In this segment I will be taking a glass is half full and glass is half empty look at the topic at hand. I will be looking over recent and relevant Jets news and giving the best and worst case scenarios. I will finish by wrapping up a realistic view of the situation. As a Jets fan, we all love to look forward to the possibility of better things. We hope every season it will be our year, and we have the reasons why lined up. A large part of the fan base, while hopeful, is pessimistic. No matter what great move we will find as many reasons for why it will fail as we do why it will work. Here you can feed your need for both. You can get hopeful and rally behind your favorite team, and hedge your bets so you don't get burned when it all crashes down.
This week I will be looking on the season as a whole. I won't go too far in depth into single games, and focus more on their general impact on the season and how that carries forward. As we all know the Jets finished 8-8 this season and second in the AFC East. That record is a 2 game improvement over last season; however we were eliminated from the playoffs in mid-December.
The Jets were picked dead last in the power rankings to begin the year. A team which was so devoid of talent stayed relevant through the entire season. While we were eliminated from the playoffs in mid-December, we still had an impact on the playoff picture as late as the final week of the season when we eliminated the Miami Dolphins. Most experts picked us to win between 4-6 games, some picked us to win less. We proved them wrong, even if we missed the playoffs. We finished the season 3-1 and on a roll. Had the season lasted longer its arguable that we would have made it in, as some teams lost steam as we were picking it up. Our wins weren't just against the bottom of the league, either. We had victories over the Patriots, Falcons, and Saints. We showed that any given Sunday we could come out and beat anyone.
Our rookies developed at different speeds, but by the end of the season it seemed every starter was gaining traction and had their arrows pointing up. We made it through a season avoiding any talk of busts in our draft class. We have arguably the best rookie in the whole league in the form of Sheldon Richardson. Our second round QB started to figure it out towards the end of the season. His legs bring something to the Jets which we have not had in recent memory. A QB who can beat you with his arm and his legs. Dee Milliner, who had a horrible start to the season, ended it as the Defensive Rookie of the Month. In his final game he looked like he was back on the field in Alabama, with 2 interceptions. Antonio Allen, while not a rookie, stepped his game up and looks to be the safety of the future we were hoping he would develop into. He virtually shut down Rob Gronkowski, a feat few can claim. Rookie Brian Winters found traction towards the end of the season. It notoriously takes offensive lines time to adapt to new members, and once he got used to his surroundings he put forth some decent games for a rookie in transition from tackle to guard. We have to look forward to what we have coming back next season in our RBs. Chris Ivory is a punisher and carried the team on his back more than once. Powell showed sparks and had stretches of superior play. In the short time we saw Mike Goodson he appeared to provide some home run power to our backfield. Word on the street is he is making good progress in his rehab. We also have one of the best defensive lines in the league, and with their age it appears we will have them for many seasons to come.
We now move into the off season. We have a ton of cap room to bring in players we can't find in the draft. Did I mention we have a GM who isn't going to trade all of our picks away? We also have a stocked cabinet of draft picks this season we can use to replenish the offensive side of the ball. We even brought back Rex Ryan. Love him or hate him, he inspires our players. He has been the best Jets coach since Bill Parcells and we're giving him another shot at bringing us the ring.
Another season of mediocrity. The downfall of this is that under Ryan the Jets have been notoriously over emotional. Following huge games we almost always come out flat. Beating Miami in the season finale could lead us into a flat offseason. We need progress out of a young roster. If they come into camp feeling like they are heroes for finishing 8-8 they could easily sit on their laurels and not progress as quickly. This fan base doesn't need an 8-8 season, it needs a Super Bowl. We have a possible lame duck at HC. Ryan coached his rear end off, and even in the half empty section we can't deny this. The rumors are Rex is looking at a single year extension at most. That means another season of ESPN talking about how every mistake he makes could be his last. Even under a 1 year extension, if he doesn't make the playoffs it looks like he will get the ax at the end of next season. This means just as our strong rookie class starts to gain real traction they will have to change systems, throwing us back into the basement of the league.
GM John Idzik said they would look at QB's but it all feels fake. If history tells us anything about the Jets it will be that any QB competition will be a farce. Smith will be the starter next season. He started looking passable towards the end of the season, but that was only after the season had already been lost. There is nothing over the course of the entire seasons which says he will be the answer. If Idzik does draft a QB early in the draft he will lose out on the opportunity to draft talent for that QB to throw to. Its a lose lose situation. Smith will progress much like Sanchez. He will do enough to win a few games and do enough to lose a few games, leaving us where we are now. Not watching our team play football in January.
This roster is still devoid of talent, no matter what the final rankings say. We are a 5-11 team who over achieved. That means next season we will be back to hoping rookies can come in and contribute immediately. That is just like playing with fire. We now expect the Jets to do better than 8-8 next season after a strong finish, but even with a strong rookie class next seasons we'd be lucky to improve to an 8-8 team talent wise. There is nothing saying we will get wins handed to us last season like we did against Tampa and New England on penalties. Somehow we are the happiest team to not be in the playoffs, and that doesn't speak well for how much we will progress headed into next season.
The Jets move into the offseason with room to grow and implode. Only time will tell which of those things happen. Right now the arrow seems to point more towards growth. We have a fresh face in the front office who's first draft had some winners and few disappointments. He has money and picks to replenish the roster even if he does make a few mistakes this roster will be more talented next season.The only question is how hard that talented roster will play and how much emotional gas Rex has to still lead this team after this season. The last 2 seasons the Jets have gone into the offseason broken with little hope. This season there is actual reason for hope.
I expect Geno to progress more as a runner than as a passer. I think he will still have more interceptions than touchdowns next season, but I think he will use his legs more and create more first downs. The defense looks to be as good next season as it was this season. The only big name who might leave is Cromartie, who had a poor season to begin with. I look for Milliner to grow into a passable CB all season long with better play still ahead of him in his career. We have enough draft picks to replenish the offense and an OC who seems to actually know what he is doing half the time. We also have room to bring in free agents who could contribute immediately. The realistic view is it is too early to tell how the Jets will do next season. The only thing we know is that this is lining up to be one of the most exciting, entertaining, and fun offseason this fan base has seen in awhile. I am more excited for this season than I was after our back to back AFC Championship games.