Three ways the Carson Wentz trade affects the New York Jets

One green team’s move has ripple effects on another. Find out how things have changed for the New York Jets’ QB situation.

The NFL offseason offered an early bird special this week, as it appears a potential starting quarterback vacancy has been filled.

The Philadelphia Eagles dealt beleaguered franchise man Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts on late Thursday morning. Indianapolis, fresh off a brief appearance in January’s NFL postseason, is looking to fill a thrower’s void left behind by the retiring Phillip Rivers. A pair of second-day draft picks (a third in 2021 and a conditional second in 2022) are on their way to the City of Brotherly Love in return.

Fans in the metropolitan area no doubt wonder what this means for a certain green team…ok, maybe two, as Giants fans look toward a Wentz-free landscape for their biggest rival. But fans of the New York Jets, eager for clarity on their own franchise’s passing situation, will likely wonder what this means for their own man on the hot seat, Sam Darnold.

So how does this change things? ESM investigates…

One Trade Partner is Off The Market

A Jets-Colts trade during the offseason seemed to be a football certainty on par with Giants-Cowboys on Sunday night. It was, of course, a pre-draft deal that put Darnold on a New York path in 2018, and several veterans have made the switch from blue to green in recent seasons through both deals and free agency (i.e. Matthias Farley, Quincy Wilson, Pierre Desir).

Darnold potentially ending up in Indianapolis could’ve been on the table. The Colts have reasonably recovered from what could’ve been a disaster from a franchise-standpoint, the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck. Indianapolis is also situated in a division that could well be up for grabs soon. Jacksonville’s rebuild is ongoing, nothing more needs to be written about the Texans, and the Colts tied with Tennessee for the division title.

With Rivers leaving, a serviceable quarterback option like Darnold in a much better situation could’ve made a strong union. It might’ve come at the sacrificing of draft picks, but with the AFC potentially up for grabs after Kansas City’s Super Bowl no-show, putting Darnold behind their strong line possibly could’ve helped earn a home playoff game. It appears, however, that the Colts will instead embark on that possibility with Wentz instead.

Darnold’s Trade Value Potentially Weakens

NFL history was forever altered on September 23, 2001, when the Jets’ Mo Lewis laid down a crushing hit on New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, leaving some unknown backup named Tom Brady to go into the game to finish things off. The Jets won that game and little else since, because that backup named Brady got it together pretty quickly.

It’s very much fair to wonder, likely on a smaller scale, to wonder what divergence was created in the NFL timeline on December 10, 2017, when Wentz, gunning for MVP honors during the Eagles’ magical Super Bowl run, tore an ACL in a win over the Rams. This is more or less a long way of saying the narrative that Wentz was a Philadelphia bust is ridiculously overblown. The 2020 season was brutal, but it’s Wentz’ only season that could objectively be called bad.

Nobody knows just how much the Adam Gase era stifled Darnold’s development. But, even without the Gase handicap, it’s safe to say Wentz has had a stronger and more impactful career than Darnold to date. So if his value is a pair of second day picks, the Jets probably shouldn’t keep their hopes high when it comes to Darnold, who has, like Wentz, had issues in playing a full 16-game season (unfair as injury-prone labels may be).

Part of the reason Wentz didn’t produce a high yield was the infamous contract extension the Eagles bestowed upon him after the 2018 season ($107 million guaranteed). But one can’t help but wonder if teams will be a little more reluctant to deal anything truly valuable when it comes to a hypothetical Darnold deal.

The Likelihood of Darnold Staying Might’ve Increased

This offseason is unique in that there could possibly be a dozen teams vying for a new starting quarterback. The Jets appear to be one and two more could also reside in their division (Miami and New England). So the Colts trading for Wentz isn’t the end of the world if they’re looking to truly deal Darnold.

But, a combination of one team off the board, one that is undoubtedly searching for a new quarterback, and teams perhaps being wary of trading high capital, the possibility of Darnold sticking around just raised ever so slightly.

Something that should be kept in mind as the Jets start to navigate through what could be a fateful offseason is that they’re anything but a “quarterback away” from mere postseason contention, much less the Super Bowl. It’s probably one of the biggest reasons Deshaun Watson hasn’t made his way over just yet. They have many, many areas to address, and while there’s a big offseason budget to work with, if they have a relative solution in Darnold, they could take care of other issues like the changes they need to make in their back seven, blocking, and weapons.

Time will tell exactly what the future holds for Darnold, but, for the time being, the Colts and Eagles’ bargain might’ve ensured, for now, that Jets fans need not ditch their No. 14 threads just yet.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets positional preview 2021: Quarterbacks

ESM opens its New York Jets offseason preview by pondering what they’ll do at the quarterback slot in 2021.

The Position: Quarterback
On the Roster: Sam Darnold, James Morgan
Free Agents: Joe Flacco
Reserve/Future: Mike White

When will green smoke arise from One Jets Drive?

The New York Jets are once again pondering its future at the franchise quarterback slot, as a potentially turbulent stretch awaits. Many still have hope in the potential of Sam Darnold, but new regimes often bring sweeping changes to NFL franchises. The primary quarterback start is often the first spot to undergo a makeover. New York is in the second full year of Joe Douglas’ tenure as general manager, while Robert Saleh is ready to succeed Adam Gase as the head coach.

It’s easy to dismiss the struggles of Darnold as being trapped in a situation far from his own doing. In his three years at the helm, Darnold has eeked out flashes of brilliance despite endless waves of turmoil and turnover. To put things in perspective, only a single Darnold target from Darnold’s rookie season of 2018 was on the Jets roster in this past season, and that one outlier (fellow 2018 draftee Chris Herndon) hasn’t matched the promise shown in his debut campaign. The blocking wall in front of Darnold has seen more names flipped than the departures board at Grand Central Terminal. Long-term options in each spot have appeared to present themselves through Denzel Mims and Mekhi Becton respectively but with so many attractive names through both free agency and the draft presenting themselves, the temptation to start over might prove too great. Darnold’s early misfortunes when it comes to injuries also may not work in his favor, as he has yet to play a full NFL season.

In his opening statements as Jets head coach, Saleh praised Darnold repeatedly, noting the difficulty in scouting him when his former compatriots came to New York for a September tilt earlier this season. But, nothing the gap between winter and training camp, Saleh did leave the door open to change.

“He’s got an unbelievable arm talent. There’s a reason why he was the number three pick in the draft. He’s fearless in the pocket, he’s got a natural throwing motion, he’s mobile, he’s extremely intelligent, and he’s tough as nails,” Saleh said in video provided by the Jets. “We’re just getting the (coaching) staff into the building, so there’s so many things that we have to do from an evaluation standpoint with regards to the entire roster, not just at quarterback. To give you that answer right now would not be fair.”

Also under contract for the Jets is fourth-round pick James Morgan, who did not dress in any games last season.

Free Agents-to-be

Joe Flacco

The former Super Bowl MVP did a respectable job in four starts in substitute duties, throwing for 848 yards and six touchdowns. His Total Quarterback Rating, calculated by ESPN, of 57.9 was his best since 2014.

While Flacco could be brought back as a veteran mentor and backup to Darnold or the new, younger franchise man, the former Super Bowl MVP hinted that he believes he can still be a consistent NFL starter.

“I obviously still believe that I’m a starting quarterback,” Flacco said in May, per Andy Vazquez. “You never know what three years down the line is going to look like, so I still have that confidence and I still have the want, the want to to do that. But at this moment, that’s not my role.”

Will They Draft?

It’s very possible, depending on how the free agency market shakes out. Falling out of the top spot of the draft no longer seems like a tragedy it was made out to be after the College Football Playoff, particularly during its Sugar Bowl leg. Ohio State thrower Justin Fields outplayed presumed top choice Trevor Lawrence en route to a 49-28 victory, leaving the first choosers in Jacksonville a big decision to make while the Jets can swoop in and take who’s left. Of course, if the Jets land one of the names below, drafting a quarterback would be null and void.

If the Jets do decide to stick with Darnold, it’s possible they could use one of their day two picks (owning an extra through the Jamal Adams trade with Seattle) on a quarterback to raise the heat on the incumbent. Options in a relatively deep class could include Kyle Trask and Mac Jones.

Veteran Possibilities

Deshaun Watson, Houston

Not even the chase for the Super Bowl could derail the hype around Watson and his potential next destination. Things hit a green fever pitch over the weekend when Watson reportedly declared that New York would be his ideal destination. Saleh celebrant Richard Sherman has done nothing to dispel the rumors, joining Cris Collinsworth’s podcast to encourage Watson to get to the metropolitan area. It speaks volumes that Watson, who has also reportedly expressed interest in working with Saleh, would be willing to come to a team that is potentially rebuilding.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit

Over the weekend, ESPN Adam Schefter reported that Stafford and the Lions appear headed toward a divorce. The Jets, again, have the cap space to work with a big contract like Stafford’s, but, like Watson, it wouldn’t be fair to subject him to the franchise the way it is now…there is no Calvin Johnson on this team, at least at the moment. But since the Jets have the assets to work with, it would almost be foolish to not consider the possibility.

Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis 

Would the Jets be better off with a placeholder quarterback of sorts as they seek to regain their NFL footing? There are few better options than Brissett if they opted to go that route. Brissett faces a bit of a crossroads in his career, in that he could fight to regain the starting position with the Colts now that Phillip Rivers has retired, or seek a new opportunity elsewhere. He did a solid job stepping for Andrew Luck upon the latter’s sudden retirement and later developed a slight niche for coming in on short-yardage or deep-ball situations.

Outlook

It seems safe to assume that the Jets’ quarterback situation will be different going into the 2021 campaign, whether it’s at the top or in terms of understudies. If prior regime changes across the NFL are any indicator, it seems that the Jets will indeed move on from Darnold, with the only question being whether it comes through the draft or free agency.

Opting to find a new franchise man through the draft might be a conservative but far more affordable option. Adding a name like Deshaun Watson to New York sounds like a lot of fun and the Jets have plenty of assets through draft picks and cap space to negotiate with. But the fact of the matter is that the Jets have many, many holes to fill beyond the quarterback spot…which, in the eyes of some, may not need to be filled in the first place. If there’s little left to spend to fill the other holes, then a player like Watson or Matthew Stafford would be no better off than when they started.

To spend a majority of the offseason budget on a single big-ticket item wouldn’t be smart. There’s time, however, to make the situation more attractive to an incoming rookie quarterback by parceling those assets through building blocking help and more weaponry.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: 9 quotes from Robert Saleh (and what they could mean)

New York Jets, Robert Saleh

Robert Saleh made his first appearance as the New York Jets’ head coach on Thursday. ESM has the big takeaways.

A new era officially dawned for the New York Jets on Thursday, as Robert Saleh made his first public appearance as the head coach of the New York Jets. Saleh appeared alongside Jets CEO and chairman Christopher Johnson and general manager Joe Douglas to make his first statements as New York’s green football boss.

“When we met with Robert (Saleh), I was struck by his presence,” Johnson said, per video provided by the Jets. “He displayed an ability to engage with us in a virtual interview. He also clearly communicated a vision of this team that aligns with ours. When we met in person, it validated everything we believed following our initial meeting. Robert has shown through his journey here that he is a leader, one that will engage the entire team and will partner with Joe (Douglas) to continue building the culture of a winning organization.”

What can we gather and glean from Saleh’s first statements at the helm? ESM has the big takeaways from his first showing under the New York spotlight…

“For our organization, get used to the mantra, “All gas, no brake.” When we talk about, “All gas, no break,” we’re not talking about effort on the field, we’re talking about the process at which we do things. We’re talking about the way we prepare, the way we wake up every single morning, the way we rehab, the way we communicate, the way we speak to one another. 

What It Could Mean: Had it not been for Dan Campbell’s propensity for devouring kneecaps in Detroit, Saleh’s “All gas no brake” mantra could’ve been the quote of the day. These words from Saleh show he has little interest in a lengthy rebuild. It’s a tough love mindset that exudes a sense of intensity without taking to the extreme, almost absurd, lengths Campbell went to in his opening presser with the Lions. Saleh appears to be searching for intense competitors high in character and intensity, but without the baggage of say, a Gregg Williams. That process has begun with surrounding himself with familiar faces from his days in San Francisco, including Mike LaFleur and Miles Austin, each of whom will help oversee the offense.

To our fans, we embrace your passion, we embrace your expectations. We cannot wait to go on this journey with you. Please understand, we understand that we have a lot of work to do. But make no mistake that our goal is to win championships. And so again, I cannot wait to get through this journey with all of y’all. It’s going to be an exciting time, and I promise that you’re going to love what y’all see.

What It Could Mean: In other words…be patient. We’re only at the start of the NFL offseason…heck, it technically hasn’t begun yet with three games to go on the playoff docket…but it’s difficult to imagine the Jets will be able to make enough changes to re-enter the AFC playoff picture in 2021. Saleh’s gentle welcome back to the fans, however, is a decent sign of goodwill and will likely attract a few who might’ve been on the fence about his hire.

“When you look at the plan and what we have in place with regards to scheme, offense, defense, special teams and the mindset at which we’re going to do it, there’s an investment that’s going to be made to one another – coaches to players, players to coaches, organization to everybody – and there’s an investment that’s going to be reciprocated. But understanding that the all gas, no brake mentality that we’re going to have with how we wake up in the morning, how we rehab, how we prepare for meetings, how we take the practice field, how we’re deliberate in everything we do will lead to the results that you’ll see on Sunday. It will take time, but everything we do is going to be designed to win championships in the future.”

What It Could Mean: The Adam Gase era was likely the furthest thing from Saleh’s mind on Thursday, but it doesn’t take much stretching to see this as a bit of a jab at the environment his predecessor created in New York. Enough has been written about the phenomenon of Gase’s former proteges going on to find success away from his watch, but his negative effects were highlighted with former Jets receiver Robby Anderson admitted he was “was losing (his) love for football” in New York without mentioning Gase’s name. Gase’s strained relationships with Jamal Adams and Le’Veon Bell were also frequent talking points and led to each star’s respective departure. Saleh seems to have relative open-door endeavors in mind, seeking to make sure each player is used to the best of his abilities with a matter of respect involved. The theme of reciprocation was a strong buzzword in Saleh’s debut, as he brought it up in three separate discourses.

“What I can tell you with regards to Sam (Darnold) is that he’s got an unbelievable arm talent. There’s a reason why he was the number three pick in the draft. He’s fearless in the pocket, he’s got a natural throwing motion, he’s mobile, he’s extremely intelligent and he’s tough as nails. His reputation in the locker room is unquestioned, so just that in general, there’s a reason why he was the third pick in the draft and you can see all those qualities on tape and around the building and the way people speak about him.”

What It Could Mean: It was perhaps too much to ask for Saleh to have a concrete answer about Sam Darnold’s future on Thursday, as he said things were “premature” when it came to such an effort. But there seemed to be a hint of moving on to his comments, especially in his references to game-planning for Darnold and hyping his status as the third overall pick of the 2018 draft. It’s early in the process, but the non-commitment, necessary as it may be in a debut press conference, is only going to fuel speculation.

“With regards to a collaboration mindset, with regards to our communication with Joe and his staff – whether or not, who has control, all those different titles, what’s been made clear is that Joe and his staff want to be collaborative and they want to communicate at all levels. So, every conversation that’s had obviously with the staff and with Joe’s staff, there’s going to be a lot of discussions, there’s going to be a lot of different things are talked about. So, obviously Joe will always have final say, but I really see it in the way he’s communicating. I think when you communicate at the level that we have here, who has final say is irrelevant.”

What It Could Mean: In another, likely unintentional, jab at Gase, Saleh has dedicated himself to a working relationship with both Douglas and Johnson. This would contrast the brief, icy relationship Gase had with Mike Maccagnan, as their power struggle led to the latter’s post-draft firing in 2019. It’s safe to say that Saleh is looking for smoother relations this time around. He has also made it clear that while it appears that Douglas will have the final say in roster decisions, a system has been presented to him where having the final say would prove merely symbolic.

“I do believe that there’s a lot of talent on this roster. How those different pieces fit to the schemes that we’re about to deploy is going to be decided here in the coming weeks, but like I said, there’s a collaborative effort being made, obviously starting with Christopher Johnson and how he wants things to be run.”

What It Could Mean: While there’s no doubt that change is coming to the New York Jets, the fact that Saleh pointed out that he likes some of the names on the current ledger is intriguing. After all, one of the most common complaints of the Gase era was that he was unable to help holdovers from Bowles’ tenure reach the next level of their developments. The Jets’ defense is full of strong potential, including safety Marcus Maye, who took on a strong leadership role after Adams was shipped to Seattle. Those seeking to take that next step could be inspired to stay since Saleh appears to allow for some turnover from the team’s prior incarnation.

“I’m not going to be handling play calling duties on defense, got the utmost respect and confidence in Jeff Ulbrich to be able to do that…This is an organization that has to work locked in arms and work together and to ensure that the messaging and the way we want things done all the way across the board is there and maintaining that connection throughout, whether it’s offense, defense, special teams, business to football, somehow, some way, everyone’s got to find their connection to the player and with the mindset that we’re going to get these guys better every single day. And to be able to have that focus and ensure that the entire organization is moving in the direction that we want, I won’t be calling plays.”

What It Could Mean: The Jets announced the hiring of former San Francisco linebacker Jeff Ulbrich as defensive coordinator shortly before Saleh took to the podium. He got one of the brightest burning questions out of the way fast, announcing that Ulbrich will be calling plays on defense. It’s a bit of an early risk…the Atlanta Falcons let up over 398 yards a game in Ulbrich’s first and only seasons as a coordinator…but it shows that Saleh is willing to be hands-on in every facet of the game. That’s especially promising considering the prior season showed that nearly every major position is in desperate need of guidance.

“I’m going to be like me. And that was a challenge that Pete (Carroll) gave us when we were young assistance, was it’s easy to pick from different people and try to emulate what different people are, but in moments of adversity, your true character will always reveal itself. And so, the challenge was to identify with yourself and be who you are first because then when adversity hits, your authenticity will shine. And so, to tell you who you’re going to get, you’re going to get me. And this entire organization and what we’re going to try to get done is to be designed to win championships.”

What It Could Mean: Jets history has maintained an antiquated sense of “finding the next ____________”. They’ve been searching for the next Joe Namath ever since the legendary thrower fulfilled his promise at the Orange Bowl in Super Bowl III. Any slot receiver from a small school blessed with a catch has to endure Wayne Chrebet comparisons. Adams got out of New Jersey just before the Darrelle Revis analogies popped up. Saleh, however, is seeking to start completely fresh. He certainly thanked those that helped him get to where he is now…Carroll, Kyle Shanahan, Kris Richard, among others…but he’s not interested in being a new, say, Bill Parcells or Weeb Eubank. He wants to be the first Robert Saleh, a unique coach that leaves his own mark on New York. Saleh even mentioned in an earlier response that the perception of the Jets was “unfair, clearly”. Time will tell if Saleh can make that mark.

 “Players really want two things from a coach, I’ve always felt this way, one, they want to know that you care about their wellbeing, everyone says it’s a business, I get it, but it’s not, this is a personal investment to people. And the most important people are the ones who strap up on game day and step between the lines. And obviously, can you help them make plays on Sundays so they can get paid as much as possible and that is the goal of every single coach and everybody who has some type of impact on the players or has a connection to the players and that is going to be the goal of this entire organization, is to make sure we do everything we can to connect to their wellbeing and to help them make plays on Sunday so they get paid as much as possible. When you look at the connection part with these players, there’s an investment that has to be made, you got to sell everything you can, you got to give them everything you can and when you do, like I said, the reciprocation happens and when it does, it becomes personal, and that’s all you can ask for, to get this to a personal level where everybody’s has everybody’s back and everybody feels accountable to one another.”

What It Could Mean: The year 2020 was a year of reflection and reckoning, and the sports world was no exception to the phenomenon. Participants made it clear that they were human, not emotionless athletic machines, a realization many should’ve probably realized long ago. It’s great to see that Saleh understand such a concept. This is a coach that appears to truly care for his players in the early going, and that’s only going to make the Jets a better team. New York is a team that desperately needs unity after the Gase era left so many hurt feelings. When Bowles was let go after 2018, there was a true sense that players were not only losing a teacher but a friend as well. When Gase was hired, the strongest cheerleaders were perhaps the hot take artists like Colin Cowherd. But with Saleh, the tones of player appreciation have been on display ever since he was first connected to the Jets. Richard Sherman, one of his pupils in San Francisco, immediately sang his praises, as did Quinnen Williams. Getting these strong vibes of camaraderie back into the organization would go a long way, and it appears Saleh has started that process

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: The case against Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson, New York Giants

The idea of Deshaun Watson moving to the New York Jets sounds too good to be true. That’s because, frankly…it is.

Somehow, someway, the Houston Texans…a team blessed with the talents of one of the most recognizable names in football on each side of the ball, winners of four of the last six AFC South titles…managed to become a more toxic gridiron wasteland than the New York Jets.

To paraphrase the great Ron Burgundy, one can’t even be mad. It’s amazing.

The biggest story outside of the NFL playoff picture by far is the fate of Watson, the beleaguered franchise quarterback. No playoff games await Watson, but he is apparently nonetheless on a mission this postseason: to get out of Houston as fast as possible. It’s a liberation that has been brewing for some time and the rumbling has only intensified upon the end of the Texans’ 4-12 season. Adam Schefter of ESPN brought things to a fever pitch through a report that strongly indicated that Watson “has played his last snap for the team”.

Despite the lack of a formal trade request (and the prescience of the no-trade clause in his contract), Watson has been linked to several of his non-playoff brethren, including the Jets. The sleuths of Instagram took notice of one of Watson’s recent “likes”, one featuring potentially the first of many punny headlines from the New York Post. Richard Sherman, a noted fan of new Jets boss Robert Saleh, advised Watson to “head to New York” on Cris Collinsworth’s podcast. Video has surfaced of Watson purchasing a car his associates wanting it painted “jet green”.

From a Jets standpoint, all the pieces appear to align in their favor. The light at the end of their two-win tunnel was the second overall pick in April’s draft, a pick the Texans desperately need after shipping their own first rounder (which became the pick right after New York’s) to Miami. That more than likely won’t be enough to satisfy the Texans (who likely won’t be appearing in Wid Card Saturday’s afternoon slot anytime soon), but the Jets have the picks to atone for it, including guaranteed first-rounders from Seattle via the Jamal Adams trade. Assets beyond picks could include contributors under contract that might become salary cap casualties anyway…talented names like Jamison Crowder and Henry Anderson that could potentially save the Jets a pick. Thier cap space is already pretty attractive as is; entering the 2021 offseason, the Jets have just over $65 million to spend, behind only Jacksonville ($73 million).

The Jets have been looking for a lasting franchise quarterback after since Joe Namath took his final green snaps in 1976. False prophets have come and gone, but a name like Watson, only starting to tap into his true potential and power, could give the Jets long-term assurance and stability at arguably the most important position in all of sports.

If all of this sounds too good to be true…especially when it comes to a franchise as star-crossed as the Jets…that’s because, frankly, it probably is. A union between Watson and the Jets wouldn’t be fair to either side, tantalizing as it may be.

For Watson, a New York collaboration wouldn’t be much different from his current situation in Houston…except it would be a lot colder. From a Jets’ standpoint, there would little separate a potential era of Watson from the Sam Darnold saga. The way the team is constructed now, there would be plenty of instances of Watson running for his life, and this would be after he led the league in passing yardage despite being brought down 49 times with the Texans (third-worst in football). Watson’s mobile talents would perhaps spare him some of the carnage, but likely nothing where he would be able to make a meaningful difference in the Jets’ offense, one that finished at or near the bottom of most major statistical categories.

To the Jets’ credit, namely general manager Joe Douglas’, they’re starting to making sensible, rational, if not conservative, decisions with their offensive roster. In his first draft last spring, Douglas bypassed the name-brand receiving talent to take tackle Mekhi Becton. Not only did Becton turn out to be one of the brightest emergences of the 2020 rookie class, but Douglas was also able to earn a big-play receiver in Denzel Mims in the second round. There’s also plenty of time between now and Week 1 of a hopefully normal 2021 season…heck, there’s plenty of time even before the draft…for Douglas, Saleh, and the Jets to stock up and become more attractive to a new franchise quarterback, whether it’s Watson, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields. There’s no guarantee they’ll even move on from Darnold, who has reportedly caught the eye of both Saleh and his reported new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur.

Unfortunately for Douglas, however, his debut veteran acquisition class left much to be desired, riddled with names that were plagued by injuries (Bradley McDougald, Greg Van Roten), inconsistency (Connor McGovern, Pierre Desir), or both (Breshad Perriman). Adding Watson is the type of move a team makes when they’re the proverbial “one move away” from the Super Bowl. If the Adam Gase era proved anything, it’s that the Jets are many, many moves away from a mere playoff berth, much less the Big Game.

The Jets needed to use every asset, every piece of roster capital they have to end this cycle of rebuilding. Dedicating a majority of those resources, be it picks, be it cap space, to Watson and his contract (which includes a $40 million cap hit next year) would be reckless spending, using excess fund to plug one hole when there are many, many, many holes to be filled. Bringing Watson in would sell jerseys, but it wouldn’t necessarily lead to wins.

Modern NFL endeavors have provided countless examples of such irresponsible spending. The Jets’ MetLife Stadium co-tenants, for example, were on the verge of something at least entertaining at the end of the 2016-17 season. In the first year of their post-Tom Coughlin endeavors, the New York Giants won 11 games and showcased six All-Pro men on their roster. Their season ended in a listless 38-13 Wild Card playoff loss in Green Bay, but hope was on the horizon, manifested in several high-profile transactions. Big Blue welcomed in receiver Brandon Marshall to work alongside Odell Beckham Jr. They used their first-round pick on tight end Evan Engram, an Ole Miss alum to gear up fellow former Rebel Eli Manning for one last run to glory. Later in the draft, the Giants took Davis Webb in the third round, perhaps the most serious they had come to seeking an heir to the Manning throne. The team also re-upped with fan favorite pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul to the tune of a four-year contract with $40 million guaranteed.

But in their marquee spending, the Giants failed to account for some of more dour problems hidden on their roster, namely the offensive line. The Giants did little, if anything, to upgrade their line, letting reliable veterans like Andrew Whitworth fall by the wayside. Cursed with little to no blocking help, the Giants sputtered to a brutal 3-13 season and fell down a hole they have yet to emerge from. Beckham has since been traded, and there is little left from the promising 2016 campaign.

The story of the modern Giants and so many other “offseason champions” in the NFL serve as cautionary tales to active Super Bowl seekers. A house renovation could serve as a strong parable to what the Jets are going through at this moment. Bringing in Watson would be a high-profile purchase, immediately spending a windfall on, say, a luxury vehicle or swimming pool. However, doing so would ignore more grimy, subtle problems in the house that could bring the entire structure down…mold damage in the basement, perhaps. Even if the Jets admit that Darnold isn’t the answer, there are still situations to resolve, such as their porous blocking, uncertain rungame situation, and lack of offensive weapons and defensive depth. Filling every blank with Watson isn’t going to work, no matter how hard the Jets try. The Texans have tried doing that with Watson and J.J. Watt…chaos has enused.

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It seems hard for Jets fans to believe, but that’s the cruelly funny thing about life in the NFL: there’s no situation, no matter how dire, where things can’t actively get worse. The Jets have been blessed with a plethora of offseason capital through multiple draft picks and excess cap space. To cash it all in on one big-ticket player would be reckless.

Another reason why Watson’s potential New York arrival sounds so promising is because not only has he made an impact on the field, but he continues to be a vital prescience off of it as well. Watson has made it clear he wants to use his voice for good as Americans seek an end to systemic racism and he has also come through for Houston medical staffers fighting the ongoing health crisis. Bringing in a high-character superstar would be the perfect way to open a new Jets era, one that could allow them to shatter the losing status quo that New York football has become far-too-accustomed to. Watson’s rumored eagerness to join a two-win team bearing what’s by far the longest playoff drought in the NFL (10 seasons) speaks volumes as well, signifying a welcome counter to the concept of “ring-chasing” that has spread throughout the major professional sports leagues.

But to ask Watson to come to New York and become a lone, instant fixer-upper…which is essentially what he would be if the Jets bestow all of their offseason funding unto him…when he’s on the precipice of entering his prime is a little too much to ask for. A more established contender, a Miami, an Indianapolis, would be better for a player of his talents. If the Jets truly want to make a change at quarterback, they would be far better off using their cap space to create a more attractive environment for a rookie quarterback, or even build around Darnold if Saleh and LaFleur are impressed enough to keep him around.

This is a new, exciting time to take an interest in the New York Jets…it’s so rare to say that. While there’s a chance that Douglas could make the Watson revolution work, it’s best, for the time being, to avoid temptation. It’s never good to use an “all for one” mentality…the assets, an “all for all” situation, would be better spent on many helpers, never mind just one, showstopping as he may be.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Should the New York Jets look toward a “stopgap” QB in 2021?

The New York Jets have decisions to make at quarterback. A stopgap can provide welcome stability if they move on from Sam Darnold.

Well-meaning parents who purchased their children New York Jets jerseys bearing Trevor Lawrence’s name for the December holidays have some explaining to do.

The Jets’ endeavor for Trevor is more than likely over after Sunday, as a combination of a New York win and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 14th consecutive defeat sent the top overall pick in this spring’s draft to Duval County. Considering the Jaguars (1-14) opted to play Mike Glennon in place of Gardner Minshew for their 41-17 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Bears, it’s more or less assured that they’re planning to select the Clemson thrower set to partake in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on Friday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Even if the Jets (2-13) landed the top overall choice…a scenario rendered impossible by their pair of December wins and the strength of schedule tiebreaker…there was going to be debate over whether they should use it on Lawrence or entrust another year to incumbent starter Sam Darnold. With nearly three stanzas completed, the narrative of Darnold’s New York saga is a complicated one. It has been defined by the occasional flash of brilliance too often countered with head-scratching decisions on the field. The story has also been interrupted by calamities that are either an unfortunate part of the game (injuries) or something most go quarterbacks go through their whole career without seeing (mononucleosis). Missing four games with a shoulder ailment hasn’t helped, but Darnold is on pace to set new career lows in most major passing categories, including yards (currently at 1,942) and touchdown passes (8).

 Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY NETWORK

Countless amounts of turnover have like played a role in Darnold’s lack of progress. His crucial developmental years have been staged in not only the Todd Bowles-to-Adam Gase staff transition, but the general manager swap from Mike Maccagnan to Joe Douglas. Nothing drives the point of unstable turnover than the fact that no receiver (with the exception of tight end Chris Herndon) from Darnold’s rookie campaign (2018) remains on the current Jets’ roster. The Jets may be ready to make yet another coaching change with Gase’s win percentage (.290) besting only Rich Kotite amongst green head coaches with at least one full year at the helm.

Tempting as it may be to see what Darnold could do with a new coaching staff (provided Gase is indeed dealt his walking papers), a legal separation, one perhaps involving a trade for draft picks, may be the best for all parties involved. The Jets don’t have time to help pen anyone else’s redemption story…they’ve spent a decade trying to write their own…and Darnold deserves a place that isn’t relying on him to be a one-size-fits-all solution.

If 2020 has proven anything, it’s that the Jets are far removed from being “a quarterback away’ from mere relevancy, much less the Super Bowl. This is a team with many needs, and it’s not fair to Darnold, Lawrence, or an unknown, young third party to expect them to be the savior sought since Joe Namath hung up his green and white paraphernalia for the last time. Even if the Jets are poised to miss out on Lawrence, the 2021 draft has provided solid consolation prizes in the form of Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, and Kyle Trask.

But what if the Jets took a year off from the franchise quarterback process?

Such a concept has been on the rise in recent years, the phenomenon informally labeled as using a “stopgap” quarterback. Through this endeavor, a talented quarterback helps the team in question keep rolling while other needs are addressed and developed.

The stopgap, as his name implies, is not meant to be the starter for any extended period of time. Rather, they arise out of necessity or in case of emergency. Oftentimes, the stopgap is called upon to clean up the mess or void a retired or departing franchise quarterback left behind. Modern examples on the 2020 circuit include Phillip Rivers in Indianapolis and Cam Newton in New England. Sometines, the stopgap manages to extend his stay. Modern Tom Brady could arguably be seen as a stopgap in Tampa Bay, as the Buccaneers sought his services to capitalize on a strong team around him in plans to make the most of a window of contentions. The Tennessee Titans perhaps envisioned Ryan Tannehill, fresh off a polarizing stint as Miami’s franchise man, as a temporary solution when they pulled the plug on the Marcus Mariota experiment. Tannehill helped guide the Titans to a pair of surprise playoffs wins and was rewarded with the Comeback Player of the Year Award and a four-extension.

A similar plan could work out for the Jets, a team working on a playoff game drought that’s older than all but two movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The most important thing the Jets need right now is stability. They’re a team venturing off the football rails, where even a mere winning record has proven elusive. This is a squad that needs to get back to a place where a win isn’t the worst thing that can happen to the franchise, as many have declared after the Jets stole wins from playoff contenders in Los Angeles and Cleveland. This isn’t a scenario like the Indianapolis Colts had in 2012, when Andrew Luck turned a two-win squad into a playoff team. The Jets don’t have a plethora of reliable veterans to help the kid, unlike Indianapolis’ haul of Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and Adam Vinatieri, among others.

There’s a light at the end of the green tunnel in the form of 2021 cap space. The Jets’ offseason bank currently stands at just over $81 million, once again trailing only Jacksonville. This season, particularly a strong December, has yielded some potential building blocks (Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mims, Quinnen Williams, Marcus Maye among them), but the Jets are far from a completed project. They still need blocking and weaponry on offense while the defense needs help in the secondary. The pass rush also needs to be bolstered with matchups against Josh Allen on the horizon for the next decade, and their kicking situation needs clarity. It’s not fair to waste further development on Darnold on a situation like this, nor is this any condition in which to subject a top overall pick. As the Jets try to find their footing, a stopgap man could work wonders. A short-term deal is feasible in this cap space surplus, filling one need while diverting attention to more long-term goals. Draft picks obtained from a potential trade of Darnold can be used to net weaponry that can be overseen by a proven throwing option.

Whereas the draft class may loaded with franchise potential, 2021’s free agency class is laden with stopgap potential. Jacoby Brissett had a strong showing in filling the gap between Luck and Rivers last season and would potentially seek a new chance to return to starting duties. Andy Dalton has kept the Dallas Cowboys in contention for the NFC East title since taking over for the injured Dak Prescott. The Jets may even have a stopgap option on their roster in the form of Joe Flacco. Super Bowl XLVII’s MVP may be facing the twilight of his career, but showed that he did have some gas left in the tank while filling in for an injured Darnold earlier this season.

The Jets’ most recent glory days…or the closest thing resembling them in this dreary decade…have come with stopgap guys under center. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 2015 season appears at or near the top of nearly every single-season passing record in the Jets’ record book. Fitzpatrick (as well as fellow free-agent-to-be Tyrod Taylor, who helped end the Buffalo Bills’ eternal playoff drought before Josh Allen arrived) has nearly made a career out of the concept and currently serves in such a capacity in Miami on a part-time basis as they bide their time with Tua Tagovailoa.

 [ALLEN EYESTONE/The Palm Beach Post]
Two years later, Josh McCown kept the Jets competitive in a year some expected them to go winless. The final ledger read 5-11, but McCown’s brief restablization kept them in ball games.

Of course, the Jets have plenty of time to rectify their current surroundings to make them more desireable to an incoming franchise quarterback. If offseason funds are spent wisely (i.e. adding a strong receiving talent like Allen Robinson or JuJu Smith-Schuster), the idea of a stopgap man could seem almost laughable. For all we know, Darnold could emerge to pilot his fourth straight kickoff weekend for the Jets, hopefully one packed to the brim with fans this time around. But the stopgap conversation is one the Jets shouldn’t ignore this offseason.

Whatever the Jets have been trying in the franchise quarterback department, it’s clearly not working. Maybe some change would do them some good…if only temporarily.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Have these victorious final hours saved Adam Gase?

The New York Jets have banded together to compete in the final stanza. This effort can save some players…but not this doomed staff.

If this keeps up, the New York Jets might be able to win the NFC East.

Alas, even the woebegone division, one that will undoubtedly put a team with a losing record in the playoffs after Sunday’s transpirings, would be too far out of the Jets’ reach in a surprising team swap. But Gang Green has spent December providing some holiday cheer in the form of consecutive victories at the end of the NFL season. Each win has come against a team in the thick of the NFL playoff hunt. The Jets (2-13) stole a tilt at SoFi Stadium against the Los Angles Rams (9-6) last weekend before topping the Cleveland Browns (10-5) in this season’s MetLife Stadium finale two days after Christmas.

The triumphs themselves have proved controversial amongst the fanbase. New York’s endeavor for Trevor Lawrence is officially dead after the win over Cleveland, as the Clemson quarterback appears to be headed for Jacksonville after Duval County endured its 14th consecutive loss while the Jets put a Christmas bow on their win over the Browns. The fact the Jets are etched into what will presumably be the first non-Lawrence pick is of little consolation to supporters of the metropolitan green squad.

Those responsible for the on-field triumphs have heeded no mind to those calling for losses, only energized by the past couple of weeks.

“It proves that we don’t quit,” linebacker Tarell Basham, a Sunday hero with two forced fumbles over the final four minutes, said in the aftermath according to an Associated Press report. “It proves that we still are approaching every week to win.”

“We’ve been more consistent, but obviously it’s too late,” quarterback Sam Darnold added in team reporter Jack Bell’s recap. “But it’s huge for our guys who are so resilient playing the way we did as an offense struggling in the second half. The defense and specials having our back. I’m super proud of the guys. We had a huge win in LA last week then came into work on Monday, the whole week and had a good week.”

In an effort to exorcise the demons 2020 has brought forth, football or otherwise, the box scores from the last two weeks are probably set for incineration, along with the rest of the ledgers of this cursed year. But it’s certainly encouraging to see the players band together and play well against what is clearly superior competition.

The Jets have pulled no punches when it comes to expressing their thoughts about supposed fans wishing active harm against the team. Seeing their hard efforts culminate it what has been a strong December…each game of their Christmas quartet has been close with the exception of a 40-3 shellacking in Seattle…is inspiring. All across the roster, participants could well be securing NFL futures in either New York or one of the other 31 markets.

But, in the midst of celebration, it’s worth wondering…have these unexpected triumphs breathed new life into the Adam Gase era?

New York Jets, Adam Gase
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Gase’s tenure as Jets head coach, however long it remains, could well become defined by ill-advised victories. Time will potentially tell just how much a 7-2 stretch at the end of his debut season, one that followed a garish 1-7 start, altered the course of Jets history. The strong finish gained mostly against teams somehow in even more dire straits than the Jets was enough to convince the powers that be that Gase was the right man for the job. His 2020 performance has consistently proven otherwise.

Yet, even as the Jets threatened to join an unholy trinity of 16-game imperfection with the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns, Gase’s departure somehow felt anything but certain. After all, several names with football resumes far more expansive than Gase’s were bid farewell before a change in head coaching was apparently considered. Veteran defensive starters Steve McLendon and Avery Williamson were dealt for day three draft picks. Le’Veon Bell was outright released. It took highly publicized bad call for Gregg Williams to be handed an ousting less than 24 hours later. All the while, Gase remained in charge, making increasingly questionable decisions that didn’t exactly fuel the idea that the Jets were trying to win ball games.

The wins over teams of a playoff caliber may be reopening the case for Gase. Even some of the Jets’ recent defeats have show a sense of honor, with four of their prior seven losses coming by one possession. Darnold even remarked after the Cleveland win that he “(loved) working for him”, per Connor Hughes of The Athletic.

But if Gase is back coaching the team in 2021 even in part thanks to this last stretch, that says more about New York management than it ever will about the former Peyton Manning overseer.

For one thing, future discussions of these Jets victories may require asterisks. The Rams victory lost a little bit of luster with rookie rusher Cam Akers noticeably sidelined by an injury (not to mention two of his longer runs, including a touchdown, erased by penalties). A positive test for COVID-19 not only delayed the Browns arrival but the ensuing contact tracing forced them to leave a good portion of their receiving output in Ohio. It’s safe to say that the timing of their respective matchups played well in the Jets’ favor.

But hidden behind the final score are subtle signs that the Jets are making the same mistakes that dug them into this hole in the first place. Progress isn’t be made in the right areas. The Jets are winning in spite of their recurring, apparent issues…not because they’ve overcome them.

For example, the Jets offense still hasn’t reached optimal levels of output, especially under a supposed “guru” like Gase. Darnold, for example, hasn’t taken the next step on his journey as an NFL franchise man. He has yet to earn a triple-digit passer rating and has yet to break the 300-yard mark this season. Sure, numbers don’t entirely make or break an NFL quarterback’s career, but there was a reason that Jets fans were so eager to see Lawrence fall into their laps. Speaking of offense, a lack of scoring, particularly the shrinkage as the game goes on, has been concerning from an offensive standpoint. The Jets have had matching, convincing 13-3 leads at halftime in each of their last two games, but have been forced to rely on bailouts from a tired defense to secure each win. This Sunday marked only the fourth time this season the Jets offense has gotten past the 300-yard mark (333). Such a struggle should almost be impossible in this modern NFL ruled by a fantasy football deity.

Additionally, Gase and Co. continue to make baffling decisions that make one question whether the Jets want to truly pull out a victory. The Jets continue to leave points on the field at opportune times of the ball game, whether it’s sending Braden Mann out to punt on a one-yard fourth down circa midfield or continuing to insist on a Frank Gore farewell tour while Ty Johnson and La’Mical Perine watch. Not only does it affect the Jets’ task at hand, but it throws a wrench into their future as well. One can argue that Johnson and Perine aren’t cut out for a New York future, but the evidence will never be present if they’re not getting some of Gore’s workload in a dire situation.

A purge is indeed coming to the New York Jets. Part of it will be enforced by contractual endeavors…the Jets will have 32 players up for free agency this offseason…but necessity will be the primary factor. At no point in Gase’s tenure have the Jets come remotely close to resembling a contender in the modern NFL. Not even the good times, whether it was the optimistic second half of last season or this new, active winning streak, have given much hope, as fans have grumbled about falling down in the draft order rather than relatively upward in the standings. With rare exception, players have not been put in a strong position to succeed, to extend whatever good times have surfaced over the past few seasons. Those shortcomings, still very much present despite new results on the scoreboard, primarily fall on Gase and his staff with little exception (i.e. special teams boss Brant Boyer).

At the end of the day, those who thrust the Jets into a bizarro football world where victories are considered to be the worst thing that can happen to the franchise should be the first ones held accountable when the purge inevitably comes. Two wins don’t change the fact that Gase is the main culprit.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The New York Jets won a game…and that’s completely fine

The New York Jets committed a mortal football sin on Sunday: a win in Los Angeles. But Gang Green has nothing to apologize for.

Christmas morning came about five days early for New York Jets fans.

Week 15 action saw two of their wildest fantasies become a reality, a pair of gifts that would generate a reaction forever immortalized in home movies. The early window of Sunday action saw the New England Patriots’ postseason streak finally end in a loss in Miami. On the other side of the country, the Jets perhaps prompted toasts of Zima amongst members of the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns. Their 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams…a team in legitimate contention for an NFL postseason spot…ended a franchise-worst 13-game losing streak and helped the Jets avoid 16-game imperfection.

For Jets fans, topping a team that could well be playing into February after watching the Patriots get erased from the playoff picture could’ve created rare tidings of comfort and joy. It was a feeling of watching your worst enemy have his gift of a PlayStation 5 taken away, but not before you get to use it for a couple of hours.

But, this being the year 2020 A.D., the sweetest of Sunday feelings, denied to the green New York fandom until the penultimate week of this cursed 366-day process, was viewed as the worst thing that could happen to an already star-crossed franchise.

The Jets’ victory in Los Angeles proved to be, in the eyes of some fans, an early Festivus miracle, as their feat of strength set off an airing of grievances unlike any other. Their triumph came at a price, the charge being lost real estate on the draft board in Cleveland. New York’s name now appears in the second slot, behind only the Jacksonville Jaguars, their compatriot in the brotherhood of 1-13 ledgers. Creating the imperfect, unholy trinity with the Lions and Browns has been no concern to the Jaguars, who have lost 13 in a row after winning on opening day. Their latest defeat was a listless 40-14 showing in Baltimore and they certainly won’t be favored in their final contests against Chicago and Indianapolis, each of whom harbors playoff dreams (the latter game could help the Colts win the AFC South). Jacksonville holds the tiebreaker with a worse strength of schedule.

The fear amongst Jets fans is that Jacksonville now has the inside track for Trevor Lawrence, who perhaps broke the hearts of two green teams in the span of a weekend. Saturday saw the Clemson quarterback solidify his status as the consensus top pick, torching Notre Dame for 412 total yards and three scores in a 34-10 victory in the ACC title game. Jets fans were willing to accept inclusion on the list of winless teams in NFL history in exchange for the glory of Lawrence. Now, Lawrence appears bound for Jacksonville, a five hour drive from Miami, where many believe he and the Tigers will be on January 11 for college football’s national title game.

But…it’s shocking it needs to be said, but hey, it’s 2020…what’s done is done. There’s no use crying over spilled Gatorade. The Jets won a game…and that’s perfectly all right.

Tank the Tank

The notion of tanking is ludicrous in all walks of life, particularly in a profession where you can be one of the 32 best people at your job in the entire world, and observers and supervisors alike will call for your axing.

To their macabre credit, the Jets rarely seemed to buy into the concept. Sure, there have been incidents where they might’ve been better off staying home…the brutal visits to Indianapolis, Miami, and Seattle come to mind…but one can look at the Jets’ 2020 schedule and find instances where, on paper, they should’ve come out with a win. Nothing more needs to be said about the ill-advised final blitz against Las Vegas, but they had control for a majority of prime time contests against Denver and New England. Even their first visit to SoFi Stadium could’ve gone worse, as they played the Chargers to a 34-28 decision.

Members of the modern Jets have been clear where their priorities lie. Spoiler alert, they’re not on the draft board.

“I don’t put my body through this, I don’t think anybody on the Jets puts their body through it, to lose,” offensive lineman McGovern said prior to the departure to Los Angeles, per Greg Joyce of the New York Post. “It might be easy for somebody sitting on the couch, eating pizza, chips, and dip, to say they should keep losing, but if they’ve ever strapped the pads on, that sounds like an impossible thing for me to do. I’m going to do whatever I can to win.”

Mekhi Becton, a rare Jet who has a spot on this roster beyond 2020, advocated that those rooting for losses should turn in their New York fan credentials.

“You ain’t really a fan if you didn’t want us to win, honestly,” Becton told Jeane Coakley of SNY. “I mean that in the nicest way possible. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. But I mean, if you wanted us to lose, you’re not a real fan, honestly.”

Even before the losses began to pile up, the Jets were made up of players who needed to prove their worth to build a long-term NFL future. That was apparent in general manager Joe Douglas’ free agent haul this offseason, where all but one signee (McGovern) was granted a contract worth one year or contained an affordable exit after 2020. To ask these players to toss away their final chances to impress, not only for the Jets but for the 31 other NFL squads as well, for the sake of a “reward” they maybe not even be around to witness is out of touch. For these players, these final hours could be the difference between another NFL paycheck or waiting for the XFL to come back in 2022.

Some of those holdovers are carving spots for themselves on a future roster. Midseason acquisition Ty Johnson earned the first 100-yard rushing game from a Jets rusher against Las Vegas and scored a touchdown on the opening drive against the Rams. Neville Hewitt is working his way toward another New York contract with 122 tackles. One can even point at Sam Darnold’s case as to why the Jets shouldn’t be tanking. He has, from at least a team standpoint, consequence-free opportunities to convince the Jets that he deserves to maintain his hold on the position.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that people will go to great lengths to keep their livelihoods when they’re on the line. The Jets shouldn’t be faulted for doing so in a relatively harmless fashion.

Hold that Tiger

Lawrence mastery on Saturday might’ve been just enough for even the staunchest Jets supporter to consider wearing blue, cream, and yellow in support of the Rams the next day. There’s no doubt that whoever is getting Lawrence is getting an incredible talent on and off the field. His prowess on the gridiron speaks for itself and he became a strong voice of unity and leadership elsewhere. Along with Sugar Bowl opponent and likely fellow first-rounder Justin Fields of Ohio State, Lawrence was an advocate for both societal equality and safely finding a way to play the 2020 college football amidst the ongoing health crisis.

But for all his magic, for all his powers…even Lawrence is not a be-all, end-all, fix-all solution to the New York Jets franchise.

Sure, there’s plenty of time for the Jets to tidy up and make their organization attractive to a sought-after newcomer, be a rookie like Lawrence or a veteran free agent like Allen Robinson or JuJu Smith-Schuster. But it’s going to take a lot of work. The Le’Veon Bell case perhaps set the Jets’ transactional affairs back further than they could’ve imagined. What high-ticket free agent is going to look at the way the Bell situation played out, becoming a saga plagued by infighting amongst the team’s decisionmakers and leading to the post-draft firing of a general manager, and look to replicate that? The Jets certainly have a strong budget to work with (just below $73 million and potentially counting if they cut pricey veterans like Henry Anderson and George Fant), but they’ll need to do a better job building relationships.

At the very least, Douglas has made it clear that he has a plan, leaving traces of his blueprints across his transactions, even if they haven’t fully played out. When the quarterback needed blocking, Douglas traded for Alex Lewis and convinced Ryan Kalil to come out of retirement. With Darnold low on weapons, Douglas signed Breshad Perriman and found a day two gem in Denzel Mims in the draft. Noe everything has panned out on the field…Kalil failed to play up to his Pro Bowl form and Perriman has been inconsistent…but it at least showed that Douglas knew how to chase down a need position.

There’s definitely hope on the horizon. Mims has shown flashes of brilliance despite bouts with injury and Becton has been everything the Jets could’ve asked for. But this group, particularly the offensive line, is very much a work in progress. Putting Lawrence behind the current blocking unit would be only asking for trouble. There’s time to improve between now and the spring, but, if things stay the way they are, the Lawrence era probably wouldn’t be that much different from Darnold’s.

But, contrary to popular belief amongst the pro-tank crowd, the draft does not begin and end once Lawrence’s name is called. At least 224 men will be added to NFL rosters in Cleveland, and the Jets will be choosing quite often. Cincinnati’s shocking win on Monday night over Pittsburgh, perhaps another victory seen as ill-advised by those who wish to tank, ensured that the Jets would choose no later than second overall come April. There’s plenty of other needs that can be immediately satisfied with the No. 2 pick, even if Lawrence is donning a Jaguars cap and jersey. The non-Lawrence quarterback would be well protected with the combined efforts of Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater. He can throw to Ja’Marr Chase or Devonta Smith. The yearly couple against Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa would be easier to bear pass rushers Kwity Paye or Jayson Oweh if they trade down. Others from those positions (i.e. Azeez Ojulari, Wyatt Davis, or Terrace Marshall) could be available when the Jets choose later on day one with Seattle’s pick, obtained from the Jamal Adams trade.

It’s fair to mourn the loss of Lawrence in the early going…and even more so when rewatching the film from Charlotte on Saturday…but it’s a potential loss they can overcome with the right brand of drafting and scouting ingenuity.

New York Jets, Adam Gase
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Change is Still Coming

The Jets might’ve been on the right side of the scoreboard after Sunday’s affair, but there were still plenty of reminders as to why they’re long eliminated from the NFL playoff picture. Inspiring and fun as the win may be…former Super Bowl offensive coordinator and Jets head coach Adam Gase remarked per The Post that “I don’t think I’ve seen a group more excited after a game than what I saw (Sunday) when talking about the postgame reaction…it’d be silly to believe that it’ll serve as the deciding factor as to whether some veterans stay or go.

From a playcalling standpoint, for example, there’s no reason to waste consequence-free games on giving the ball to Frank Gore 23 times a game while Johnson carried it only thrice (returning rookie La’Mical Perine didn’t get any). There was a chance for the Jets to build on a 13-0 lead going into the halftime break, but opted for short runs that allowed Los Angeles to get the ball back and add a triple. The defense took a notable step backward when an injured Quinnen Williams was forced to leave the game, giving up three consecutive scoring drives in the second half.

Another asterisk came in the form of the opponent. Rams rusher Cam Akers, fresh off a career-best 171-yard performance against New England, was affected by an ankle injury they stripped him of his true impact (though two long Akers runs, including a touchdown, were called back due to penalties in the second half). Even if the Jets did buy into tanking, Los Angeles almost wouldn’t allow it. Five of the first six Rams possessions ended in a punt, one of which was blocked by J.T. Hassell. The outlier in that group resulted in a Bryce Hall interception.

So, unless Johnson or Gore helped you win your fantasy football semifinal, only true football die-hards are going to remember this win. Change is still coming with to the Jets. Previews of the purge have been plentiful…just ask Bell, Steve McLendon, Avery Williamson, Pierre Desir, or Gregg Williams…but it should begin in earnest this offseason. If the Jets are truly on the fence about Gase, a December win against an opponent that was clearly not operating at top speed shouldn’t be enough to sway the pendulum back in his favor.

Douglas has a plan, picks, and prosperity through cap space. One win, even at the cost of one potential quarterback, shouldn’t be the force of destruction that upends it all.

It’s rare enough that the Jets earn a thrilling December victory in this day and age. If you’re a fan, you should feel no reservation toward celebrating it.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Aaron Donald has kind words for New York Jets, Sam Darnold

On the cusp of Los Angeles Rams history, Aaron Donald made it clear he’s not taking the New York Jets’ visit lightly.

The holiday season is often meant to be one of glad tidings of comfort and joy. One of the NFL’s most fearsome defenders is fully on board with that concept.

With the holidays come the NFL’s most crucial games, as the calendar inches closer toward the postseason. Aaron Donald’s Los Angeles Rams (9-4) have three such contests remaining. Though their playoff prescience is mostly assured, they’re engaged in a brutal battle for the NFC title with the Seattle Seahawks, a battle that could shift an NFC playoff game from Lumen Field to the Rams’ palatial home of SoFi Stadium.

While the Rams have looked strong at the perfect time, having won three in a row and dismantling the New England Patriots on a national stage last week, they were unable to gain separation from the Seahawks, who crushed the woebegone New York Jets by a 40-3 final last weekend at home. Little more needs to be said about how wayward the Jets’ season has become, but things certainly have a chance to get uglier this weekend. The winless Jets (0-13) will return to the west coast this Sunday to round out their interconference slate in Inglewood (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox). 

Los Angeles would almost have every right to take the Jets lightly, especially with New York now missing six defensive starters from their opening day lineup after linebacker Jordan Jenkins was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.

But Donald isn’t buying the idea of an easy Los Angeles victory. The interior pursuer of quarterbacks spoke highly of the opponent in his weekly statements and also had friendly words for his Sunday prey.

“Obviously, they’re not playing how they want to play, but I think he’s a good quarterback,” Donald said of Darnold, Peter Botte of the New York Post. “He’s really mobile. He can move, make things happen with his feet, and get out of trouble. It looks like he’s strong. I’ve seen a couple times when it looked like he was about to get sacked, but he was able to break out and make something happen. He’s a solid quarterback, so we’ve been studying that and understanding that plays aren’t going to come easy. We’ve got to earn them. We’ve just got to do our job. He’s a good quarterback. They’ve got some good players around him, young players.”

A Sunday sack of Darnold could set history for the second consecutive weekend. Donald is three sacks away from tying Leonard Little for the most in Rams history (87.5). Darnold was previously the victim of a Jamal Adams sack in Seattle that made his former teammate the NFL’s single-season sack leader amongst defensive backs.

A native of Orange County’s Huntington Beach, Darnold is ready to make his return to Los Angeles, where he entered the national spotlight as the star thrower for the University of Southern California Trojans. He reciprocated Donald’s praise in his own availability.

“Aaron Donald is a good player,” Darnold said, per Botte. “He definitely pops out on tape, especially it seems like whenever a play needs to be made, he is always there making it. So it will be fun playing against him.”

As the Jets seek some form of momentum and any good feeling to take from this lost season. Some members of the team feel like they can take a lesson or two from Donald, one of the premier defenders and scariest backfield invaders in the NFL.

“When you watch this guy get doubl- teamed almost every snap, and the five snaps he gets singled up, he wins,” Gase said of Donald, per team reporter Eric Allen. “I’m sure every D-tackle is trying to get to that point, especially guys that have similar skill sets of length, quickness, strength, things like that, they’re like, ‘Hey, I want to be like that guy.'”

“You look at their front, their front is very disruptive, with their games, especially on third down, so we have to do a good job up there up front and then the back end, they have really good players there too and they do a good of disguising coverages and mixing it up that way,” Darnold said of the Rams defense as a whole, per Max Goodman of SI.com. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we are excited for the opportunity.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Sam Darnold wants to be a New Yorker “for life”

As his potential final hours as the New York Jets’ franchise QB await, Sam Darnold announced his hope to remain clad in green for the future.

As the New York Jets’ “endeavor for Trevor” (Lawrence) draws to a merciful end, the awkward question becomes the green fate of Sam Darnold.

The macabre silver lining of this brutal Jets season is the fact that their winless ledger has given them the inside track for the top overall pick in next spring’s draft. Many Jets fans have openly advocated for the Jets to lose so as to etch their place in the first slot. But the potential arrival of Lawrence, the national champion from Clemson, or another potential new franchise option (like Justin Fields of Ohio State) would likely mean the end of the line for Darnold, the Jets’ primary quarterback for the last three seasons.

Darnold’s regression has been one of the darkest lowlights of the Jets’ woebegone season. He is on pace to set career-lows in nearly every major passing category, partly thanks to missing four games due to an ankle injury suffered in an October loss to Denver. His passer rating of 67.3 is the lowest in the NFL amongst quarterbacks with at least 224 pass attempts, accompanying tallies of 1,560 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. Darnold has also been sacked 28 times this season and has only been united with his top receiving trio (Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder) for three games this season.

Yet, the third overall pick of the 2018 draft wants to stick around.

In his Monday availability, reeling from the aftermath of a 40-3 defeat at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks, Darnold made it clear that this trying season has done nothing to damper his enthusiasm when it came to his current settings.

“I love it here, all the people around here, I love living here. I’ve always said it, I want to be a Jet for life,” Darnold said, per notes from the Jets. “That decision isn’t necessarily up to me, but that’s how I feel.”

Darnold, 23, was questioned about his role in the Jets’ long-term plans or even if a change of scenery would do him some good. He reiterated that he plans to take things “one day at a time”, but hopes the Jets have the confidence in him to help raise the team from the gridiron abyss.

“I believe in myself as a quarterback and as a player in this league,” he continued. “Obviously, that decision isn’t up to me, but I’m always going to believe in myself and have the utmost confidence in myself to be able to go out there and play good football on Sundays.”

“I’m not worried about speculation or what others are saying outside of our locker room. For me, I’m just worried about playing good football down this stretch and really taking it one day at a time and one game at a time.”

Darnold’s next chance to impress and potentially keep his role in New York comes on Sunday, as the Jets (0-13) return to the west coast to battle the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Three stars from Sunday’s loss vs. Las Vegas

The New York Jets snatched defeat from the clutches of victory, as a long, late touchdown doomed them to an 0-12 fate.

The masochistic cult of New York Jets tanking efforts enjoyed an early holiday present in the late stages of Sunday’s action.

Derek Carr’s 46-yard touchdown pass with five seconds to go landed safely in the hands of Henry Ruggs, whose go-ahead touchdown gave the Las Vegas Raiders a 31-28 victory over the Jets at MetLife Stadium. Carr and Ruggs’ late-game heroics doomed the Jets to an 0-12 record, though they took another step toward securing the top overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Despite the loss, the Jets tallied a season-best 376 yards of offense and enjoyed a stellar rushing day from Ty Johnson and Josh Adams, who united for 178 yards on the ground after Frank Gore left the game with a concussion.

ESM has a trio of game balls to dispense in valiant, but short, effort…

3rd Star: LB Neville Hewitt

12 tackles, 1 sack

Perhaps it says more about the modern Jets than it does about the veteran linebacker, but Hewitt has been one of the Jets’ most consistent contributors over the past three seasons. He has established himself as a strong depth option, and this has proven to be no exception. Hewitt has taken on a veteran leadership role as injuries continue to eat away at the secondary, and he rose to the occasion with 12 tackles and a sack of Carr. The tanking concept is completely irrelevant to guys like Hewitt, who might be playing for a long-term deal after joining the Jets on three separate single-year contracts.

2nd Star: QB Sam Darnold

14-of-23, 186 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 3 carries, 26 yards, 1 TD

As Jets fans clamor for the Endeavor for Trevor (Lawrence), Darnold made it clear on Sunday that he’s not going to relinquish his hold on the team’s franchise quarterback spot without a fight. His turnover problem (three on Sunday) continued to surfac, but he nonetheless came up big in leading the Jets back from a 24-13 fourth quarter deficit. Darnold also found Jamison Crowder for a pair of touchdown passes in the first half. These final hours will be crucial for Darnold to prove that he can still be the man of the future, perhaps under a new coaching staff. After all, the draft doesn’t begin or end with Lawrence or Justin Fields. Penei Sewell would perhaps be a strong blocking option in a high posting.

1st Star: RB Ty Johnson

22 carries, 104 yards, 1 TD

Johnson made New York Jets history on Sunday, earning the first triple-digit rushing yard game since Isaiah Crowell put up 219 against the Denver Broncos in October 2018. Claimed off waivers from Detroit earlier this fall, Johnson came up big when Gore was evaluated for a concussion. His 104 yards were a career-high since joining the league as a sixth-round pick out of Maryland last season, and he scored what probably should’ve been the game-winning touchdown just past the midway mark of the fourth quarter. If Gore is out for the remainder of the year, the development of Johnson and Adams (74 yards) should be an intriguing subplot to keep an eye on.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags