rookie year and there’s no reason to think he can’t become one of the premier interior defensive linemen, a “game-wrecker”:

Oh, and the Jets get back their defensive leader next year in C.J. Mosley. Mosley was signed to a lucrative 5-year deal in the offseason of 2019 but has only played in two games since his signing. He suffered a season-ending groin injury that ended his 2019 season and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he elected to opt-out this 2020 season. The addition of Mosley gives them a much-needed veteran presence and leadership.

Summary

For Jets fans, the present seems dire and hopeless. They’re staring 0-16 squarely in their face – from now until further notice, any time there’s a Hail Mary situation, football fans will resort to the “why didn’t they go cover 0” jokes.

But if there’s one thing we should be learning in the NFL, it’s this: rebuilding and reconstructing with a clear plan and vision with the right GM and head coach that are on the same page can be a lethal combination. Look at the 2020 Browns and Dolphins.

Think back to the 2019 49ers who went from picking second to attaining the NFC’s #1 seed and were just six minutes away from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. 

It cannot be understated how crucial this hire will be for New York. They check every box for any potential coach. From the other evidence we’ve seen around the league, with the right head coach, their trajectory can be changed overnight. 

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