The idea of Aaron Rodgers exchanging shades of green seems enticing, but the New York Jets should probably resist.
Let’s go with “Draft Day Bombs” for $1200, Aaron.
As the hours dwindle before the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC/NFL Network), ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that Aaron Rodgers doesn’t want to return to the Green Bay Packers. The disgruntled Jeopardy! host and Super Bowl MVP turns 38 in December but has continued to post stellar numbers in a career that will undoubtedly end in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Rodgers is the defending NFL MVP, posting career-best numbers in several major passing categories, including a 70.5 completion rate and a jaw-dropping 48 touchdown passes.
With Rodgers upset with Green Bay management…Schefter claims part of it stems from the Packers’ puzzling decision to draft Utah State quarterback Jordan Love with their premier selection last year…fans of non-Wisconsin teams across the league have clicked open their Photoshop apps to don Rodgers in their team’s colors. Supporters of the New York Jets are likely no exception, as there’s little doubt any metropolitan supporter would say no to Rodgers wearing a different shade of green after years of questions and failures at the franchise quarterback spot.
But if the idea of Rodgers exchanging an oval G for capitalized script on his helmet sounds too good to be true…that’s because it probably is.
Rodgers is one of the rare active quarterbacks…heck, probably in NFL history…that can single-handedly turn a team’s fortunes around. Green Bay, laden with controversy and silliness over the past decade-plus, has remained a perpetual prescience in the NFL’s playoff picture thanks to Rodgers’ efforts. But even he might have trouble making a playoff team out of this current Jets squad. The Jets undboutedly improved over the past few months, but it’s still not fair to expect the postseason out of them. There are simply too many established contenders in the AFC and the Jets’ own division appears to be under the control of a Buffalo overlord. Even Rodgers hasn’t ended every season in the playoffs, much less at the top of his quartet.
Even in his late 30s, Rodgers continues to be one of the most impactful and dominant quarterbacks in the NFL. Like Tom Brady before him, he could well continue passing a decade from now, when he’s in his mid-40s. But the Jets can’t afford to take a relative risk like that. No one knows how much longer Rodgers is going to want to do this. Schefter has implied that he may want to settle down with his fiancé, actress Shailene Woodley, and Rodgers himself has set his sights on succeeding the late Alex Trebek full-time.
Today’s offense-worshipping NFL requires a strong starting quarterback but they must also possess a thrower with whom they’re comfortable starting in three-to-five (if he’s not the same guy, that is). The Jets have a chance to fulfill that need with the second overall pick in the upcoming draft, a choice that will likely be used on BYU’s Zach Wilson. It’s better to stick with homegrown talent than going with a guy who would likely lead roll call on the updated “Wait, He Played For the Jets?!?!?” team roster.
“But wait!” you interject. “Why can’t they have both Rodgers and Wilson? What a great mentor for the kid!” The idea that such a union could work is a pipe dream at best. Fans will be welcomed back to MetLife Stadium this season, and the last thing either quarterback needs is for fans to start screaming for his replacement every time he throws an incomplete pass. The Jets have a chance to start fresh with a new roster, but they must work through with as little controversy as possible. Combining Rodgers with a rookie is the very worst way to go about that.
Besides, the Jets have already had one unpleasant experience with a Green Bay legend in Brett Favre. The season itself was more heartbreakingly mediocre than truly unpleasant, but it was nonetheless an endeavor that set the franchise back several years. Its lasting legacy, for example, is the fact it led to the drafting of Mark Sanchez. Additionally, Tim Tebow’s Jacksonville tryout was a stark reminder of the sensational and oftentimes absurd coverage that surrounded the team during Tebow’s one-year term…and he wasn’t even the starter. The combination of Rodgers, (burdened with controversy that’s sometimes far from his own doing), and the Jets (whose mere existence elicits sophomoric social media snickers) would be a marriage of no winners, one where non-football obstacles would rival opposing defenses.
This is a rare opportunity for the Jets to start with something homegrown and surround him with a strong foundation, including a head coach whose hire has earned positive reviews across the league. There’s no use playing with another team’s unwanted toys anymore…even if that toy is an only slightly rugged PlayStation 5.
Baltimore and Kansas City’s deal might give the New York Jets some extra clarity at the 23rd overall pick in Cleveland next weekend.
A deal between contenders could have ripple effects on a team that’s desperate to join them.
The Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs swapped assets and names on Friday, six days before the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft will be staged in Cleveland (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network). Pro Bowl-nominated blocker Orlando Brown Jr. will join the refurbished wall in front of Patrick Mahomes while four picks, including the 31st overall choice on Thursday, move on to Baltimore. Two Raven draft picks also come over with Brown, the first of which will be a second-rounder on Friday.
One can argue that a trade between a pair of playoff teams should have little effect on the New York Jets, who are ready for a potentially franchise-changing weekend. But New York will turn in three draft cards within the first 34 selections next Thursday and Friday. The Chiefs and Ravens’ gambit could set them up for what they plan to do with the latter pair.
The Jets’ first pick, second overall on Thursday, is more than likely accounted for: unless they plan on starting James Morgan or Mike White in September, they’re taking a quarterback. But debate rages on in what they’ll do with the 23rd overall choice, obtained from Seattle last offseason. The Ravens also own their regularly scheduled pick in the 27th slot, giving them two picks before the Jets pick again at No. 34, the second pick of the second round.
Baltimore is at an interesting point on its franchise timeline. They’ve earned at least 10 wins in each of the last three seasons and won a playoff game for the first time since 2014 in the Wild Card round in January. Barring a jaw-dropping transaction, they’re set with Lamar Jackson at quarterback for the foreseeable future. Their ground game enjoyed a significant jolt with rookie JK Dobbins working with Gus Edwards (1,528 yards, 15 touchdowns combined).
With Jackson’s great power comes even greater responsibility (wrong city, we’re aware). Jackson is capable of beating teams both through the air and on the ground (1,005 rushing yards). His mobile prowess, however, leaves him open to sacks and injuries. The trade of Brown, a blindside blocker, leaves a mediocre offensive line (16th in Pro Football Focus’ final 2020 rankings) in somewhat dire straights. Former All-Pro Ronnie Stanley is expected back, but he’s coming off a brutal ankle injury suffered in November.
Additionally, Baltimore may also look to surround Jackson with more weaponry. They’re set with the young pair of Dobbins and Edwards in the backfield but their receivers leave something to desired. Is there a No. 1 receiver in this bunch? Marquise “Hollywood” Brown has potential (58 receptions, 769 yards, 8 touchdowns) but even if the Ravens want to roll with him, major questions reside behind him. Second receiver Willie Snead left for Las Vegas, leaving behind the unproven Miles Boykin and Devin Duvernay. Veteran Sammy Watkins was welcomed in this offseason, but he’s not somebody who’s going to be the difference in wrangling away control of the AFC from Kansas City or Buffalo.
Thus, it’s very possible that the Ravens could be going offense with each of their first two picks. From a Jets standpoint, it’s thus less likely they can afford to wait until Friday to address a non-quarterback need. Had Kansas City kept Thursday’s penultimate pick, it was more likely to see them addressing their pass rush woes. It’s quite possible Baltimore could go offense with each of their Thursday couple. Several teams between 23rd and 34th (Pittsburgh, Green Bay) already appear to be leaning toward an offensive pick as well. Baltimore’s extended prescience should at least help narrow the Jets’ choices. Several defensive talents should still be around by the time Friday’s proceedings start, but some elite blockers (Tevin Jenkins, Alex Leatherwood, Christian Darrisaw, Landon Dickerson) and weapons (Travis Etienne, Rashod Bateman) could be gone with another offense-seeker injected into the fold.
Granted, the Jets are working so far from behind that there’s almost nowhere to go but up when it comes to day one of the draft. But while the Jets will likely have to address defensive woes sooner or later, they’re about to put a big investment in one of the non-Trevor Lawrence passing talents of a strong 2021 passing class. Whether it’s Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, or an unknown party, they can’t lead the Jets’ resurrection on their own. They need help, namely on the offensive line after not doing too much to upgrade over the offseason.
Secondary and edge help will be around in the second round. Thursday should be a day dedicated to the new quarterback and getting him as comfortable as possible before the hard part begins. Giving him a more attractive offensive depth chart to look at before he makes his Florham Park entrance requires an offensive mindset in the earliest stages in Cleveland next week.
But the New York Jets and Sam Darnold might’ve come as close as one can, especially when it comes to severing the relationship between an NFL squad and its franchise quarterback.
Darnold confirmed as much in his first statements as a Panther on Monday, a week after he was dealt from New York for a trio of draft picks. While Darnold ruefully stated that he throught he was destined to be the Jets’ quarterback for a long time, he’s ready to embrace a new opportunity in Charlotte.
“I imagined I was going to be the franchise quarterback of the New York Jets for a long time…once you realize that the team that drafted you is moving on, it stings a little bit,” Darnold said, per Carolina reporter Darin Gantt. “Getting that news that you’re going to be traded, of a team saying, ‘Hey, we didn’t want you,” for whatever reason, is hard. But right now, I feel great about it.”
How did each side find something to celebrate? ESM investigates…
Through social media schadenfreude, the Jets are a team whose simplest mistakes are turned into memes within minutes. That concept has hit a fever pitch during their decade-long playoff drought (an NFL-worst), but there may well be light at the end of their tunnel of rebuilding. Rare optimism can be found at One Jets Drive after the hire of Robert Saleh, whose arrival has spawned positive reviews both domestically and abroad.
But the good vibes bring forth a perilous responsibility: it must be surrounded by as little controversy as possible. Holding a quarterback competition would be an unwelcome distraction during. Once the games do get underway, it’s widely expected that fans will be back at MetLife Stadium. The last thing the Jets needed was spectators, no matter the capacity limit, screeching for Darnold’s backup every time he threw an incomplete pass.
But, having traded Darnold, the Jets have a clear-cut plan. Their quarterback controversy will end no later than the evening of April 29, when they choose second in the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland. General manager Joe Douglas more or less confirmed as much when speaking after the deal was done.
“There was…a discussion about us taking a quarterback at pick number two and having Sam here for the season…ultimately, we felt that that wouldn’t be the best situation for Sam, the rookie quarterback, Coach Saleh and his staff, and the locker room,” Douglas said, per notes from the Jets. “We felt like this was the best decision for the entire organization moving forward, in hitting the reset button.”
Darnold Gets Stability
On paper, Carolina isn’t too far removed from the Jets in terms of where they are on the NFL barometer. They won only five games last season and are seeking stability under a first-time NFL head coach in Matt Rhule. But one look at the Carolina ledger shows that they provide a more stable offensive situation than Darnold ever had in New York.
Darnold’s burden is immediately lightened through a run game headlined by Christian McCaffrey rather than a disgruntled Le’Veon Bell and a tandem of projects. The biggest sign of Panther progress was perhaps shown through McCaffrey’s absence: despite enjoying only three games with the 2019 All-Pro in the backfield, Carolina remained competitive. All but three of their 11 losses came by one possession while Robby Anderson, Darnold’s favorite New York target in his first two seasons, tallied a career-best 1,096 yards despite relative turmoil at quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater was inconsistent in his first full-time starting gig since enduring a contact-free camp injury in 2015 and was relieved by XFL star P.J. Walker.
The coaching staff is also a welcome sight to any offensive player seeking his NFL fortune. Head coach Matt Rhule turned downtrodden college programs at Temple and Baylor into offensive blockbusters while offensive coordinator Joe Brady over saw the rise of Joe Burrow as the passing game coordinator during the LSU Tigers’ dominant national title run in 2019. Darnold took the time to appreciate the culture that Carolina is building during his opening statements.
“The culture that’s being set here is amazing,” Darnold said in Gantt’s report. “That’s probably the part that intrigues me the most about this.”
A Fine Addition to the New York Collection
While the immediate yield from the Darnold trade isn’t flashy…the Jets earned the 226th overall pick in the coming Cleveland selections…it’s pretty impressive on Douglas’ end that he was able to net a second-round pick (coming in 2022) for an injury-prone quarterback with a 13-25 ledger as a starter, even if the circumstances weren’t the greatest.
“With the premium picks, your first, second, third-round picks, those are the picture you’re looking to become starters on your team,” Douglas remarked through the Jets. “So, those ultimately end up being the picks that you spend the most time talking about.”
As a young Queens webslinger was told, however, with great power comes great responsibility. Quantity doesn’t automatically equal quality, and that axiom rings especially true in the NFL Draft. The Jets learned that lesson the hard way during the 2014 proceedings through John Idzik’s doomed dozen and it’s a nightmare that Douglas doesn’t take lightly.
“We have a lot of opportunity in front of us, 21 picks in the next two drafts, including 10 in the first three rounds,” Douglas said in Jets notes. “But with that opportunity, we know we have to make the most of it and hit on these picks.”
Douglas presents himself as a guy who’s not interested in looking for excuses. But he’d have a good few in the holster.
He joined the Jets under unusual circumstances, placed in charge weeks before training camp opened after Mike Maccagnan’s post-draft firing. His first years with the organization have been handicapped by decisions he had no jurisdiction over (namely the Adam Gase hire).
Now, Douglas’ signings are getting closer to becoming the majority after several Maccagnan/Gase staples were shipped elsewhere. He has a handpicked head coach in Saleh and he’s about to have a handpicked franchise quarterback.
It’s official: Douglas is the captain now. For better or worse, this was a step the Jets needed to move toward. There are no more excuses, there are no more “wait untils”. Douglas’ era can officially begin and he can thus be judged appropriately.
“I think you feel pressure every day you walk into the building,” Douglas said in Jets notes. “You want to do this job to the best of your ability. You want to take the information that you have at hand and make the best possible decisions that you can make.”
Jets fans and the football-loving public at large are about to find out if they’re truly the right moves to end the perpetual rebuild…a rebuild Douglas now officially owns.
As the Sam Darnold era ends, a lingering question will haunt New York Jets fans as he prepares to move to Charlotte.
With respect to the countless devotees of movies, books, television shows, etc., across the world, no one writes more fan fiction than football fans. Rather than “Once upon a time…”, football fables often begin with a question: “What if…?”.
The question is endlessly asked before, during, and after every NFL season. What if that star prospect falls? What if they went for it on fourth down? What if that quarterback retires?
What if the New York Jets hired someone…anyone…other than Adam Gase to oversee Sam Darnold’s developmental years as head coach?
It’s a question whose answers reside months, even years, away. Both Gase and Darnold are now distant memories in the New York archives, the former fired and the latter bound for Charlotte in a trade with the Carolina Panthers. The Jets only have numbers to show for it in the immediate aftermath. Dealing Darnold netted them the 226th overall pick in the coming draft, as well as a second and fourth-round choice in the spring of 2022.
In the immediate aftermath, it’s easy to call the Jets’ Darnold deal with Carolina a win for both sides on paper. Darnold gains welcome stability in Carolina (reuniting with fellow ex-Jet Robby Anderson and working with All-Pro rusher Christian McCaffrey) while the Jets make some fine additions to their draft collection. But the Jets will forever look back on their Darnold with a sense of regret and what might’ve been. The chorus of “what if” echoes as the countdown to what’ll likely be the beginning of the Zach Wilson or Justin Fields era.
It starts with the hiring of Gase, a supposed offensive guru brought in to oversee Darnold’s vital post-rookie campaigns. Todd Bowles’ tenure had undoubtedly run its course, but its final stages were full of hope through Darnold’s final four games. It was a stretch that saw Darnold earn a come-from-behind victory in Buffalo (topping fellow 2018 draftee Josh Allen in their first meeting) and go head-to-head and blow-for-blow with Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers in consecutive weeks. The latter tilt, a Festivus showdown with the Green Bay Packers, was an overtime thriller that saw Darnold earn career-bests in passer rating (128.4) and passing yardage (341).
When Bowles was let go, the Jets needed someone with a strong developmental mind, someone who could nurture Darnold’s potential and build on the promise shown over the final stretch. CEO/Chairman Christopher Johnson knew just how vital the search would be when he spoke after dismissing the current defensive coordinator of the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I think the Jets are a really good spot for a coach to end up,” Johnson said at the time. “So I think that we have a competitive advantage there. But we’re not going to sit down and wait for people to come to us, we’re going to search hard and fast. We want to get this done.”
It got done through the arrival of Gase, fresh off three years of Miami mediocrity. From the get-go, there probably should’ve been something off about the new boss, one who never truly fostered a young quarterback. Peyton Manning put the best numbers of his career under Gase, but the most adamant football denier could probably oversee an offense with Peyton Manning and still average 21 points a game.
Gase helped get the Chicago Bears’ offense back on track as coordinator in 2015, but Jay Cutler, despite a career-best passer rating, was in his 11th season and headed toward his polarizing career’s final stanzas. Even if Gase’s work with Cutler counted for something, it was more or less undone when the pair reunited for a fruitless season in South Beach two years later. In terms of youth, Ryan Tannehill endured what seemed like an endless stream of “make-or-break” campaigns before being mercifully shipped to Tennessee after Gase’s Floridan ousting. By now, little more needs to be written about Tannehill’s success sans Gase.
Yet, the Jets insisted Gase was their man, sticking with him after a dreadful 0-4 start. After his infamous bout with mononucleosis…a happening only amplified by social media schadenfreude that amplifies the Jets’ simplest errors…Darnold helped right to ship to the tune of a 7-9 ledger. Further fleeting flashes of brilliance emerged, such as Darnold’s return from illness, a 338-yard, two-score showing in a triumph over Dallas, the Jets’ first win of the year. Further silliness came through Darnold’s failed Ghostbusters tenure, but to have him post a winning record (7-6) despite endless silliness surrounding him was a promising sign.
As the season moved on, the Jets continuously eschewed the notion of firing Gase in-season. Johnson even broke out the guru comparisons after a listless opening day loss in Buffalo by calling Gase “a brilliant offensive mind” after the Jets pulled off the statistical anomaly of earning under 300 yards in Orchard Park. The sub-300 tally, in fact, occurred 11 times during the 2020 campaign…a downright jaw-dropping occurrence in an NFL that worships offense.
All the while, the Jets gave up on several accomplished names before deciding Gase was expendable. A mini-fire sale ensued that saw accomplished defenders Steve McLendon, Avery Williamson, and Pierre Desir sent away. Le’Veon Bell, a constant co-combatant in Gase headlines, was outright released while the eyes of the nation were centered on a rare Tuesday night game.
Darnold sank further into oblivion, forced into situations that even the greatest, most established quarterbacks would have trouble salvaging. One couldn’t even argue that the Jets were showing promise in these losses. All but one of their first eight defeats came by multiple possessions, exacerbated by the struggle to gain yardage. Unlike their blue MetLife Stadium co-tenants (the Giants losing five of their first eight in single possession games), there was nothing to get excited for from a Jets perspective.
For the record, it’s not only the Gase hire that Darnold had to put up with. His rookie season was spent behind an offensive built through the negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era. When the 2020 season kicked off, Darnold had only a single receiver left from his rookie campaign (tight end Chris Herndon, who has struggled to maintain rookie momentum) and his offensive line had undergone yet another makeover. The fact such flashes of brilliance were achieved despite playing in the far reaches of the football netherworld perhaps says something about Darnold, who has a prime opportunity to put his career back on track in Charlotte.
It could’ve happened in New York. The offensive line still needs work, but the Jets upgraded their weaponry this offseason, bringing in capable targets (Corey Davis, Keelan Cole) that can compete with returnees (Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims) for top receiving honors. A multi-faceted rushing talent like Tevin Coleman can take some of the pressure off of whoever the quarterback will be.
But the Jets are trying to pen their own redemption story. They don’t have the time to co-author someone else’s.
In short, the Gase era left the Jets no other choice. His firing brought in a new regime, one praised not by the hot take artists but by players themselves, both domestically and abroad. For Robert Saleh to fully implement his vision and the Jets holding the ever valuable second overall pick of the NFL draft…the original of aerial franchise saviors like Donovan McNabb and Roman Gabriel…Darnold simply had to go.
Still, that won’t stop the eternal discussions, the fabled chapters that Jets fans will write for months before a single down is played and in the years after that, both supporting what Darnold could’ve done and celebrating his release.
According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the New York Jets are trading quarterback Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers. In exchange, the Jets get three picks from Charlotte: two 2022 choices (second and fourth) as well as a sixth-round pick in the upcoming draft in April.
[UPDATE: 4:50 p.m. ET]: The Jets have confirmed the trade in a team statement.
“I want to publicly acknowledge the commitment, dedication, and professionalism Sam displayed while with the Jets. He is a tough-minded, talented football player whose NFL story has not been written yet,” Jets general manager Joe Douglas said in the team-issued declaration. “While all these things are true, this move is in the short and long-term best interests for both this team and him. We thank Sam for all of his work on behalf of this organization and wish him well as he continues his career.”
The 2021 pick sent over from Carolina will be the 227th overall pick (226th if accounting for the forfeited 77th choice from New England).
Thus ends Darnold’s tenure as the New York Jets’ franchise quarterback, a stretch that began as the third overall choice out of USC in the 2018 draft. Darnold was part of a highly publicized quarterback draft class that also included Baker Mayfield (1st overall), Josh Allen (7th), Josh Rosen (10th), and Lamar Jackson (32nd). While his New York career featured flashes of brilliance, he was never able to establish any consistency. His Jets career ends with a 13-25 record as a starter, going along with 8,097 yards and 45 touchdown passes, those marks both good for eighth in team history.
It was tough for Darnold to establish his mark as a Jets starter due to the numerous turnover in the Jets’ starting lineups. Only one receiver (tight end Chris Herndon) remained on the Jets’ roster from his rookie campaign. He was nonetheless able to display fleeting flashes of brilliance in green, his best showing being a December 2018 battle with Aaron Rodgers during his rookie season. Darnold earned personal bests in passer rating (128.4) and yardage (341) in a 44-38 overtime defeat at the hands of Green Bay. Another classic Darnold moment came in October 2019, when he returned from a bout with mononucleosis to tally 338 yards and two scores in a win over the Dallas Cowboys.
Darnold also had trouble staying healthy during his time with the Jets, failing to start a full season through injuries and illness.
Carolina should present a stable situation for Darnold, who reunites with Robby Anderson, his former favorite target in green. The Panthers also have a strong rushing situation (headlined by Christian McCaffrey) and strong offensive minds like head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Darnold will likely compete for the starting job with Teddy Bridgewater, the Panthers’ incumbent starter who worked with him during the 2018 preseason.
With the trade of Darnold, the Jets will more than likely use the second overall choice in April’s draft on a quarterback, namely BYU’s Zach Wilson or Ohio State’s Justin Fields.
The New York Jets have already added one former Jacksonville Jaguar. Could another help them solidify a youthful revolt on offense?
Salvation for the two-win New York Jets could be earned through the one team that managed to finish worse: the 1-15 Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jets have already added one North Floridian import in receiver Keelan Cole, a slot receiver that managed to earn a Duval-best 2,242 yards over the last four seasons despite relentless turnover at the quarterback position. Cole entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2017 and has had seven different starters throw to him, including three alone last season.
Jacksonville has a prime opportunity to finally stop the carousel as the owners of the top pick of April’s NFL Draft. The consensus top choice is Clemson star Trevor Lawrence. The Jets are immediately behind them and are doing their due diligence on rookie throwers like Justin Fields and Zach Wilson, as Sam Darnold’s future remains a metropolitan talking point.
But could the Jets’ solution like in further negotiations with the Jaguars.
The incumbent thrower in Jacksonville is Gardner Minshew, a sixth-round pick out of Washington State in the 2019 draft. Jacksonville has reportedly embarked on an endeavors to trade Minshew before Lawrence presumably dons teal and black on April 29. Minshew has produced some impressive numbers despite working in relative gridiron squalor in Jacksonville, posting 5,530 yards, 37 touchdowns and only 11 receptions over the last two seasons.
ESM has four reasons why the Jets should investigate…
He’s an upgrade
As the Jets continue to ponder the Darnold situation, many have risen in defense of the third overall pick from 2018, claiming his subpar numbers (79.1 passer rating, 28 touchdowns, 24 interceptions) are the result of a toxic football environment brought upon by the Adam Gase era. However, Minshew has arguably had even worse surroundings in the wasteland of Jacksonville’s post-AFC title game visit in 2017.
With 23 games (21 starts) under his belt, Minshew nonetheless has Darnold bested in touchdown passes, yardage, and passer rating despite partaking in two fewer games than the Jets’ incumbent. There’s time for Darnold to get his NFL act together, but if Minshew, who has proven he can produced in a professional setting, can help the Jets in the short-term and finally get some offensive momentum moving in the right direction, it’d help this hopeful chapter of the Jets’ perpetual rebuild get started on the right note.
He has connection with a crucial newcomer
After a relatively slow start, the Jets have made a strong effort to upgrade their receiving weaponry. Reliable slot man Jamison Crowder appears to be on his way back with hopeful second round choice Denzel Mims. The newcomers have arrived from the AFC South. Corey Davis, fresh off a career-best season in Tennessee, joins the fold with Cole, the Jaguars’ most prolific receiver over the last four seasons.
Minshew bestowed some strong praise unto Colege heading into the 2020 season, comments that indicate that he would have no qualms working with him again.
“I love throwing to Cole and I’m excited to see what he’s going to be doing,” Minshew said per Demetrius Harvey of Big Cat Country. “He’s got really good hands, can play all three positions, he makes the tough catch, he’s been very consistent, he’s become better at this route running, he’s been able to get in and out a little better, so you see an improvement from last year to this year.”
The Jets backed themselves into a bit of a corner
The Jets have undoubtedly upgraded this offseason, at least on paper. But their primary concern remains unsolved, one even bigger than the quarterback conundrum.
New York can resolve their quarterback situation one way or another. They can stick with Darnold, trade for a name like Minshew or Russell Wilson (the Deshaun Watson pursuit is likely on hold for obvious reasons), or wait until the draft. But no matter who the quarterback is, he’s going to need protection through a retooled offensive line. With the exception of adding the Los Angeles Chargers’ Dan Feeney…high in personality, low in analytical gradings…the Jets haven’t done anything to upgrade their much-maligned unit. Drafting Mekhi Becton was a good start last season, but general manager Joe Douglas’ free agency renovations haven’t panned out. Recurring target Joe Thuney is off to protect Patrick Mahomes in New England while Green Bay stud Corey Linsley is off to Feeney’s old stomping grounds.
Thus, the Jets find themselves in a bit of a conundrum. If they draft a quarterback, the poor first-year man will likely be running for his life or potentially see his confidence shattered behind a makeshift blocking unit. Thus, using the second choice on top blocking prospect Penei Sewell out of Oregon. Minshew would be a strong, if not temporary, solution while the Jets try to bolster the men in front of him.
Furthermore, taking on Minshew’s contract is a light load the Jets could handle while seeking out further options on the line. Over the next couple of seasons, Minshew’s combined cap hit is in the $2 million range.
He brings stability to a franchise in desperate need of it
Time will tell how Minshew’s NFL career plays out. As of now, he appears set to inherit Ryan Fitzpatrck’s throne in terms of being a serviceable fill-in option while accompanying such endeavors with a larger-than-life personality. At this point, he’s probably not a future franchise quarterback. But he can provide a sense of stability to a Jets team in desperate need of it, a security blanket, if only for a sense or two that the Jets desperately need.
The Jets are working on a playoff drought that’s nearly old enough to see a PG-13-rated movie without parental supervision. Ending that drought is a lot to ask for this year with still so many established contenders, no matter how much hope Robert Saleh brings to this team. But the Jets need to re-establish a sense of stability to their franchise at any cost possible. Thus, using Minshew as a stopgap option of sorts can help make the Jets a destination of sorts.
A comparable case came during the 2017 campaign in the form of Josh McCown. While far older and probably never reaching the statistical heights that Minshew has already traversed, McCown’s strong season on a Jets team some predicted would go winless helped them bring some stability to a team whose quarterback situation was in flux. The team had one less thing to worry about and was able to bide their time in finding a successor while being competitive in the meantime. McCown went 5-8 as a starter…featuring a win over the aforementioned AFC finalists from Jacksonville…but six of those eight defeats came by a single possession. Minshew can help the Jets build something further, helping get a new regime off in the right direction.
As the new NFL year officially gets underway, trade partners for New York Jets QB Sam Darnold are starting to dwindle.
To quote Evelyn Carnahan, Rachel Wiesz’s character from the beloved 1999 film The Mummy, patience is a virtue. Except, apparently, in the NFL.
The New York Jets have bided their time when it comes to their ongoing quarterback quandary. One guarantee remains, that all questions will be solved by the final hours of April 29, the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, where the Jets hold the second overall pick. All but one of the elite rookie names will likely be available to the Jets, who still have a Sam Darnold-sized question to answer: where will the third pick from 2018 take his snaps comes Week 1 of the 2021 campaign.
It’s hard to fully blame Darnold for the current, wayward state of the offense. But with the Jets holding the second overall pick and a new coach in tow, the temptation of starting fresh at football’s most vital position may be too much to resist.
But it’s possible the Jets have been too patient when it comes to Darnold’s future. Several starter-starving teams have settled their vital affairs and have found their solutions. Some took care of the matter early on (Indianapolis trading for Carson Wentz after Phillip Rivers’ retirement), while other solutions have presented themselves more recently (Andy Dalton in Chicago, New Orleans re-signing Jameis Winston after Drew Brees’ departure).
Others have remained stagnant, but at least there’s a clear plan in mind. The Jacksonville Jaguars have addressed other areas of need while actively shopping incumbent Gardner Minshew under the presumed assumption they’ll take Trevor Lawrence with the top overall pick come April. While the Jets have made some agreeable, if not downright underrated, signings this offseason, they’re no closer to solving their quarterback situation than they were in Week 17’s immediate aftermath.
Where else can the Jets turn and where will Darnold end up going? ESM ranks the remaining possibilities…
5. Washington Football Team
With Wild Card hero Taylor Heinicke and living football meme Ryan Fitzpatrick in tow, there’s no doubt that Washington’s passing endeavors will get social media clicks. But is it going to lead to wins? With Curtis Samuel joining college teammate Terry McLaurin, there’s a chance for offensive fireworks in Landover.
Washington does have a little extra draft capital that would be appropriate in a Darnold trade…they hold an extra third-round choice from the Trent Williams trade…but they’re probably set up with the pairing for the time being with their current, popular pair.
The status of incumbent Jimmy Garoppollo has been a hot topic in the Bay Area this winter, especially with the Warriors and Sharks mired in mediocrity. But, interestingly enough, Garoppollo’s future seems a bit more secure after the 49ers made Williams the highest-paid blocker in the history of football and re-upped with secret weapon Kyle Juszczyk.
The Jets have done something similar, adding Corey Davis after his career-best season, though their other offensive areas (particularly the blocking) still leave much to be desired.
3. Seattle Seahawks
The apparent displeasure of Russell Wilson in Seattle has been one of the most curious offseason sagas the NFL has had to offer. Such discontent has apparently had the Seahawks looking into trade possibilities. Wilson’s market is also a lot wider due to his status as an established star and Super Bowl champion. While Seattle has made some moves that will likely picque Wilson’s interest (adding Gerald Everett and Gabe Jackson), it’s likely nothing that’s going to make him fully buy into the Seahawks’ endeavors.
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll has reportedly expressed interest in his fellow USC football alum and the Jets’ previous dealing with the Seahawks through the closing chapters of the Jamal Adams saga. However, one has to think that Seattle, already sidelined in future capital (i.e. no first round picks for the next two years) would want to stop sending their assets out east to get a quarterback whose career has thus far defined mediocrity.
2. Denver Broncos
Denver’s in a bizarrely similar situation as the Jets in that they too are saddled with a young quarterback who has shown flashes of brilliance but not nearly enough to assure them that they don’t have to worry about their passing situation. Perhaps the arrival of another young talent would light a fire under either prospect.
The Broncos already solved one of their biggest offseason issues…exercising the $7 million option on Von Miller…and Darnold can help them solve another, the passing situation that has been in limbo since Peyton Manning retired.
1. Carolina Panthers
Robby Anderson’s time with the Jets didn’t end on a bright note, with the receiver declaring that he was “was losing (his) love for football while clad in a New York uniform. The Jets themselves made little effort to retain him, letting him walk to Carolina. But Anderson and Darnold, the closest thing the Jets have had to an explosive, big-play QB/WR combo in recent memory, still had some kind words for each other. Anderson made it clear that part of the reason he wanted to return to the Jets was because of his rapport with Darnold and the quarterback had nice things to say about Anderson even after his departure.
“Me and Robby had a really good connection over the years,” Darnold said of Anderson in May, per USA Today’s Tyler Greenawalt. “He had gotten a lot better at running routes, as time went on.”
Carolina’s quarterback situation is a questionable state at this point in time. Ex-Darnold mentor Teddy Bridgewater’s return is undoubtedly inspiring, but there are doubts he’s the long-term solution. The current backup plan is XFL star P.J. Walker, so the Panthers could stand to upgrade. Further working in Darnold’s favor is the prescience of offensive guru Matt Rhule as head coach. The NYC native has overseen collegiate offensive fireworks at Temple and Baylor and could be the perfect mind to help fulfill Darnold’s NFL potential.
After a breakout season in the midst of a brutal year for the New York Jets, Quinnen Williams wants to stick around for the long haul.
Armchair general managers of the New York Jets have routinely shipped off Quinnen Williams in hypothetical trades that often end with Deshaun Watson…or, after Thursday, Russell Wilson…wearing green (or, at least in Wilson’s case, a different shade of it).
But Williams made it clear this week that he would be the first to veto such a trade.
“I’d be disappointed…I really want to be a Jet for life. I like New York, and I want to play in New York,” Williams told Gelb. He referred to Watson as an elite quarterback but reiterated his desire to play in Robert Saleh’s defense. Williams was one of the first players to praise the hire of Williams, joining his former San Francisco pupil Richard Sherman. The Jets’ top pick in the 2019 draft (third overall) understands a potential trade is a business decision out of his hands. But the praise for Saleh continued on Gelb’s program.
“I just handle what I can handle, just control what I can control. Just go out and work hard as I can for any team that I’m on. Hopefully, it’s the Jets so I can play with Coach (Robert) Saleh, but any team I’m on, I just work my hardest so that when that comes around I can be the best player I can be.”
“To get the chance to see that scheme and that front four and just the different things Coach Saleh brought to that defense, I can’t wait to get around him and pick his brain and get him to bring that to the New York Jets,” he continued. “You can tell he brings passion to the game, passion to where he’s coaching, just passion…You have to bring passion, you got to bring love and dedication to your job. So you could see he brings all of that into coaching.”
This isn’t the first time Williams has found himself in the middle of speculation. His name was previously the subject of rumors during the 2019 trade deadline, but the Jets opted to stand pat. Their patience paid off. In the midst of a brutal 2-14 season, Williams established himself as one of the top interior defensive linemen in football. He led the Jets with seven sacks and ten tackles for a loss.
Looking back on the calamity that was 2020, it’s hard to believe that some noteworthy occurrences happened this year. Phenomena like the rebooted XFL, the tweaked NBA All-Star Game, and the world’s uncanny fascination with Netflix’s Tiger King seem like they happened decades ago, but will forever be copyrighted with the insignia of 2020.
New York Jets fans likely feel the same way with Jamal Adams and his turbulent exit.
Surprisingly, it’s been less than a full calendar year since Adams donned the green, black, and white that the modern New York Jets’ uniforms carry. A wet, dreary contest against a Buffalo Bills team resting starters for the playoffs saw Adams register three tackles and a pass breakup in a 13-6 Jets win. Utterly forgettable by every sense of the football imagination, it stands as a gridiron landmark if only because that’s the last time the Jets have been on the right end of an NFL scoreboard.
At the time, few could envision that it would be the last dance for Adams (and Robby Anderson, but the Jets don’t play Carolina until 2021). Adams had avoided addressing the future but certainly implied there was one between him and the Jets by referring to the otherwise meaningless win as “the start of our next season”.
“It’s confidence carrying over into the off-season,” Adams said of the game, per Ethan Greenberg of NewYorkJets.com. “Everybody is going to be watching the playoffs and we’re going to have a bad taste in our mouths, but it’s just going to feed us.”
That meal, of course, never came. Apparently miffed at the lack of a long-term contract, Adams went to pretty much napalm every bridge he had left in New York, routinely calling out the organization’s failures since he joined the team as a first-round pick in 2017 and telling anyone who would listen that he wanted out unless a stable contract was presented. The Jets eventually struck a deal with the Seattle Seahawks, sending Adams over for Bradley McDougald and a pair of first-round choices.
But Adams’ true frustrations really seemed to stem from the Jets’ lack of on-field success. He was more than happy to join the Seahawks even when Seattle stressed patience in offering him the desired deal. The ongoing health crisis could’ve well played a role, but the optics made it seem like Adams was turning the Jets into a punchline one last time.
Even when the deal has done, neither side has truly seemed to have gotten over their breakup. A reunion awaits this weekend as the Jets descend upon Lumen Field on Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS), and the parting of ways remains fresh on each party’s mind.
It was obvious that Adams’ get-together with his former comrades was going to come up during each side’s weekly availability. Head coach Adam Gase’s comments made headlines earlier this week when he was dumbfounded by the idea of animosity between him and the defender.
“I thought it was good, but obviously he felt different. I don’t know, I never had any poor interactions with him,” Gase said, per Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports. “he was somebody I talked to a lot and communicated with. Just kind of once the offseason hit, that’s kind of where…there’s nothing I can do, I’m not in charge of contracts. I’m not involved in those talks. That’s kind of where his agent and front office guys got to go to work.”
“I knew when we lost how much it hurt him, like I knew that. He’s a competitor, man. He has no interest in coming on the wrong end of the stick in the win-loss column. He feels like he sells out and gives everything he has, and he wants to win. I mean he wants to do everything he can to win.”
Adams spoke later in the week and offered a roller-coaster, maybe even contradictory, statement about his time in New York.
“The guys that make the decisions over there, they just didn’t value me like Seattle does and I appreciate that,” he said, per Brady Henderson of ESPN. “There’s no hard feelings towards them. They had different views. I had a different view, but at the end of the day, I’m just happy to be where I am and I have an organization that believes in me, believes I can get it done, and thinks highly of me. That’s all I can ask for, man. It’s just all about respect for me.”
The defender’s comments have been, and will continue to be, scrutinized to no end. But at this point, no rationally-minded football fan can deny that the last laugh belongs to Adams.
Adams or no Adams, 2020 was going to be a struggle for the modern Jets. Even with expanded playoff real estate, too many established served as roadblocks to the seven-team sweepstakes. But the team nonetheless looked at their future with a sense of immediacy. one look from the Jets’ offseason ledger should’ve told Adams that 2020 was not the time or place to think about a long-term deal. Debate can reign over whether that message was conveyed clearly, but Adams certainly didn’t believe it was, even as the Jets added free agents on a de facto audition-style basis. But what was done is done. There’s no use in looking at what feels like ancient history or analyzing the ins and outs of a deal that will only be complete by 2022 at the earliest.
The best move the Jets could’ve made in the deal’s aftermath was to wish Adams well and focus on their own affairs. Bygones could be bygones…let Adams worry about his past, let the focus be on the future. Alas, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams couldn’t get on board with that.
“Jamal may get bored there because they don’t use their safety-type things with all the complexities, maybe not showing what they’re doing as much as we do,” Williams said per ESPN’s Rich Cimini, taking a shot at Seattle’s propensity for a Cover 3. “We’ll still do a lot of the same exact things, but we’ll highlight the people we have here. As you saw what we did (last season), he had maybe his most productive year here because of how we highlighted the skill set he has.”
In perhaps a bit of irony reserved for the darkest reaches of the popular sports-prognostication-gone-wrong account @OldTakesExposed, Williams is left to brood in boredom while Adams closes in on history.
Adams has served as the closest thing to a consistent silver lining that Seattle has had in an otherwise brutal year defensively in the secondary. Only lowly Jacksonville has let up more yardage through the air than the Seahawks (407.4 per game), whose roller-coaster season has reached a new valley with a loss to the Jets’ blue metropolitan counterparts last weekend. But Adams has carried on his propensity for backfield invasions. In only eight games, he has broken his career-best in sacks set last season in New York with 7.5…a half-takedown short of Adrian Wilson for the most by a defensive back in a single season. The fateful sack could well victimize Sam Darnold with both Greg Van Roten and Alex Lewis out on the offensive line and Denzel Mims missing from the receiving corps.
Such a happening would no doubt cause many to break out the “LOL Jets” memes and serve as another bumbling chapter in the Jets’ ongoing trek toward complete 16-game imperfection. It would go well beyond a simple sack, but, if it were to happen, could well personify and fulfill Adams’ most damning comments bestowed to his former green employers.
Adams sat down with Patrick Peterson and Bryant McFadden on the latter duo’s All Things Covered podcast in November. In a discussion about his time and falling out with the Jets, Adams admitted he suffered from depression as the losses piled in New York. It was enough for Adams’ father George, himself a former first-round pick in New York (albeit for the Jets’ blue counterparts), to start encouraging Adams’ agent to start looking for greener pastures…ones that didn’t include “Jets” imprinted on his helmet.
“I fought depression in New York,” Adams said on the podcast. “I’m man enough to say it. I came home after a tough loss and just sat in my room in the dark. No phone, no TV. (My dad) hated to see me like that. It killed my pops so much.”
“Rebuild” became a dreaded buzzword. The aforementioned win over Buffalo was commemorated with a locker room celebration as it allowed the Jets to finish 7-9…unacceptable elsewhere, but a cause for jubilation in New York, which had reached such a summit for only the second time over the last six full seasons.
Admas’ biggest takeaway? “They do not want to win”.
“Money’s a plus, but I love the game of football,” Adams said. “I love what I do … I was sick of hearing ‘the rebuild year’,” Adams continued. “I was bringing the juice back to the Jets,” Adams said. “I simply told them, ‘Hey man, if you guys want to keep me here to be a Jet for life, let’s sit down and talk. This is after the fact they told me, ‘We wanna offer you an extension. I felt like I was being disrespected.”
“Let’s be honest, the Jets were the laughingstock. (Seattle) is how the NFL is supposed to be. This is the dream I was dreaming.”
Williams’ ousting is the latest move of an ongoing purge that should continue well into the Jets’ offseason. Among those who went before him were Adams’ fellow defensive starters like Avery Williams, Steve McLendon, and Pierre Desir. Le’Veon Bell was cast away from the offense through an outright release months after little, if any, attempt was made to keep Anderson, who’s now a beacon in the Carolina’s more organized rebuild. All the while, Gase, who has had to snuff out rumors of in-fighting between him, Adams, and Bell, continues to oversee the operation, somehow inching his way closer to the upper half of the league’s longest-tenured coaches. His ousting could well come after yet another meaningless Week 17 game, this one coming in Foxboro against the Patriots on January 3. But considering all the names the Jets have given up on before they gave up on Gase, his firing feels anything but certain.
Does that sound like a team that wants to win?
Seattle winning the early portions of this trade was likely to be expected. McDougald, who spent a majority of this season injured, is the only piece of the Adams trade with a name so far, as the Jets are set to choose twice in each of the next two opening draft rounds after acquiring Seattle’s picks. Adams was the perfect piece for a team on the cusp of the Super Bowl to add, and he’s doing what he can to help his new cause. In Seattle, seven wins is a step, not a destination.
But, through their play, the Jets are proving Adams right, almost writing their own warning for any big-name talent that want to join their cause through free agency or the draft.
The Jets’ first step in yet another reset must be to prove Adams wrong. That, more than likely, won’t involve victories in the early going. If the heartbreak against Las Vegas from last weekend proved anything, it’s that the Jets really couldn’t care in the slightest about the concept of tanking. If anything, they should continue to use these final four weeks to build any positives and complete their offseason shopping list for yet another reset.
If it proves Adams wrong in the process…well, they’ll take any kind of victory they can get at this point.
After two seasons in with the Dolphins, Ballage will reportedly reunite with Adam Gase via a trade to the New York Jets.
Plot twist: The #Dolphins are trading RB Kalen Ballage to the #Jets for a conditional late-round pick, source said. Miami had planned to release him, but NYJ stepped in before it was official and the two have a deal.
Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the New York Jets are sending over a conditional late-round draft pick to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for rusher Kalen Ballage. Specific terms of the deal have yet to be announced.
Ballage, 24, left the Dolphins’ training camp practice early on Wednesday in Davie and was set to be released by the Dolphins before the Jets reportedly stepped in.
The 24-year-old entered the league as a fourth-round pick (131st overall) out of Arizona State. Collegiately, Ballage is best known for scoring a Football Bowl Subdivision Record eight touchdowns for the Sun Devils in their 2016 win over Texas Tech.
The trade reunites Ballage with New York Jets head coach Adam Gase, who oversaw his rookie season with the Dolphins. Ballage burst onto the scene in the late stages of 2018, tallying 123 yards on 12 carries in a December tilt against Minnesota. The big day was punctuated by a 75-yard scoring rush that opened the second half.
“That long run he had, that’s how he runs every day. That’s how he finishes every day,” Gase said after the Minnesota game, per Alain Poupart of MiamiDolphins.com “There’s a reason why he’s able to do that and was confident to just gas it and run by everybody because every day in practice we watch the same thing. When he gets a carry with the offense, he finishes in the end zone. It’s a good trait to have.”
His debut season ended with 191 yards and a 5.3 average.
He took on an increased role with six starts during the 2019 season but dealt with a leg injury and struggles, seeing his average drop to 1.8. Ballage has also earned 119 yards on 23 receptions during his Dolphins tenure.
While trading for Ballage, who was set to be let go as is, makes sense from a familiarity standpoint (having worked with Gase and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains in Miami), the rushers’ room has gotten a little crowded. Incumbent starter Le’Veon Bell is set to return, and the Jets also added veteran Frank Gore this offseason. Gore previously worked with Ballage in Miami during the 2018 season.
The team also chose Florida alum Lamical Perine in the fourth round of April’s draft. Veteran reserve Josh Adams also returns and undrafted Monmouth-produced rookie Pete Guerriero was signed earlier this week.