Deja Vu

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

This looks strangely familiar.

The Jets go into this offseason with many Jets fans optimistic for the future, a stark contrast to last year's doom and gloom outlook.  New GM John Idzik made a large number of roster moves, making a major overhaul of the team despite limited salary cap resources.  Those moves resulted in an improved record of 8-8 compared to 2012's dismal 6-10, and seemingly set the franchise up for a sustained run at football excellence.  So goes the prevailing narrative.  But how much has really changed?  Let's take a look.

Here's a chart of the many similarities between the 2013 and the 2012 New York Jets.  Note: PFR Expected Record refers to pro-football-reference.com's proprietary metric, Expected W-L.   This is an estimate of what the team's record "should have been," given the team's points scored and allowed.  A detailed discussion of this metric and what it purports to measure, and how it does so, can be found here.

At first glance, does it surprise you how much is nearly identical between the two teams?

2012

2013

Offense Rank: Yards

30

25

Passing Offense Rank

30

31

Offense Rank: Points

28

29

Defense Rank: Yards

8

11

Defense Rank: Points

20

19

Points Allowed

375

387

Points Scored

281

290

Point Differential

94

97

PFR Expected Record

5.4-10.6

5.4-10.6

Passing Yards

2891

2932

Passing TDs

14

13

Passing INTs

19

22

QB Rating

68.3

66.6

Top 2 RBs Rushing Yards

1500

1530

Top 2 RBs Receptions

36

38

Top 2 RBs Receiving Yards

291

282

Receiving Yards Leader

Kerley

Kerley

Receiving TDs Leader

Cumberland

Cumberland

Average Age

26.0

26.1

Of course these comparisons are cherry picked to show the similarities, and there are plenty of differences too, but when you look at this, the parallels are a bit striking.  In particular, note the nearly identical passing production at QB, the nearly identical rushing and receiving production at running back, the nearly identical point differentials, the identical Expected Won Loss Record by pro-football-reference.com.  If you didn't know better, at first glance, it's the same team.

The performance of the two teams might have been strikingly similar in a number of ways, but what about the teams' respective situations going into the offseason?  Surely the Jets are in a far different position going into 2014 than they were in 2013?  Well... yes and no.  Yes, in that after the team engages in the annual ritual of cuts and restructurings, the 2014 Jets will have roughly double last year's cap space of  a little over $20 Million.  That is a significant difference, and one that should give Jets fans everywhere hope.

And the "no" part of this?  How are the Jets not in that much of a different position going into 2014 than they were going into 2013?  Well, let's take a look at the roster, position by position.

OFFENSE

Quarterback

The 2012 Jets had a starting QB who was one of the three worst starting QBs in the NFL, a turnover machine who had trouble punching the ball into the end zone through the air, who was among the least accurate passers in the NFL, who suffered greatly from poor mechanics and questionable decision making, and who was not at all a clear long term answer at the position.  None of the backup QBs were viable options, and arguably none even belonged in the NFL. Going into the offseason there were questions about whether the team should draft a QB and in what round, whether a high profile QB could be traded or would have to be cut, and whether the team should look to sign a free agent to compete for the starting job.

The 2013 Jets had a starting QB who was one of the three worst starting QBs in the NFL, a turnover machine who had trouble punching the ball into the end zone through the air, who was among the least accurate passers in the NFL, who suffered greatly from poor mechanics and questionable decision making, and who was not at all a clear long term answer at the position.  None of the backup QBs were viable options, and arguably none even belonged in the NFL.  Going into the offseason there are questions about whether the team should draft a QB and in what round, whether a high profile QB can be traded or will have to be cut, and whether the team should look to sign a free agent to compete for the starting job.

Wide Receiver

The 2012 Jets had one of the worst WR units in the NFL, led by Jeremy Kerley, an injured Santonio Holmes, and a disappointing young project in Stephen Hill.  After Holmes went down Hill completely disappeared.  When Holmes was out there was arguably not a single WR on the roster other than Kerley who even belonged on an NFL roster.  The legend of Clyde Gates was born.  Going into the offseason there were major questions about whether Holmes would ever play for the Jets again, and outside of Kerley every other position at wide receiver was in major need of an upgrade.

The 2013 Jets had one of the worst WR units in the NFL, led by Jeremy Kerley, an injured Santonio Holmes, and a disappointing young project in Stephen Hill.  After Holmes went down Hill completely disappeared.  When Holmes was out there was arguably not a single WR on the roster other than Kerley who even belonged on an NFL roster.  The legend of Clyde Gates continued.  Going into the offseason there are major questions about whether Holmes will ever play for the Jets again, and outside of Kerley every other position at wide receiver is in major need of an upgrade.

Tight End

The 2012 Jets had a veteran tight end with a good resume who had injury problems and ended up with limited production, and a big, fast project tight end in Jeff Cumberland who led the team in receiving TDs and was along with Kerley the only semblance of a big play threat on the team.  The third tight end was an undrafted free agent project who produced nearly nothing on the field.   Going into the offseason both of the top two tight ends were free agents who were uncertain to be brought back.  The veteran tight end was unlikely to be back and would need to be replaced, and Cumberland was a free agent whom the Jets were uncertain to bring back, an enigma who tantalized with some big plays but in general disappointed.

The 2013 Jets had a veteran tight end with a good resume who had injury problems and ended up with limited production, and a big, fast project tight end in Jeff Cumberland who led the team in receiving TDs and was along with Kerley the only semblance of a big play threat on the team.  The third tight end was an undrafted free agent project who produced nearly nothing on the field.   Going into the offseason both of the top two tight ends are free agents who are uncertain to be brought back.  The veteran tight end is unlikely to be back and will need to be replaced, and Cumberland is a free agent whom the Jets are uncertain to bring back, an enigma who tantalized with some big plays but in general disappointed.

Running Back

The 2012 Jets had a big power back as the top option at running back, followed on the depth chart by Bilal Powell, a jack of all trades, master of none type, and a speedy, talented but troubled third down back who had trouble staying on the field.  The fullback proved to be a terrible blocker and not much better as a runner or receiver.  Going into the offseason the third down back was a major risk not to make the next season's roster, and ended up being replaced.

The 2013 Jets had a big power back as the top option at running back, followed on the depth chart by Bilal Powell, a jack of all trades, master of none type, and a speedy, talented but troubled third down back who had trouble staying on the field. The fullback proved to be a terrible blocker and not much better as a runner or receiver.  Going into the offseason the third down back is a major risk not to make the next season's roster, and will likely need to be replaced.

Offensive Line

The 2012 Jets offensive line featured a pair of former Pro Bowl players in Ferguson and Mangold, a young guard and an old guard, and a surprisingly effective young right tackle in Austin Howard.  The old guard was effective but aging, while the young guard was not as effective.  The primary backup was a bust named Vlad.  Beyond Vlad there were a whole lot of question marks that were fairly likely to never be starting quality NFL players.  Going into the offseason both of the starting guards were free agents and were likely to be replaced, Mangold and Ferguson were aging but their contracts made them uncuttable, and Howard was a free agent whom the Jets likely wanted to retain.

The 2013 Jets offensive line featured a pair of former Pro Bowl players in Ferguson and Mangold, a young guard and an old guard, and a surprisingly effective young right tackle in Austin Howard.  The old guard was effective but aging, while the young guard was not as effective.  The primary backup was a bust named Vlad.  Beyond Vlad there were a whole lot of question marks that were fairly likely to never be starting quality NFL players.  Going into the offseason the older starting guard is a free agent and will likely be replaced, and the young starting guard struggled mightily and may be a target for an upgrade.  Mangold and Ferguson are aging but their contracts make them uncuttable, and Howard is a free agent whom the Jets likely want to retain.


DEFENSE

Defensive Line

The 2012 Jets had a good defensive line anchored by a budding superstar in Mo Wilkerson who was unjustly snubbed by the Pro Bowl.  The starting nose tackle was an undrafted free agent who was very good against the run but not so great in pass rush situations.  The starting end opposite Wilkerson was a dynamic rookie with seemingly limitless potential.  Going into the offseason the starting nose tackle was a free agent who would likely have to be replaced, possibly by their in house option, Kenrick Ellis.  The defensive line as a whole was young, talented and seemed likely to develop into a team strength for years to come.

The 2013 Jets had a great defensive line anchored by a budding superstar in Mo Wilkerson, who was unjustly snubbed by the Pro Bowl.  The starting nose tackle was an undrafted free agent who was great against the run but not so great in pass rush situations.  The starting end opposite Wilkerson was a dynamic rookie with seemingly limitless potential.  Going into the offseason the Jets are in great shape here, with only Wilkerson's looming contract talks a concern.    The defensive line as a whole is young, extremely talented and seems likely to be one of the NFL's premier units for years to come.


Linebackers

The 2012 Jets had an aging group of linebackers who struggled mightily in both pass protection and against the run.  The team had no viable edge rusher.  The best of an underwhelming group  was an aging David Harris.  Both outside linebackers were likely to be cut, and it was uncertain if either would return on more favorable contract terms.  Outside of rookie DeMario Davis there was little depth, and the team had a big need to upgrade the position across the board.  Going into the offseason the Jets needed to find at least one, and possibly two new outside linebackers, as well as an edge rusher, better backups, and David Harris' eventual replacement.

The 2013 Jets had a younger group of linebackers than 2012, who struggled mightily in pass protection but were improved against the run, thanks largely to the great play of the defensive line.  The team had no viable edge rusher once Barnes went down.  The best of an underwhelming group was an aging David Harris.  One outside linebacker is a free agent, and it is uncertain if he will return.  The other outside linebacker is an ongoing project.  The jury is still out on Coples as an OLB, and he may need to be replaced or repositioned in the near future.    There is no depth, and the team has a need to upgrade the position across the board.  Going into the offseason the Jets need to find at least one  new outside linebacker, although indications are they may stick with the ancient Pace.  They may also need an edge rusher, depending on Barnes' recovery and effectiveness, they desperately need better backups, and they still need to find David Harris' eventual replacement.


Safety

The 2012 Jets had a safety named Landry on a one year deal, an ancient veteran starting opposite Landry, also on a one year deal, and Antonio Allen and Josh Bush as primary backups.  The safeties were effective against the run but not so good in pass coverage.  Going into the offseason both starting safeties were free agents who would have to be replaced, and the backups were major question marks.  The Jets needed to find at least two, and preferably three new safeties.

The 2013 Jets had a safety named Landry on a one year deal, an ancient veteran starting opposite Landry, also on a one year deal, and Antonio Allen and Josh Bush as primary backups.  The safeties were effective against the run but terrible in pass coverage.  Going into the offseason both starting safeties are free agents who will likely have to be replaced, and the backups are major question marks, with the possible exception of Allen.  The Jets need to find at least two, and preferably three new safeties.


Cornerback

The 2012 Jets had a Pro Bowl player at one starting CB position and a young CB with questionable skills on the outside at the other starting position.  The unit proved to be surprisingly effective.  Going into the offseason the injured veteran former All Pro was very uncertain to be back, and also a health risk if he did come back.  If he was not back, the Jets would need to find at least one new starting caliber CB.  The backups were young, promising but unproven players at the NFL level.

The 2013 Jets had an injured former Pro Bowl CB at one starting CB position and a young CB with questionable skills on the outside at the other starting position.  The unit proved to be disastrously  ineffective.  Going into the offseason the veteran former Pro Bowl CB is very uncertain to be back, and also a health risk if he does come back.  If he is not back, the Jets will need to find at least one new starting caliber CB.  The backups are young, reasonably promising, but unproven players at the NFL level.


Special Teams

The 2012 Jets had a mediocre young punter, a career underperforming placekicker in Nick Folk, and a steady long snapper in Tanner Purdum.  Going into the offseason all three players were free agents and it was uncertain whether any of them would be back.  Aside from Purdum it was also uncertain whether it was desirable for any of them to be back.

The 2013 Jets had a mediocre young punter, a career underperforming placekicker in Nick Folk who produced a great, best by far in his career season, and a steady long snapper in Tanner Purdum.  Going into the offseason all three players are free agents and it is uncertain whether any of them will be back.  Aside from Purdum it is also uncertain whether it is desirable for any of them to be back. Folk's great season may make him too pricey for the Jets to re-sign him.  The Jets may have to replace both the punter and the kicker this offseason.

Whew!  That's a lot of comparing!  In summary, here's what the 2012 Jets looked like they were going to need to replace in the offseason:

2-3 quarterbacks, 1-2 running backs, 3-4 wide receivers, 2-3 tight ends, 2 guards, 1 defensive lineman, 2-3 linebackers, 2-3 Safeties, 1 cornerback, 1 kicker, 1 punter.

And here's what the 2013 Jets look like they need to replace in the offseason:

2 quarterbacks, 1-2 running backs, 3-4 wide receivers, 2-3 tight ends, 1-2 guards, 0 defensive linemen, 1-2 linebackers, 2-3 safeties, 1 cornerback, 1 kicker, 1 punter.

Notice anything similar about those lists?  Despite a year of wheeling and dealing, a ton of back of the roster tryouts, $20 Mil in cap space spent, and an entire draft class, the 2013 Jets are in a very similar team building situation to what they faced last year.  The needs are extremely similar.  Nearly all the holes have not been filled.  Both the positions of need and the numbers of players needed are almost identical.  The Jets largely swapped out a very good defensive backfield and bad run defense in 2012 for a very bad defensive backfield and a great run defense in 2013.  They swapped one terrible QB for another, albeit the new QB still has room to grow, a quality notably lacking in the old QB.

The notion that the Jets got younger?  Nope.  The 2013 Jets were actually a tad older than the 2012 Jets.

So what it looks like on a macro scale is a lot of running on a treadmill.  A whole lot of steps were taken, a whole lot of energy expended, only to end up in pretty much the same place.  Of course a lot of this was inevitable, with so many holes to fill and only $20 mil or so to fill them with.  Nonetheless, it does give one pause.  Idzik chose to go in a certain direction in free agency, spreading the money among a lot of marginal players, some marginal based on talent, some based on age, some based on injuries.  Almost none of those risks paid off.  While at this point it is certainly Monday morning quarterbacking, there was another direction Idzik could have gone in.  Instead of attempting to fill every hole with marginal veteran players, Idzik could have chosen to spend the bulk of the money on 2 or 3 impact players and filled the rest of the holes internally, with minimum contract FAs, or through the draft.  While it is easy to second guess, this is actually the way I thought the Jets should have gone in at the time.  Instead of bunches of FAs who would end up contributing little or nothing, like Peterman, Winslow, Garay, Landry, Goodson, Barnes, etc., the Jets could have signed young talented impact players like, for instance, a tight end like Jared Cook, a guard like Andy Levitre, or a  safety like Dashon Goldson.  The Jets could have signed at least one such player, possibly even two, and shored up those positions for years to come.  Instead the team is back where they started a year ago, with almost all the same holes to fill.

The GM's job is never easy.  Second guessing always is.  But for all the optimism regarding John Idzik and the Jets' future, I think legitimate questions can be raised as to the general approach the team is taking with respect to free agents.  One can ask whether the team would have been better off, both in the short term and in the long term, spending the bulk of the available dollars on a couple of legitimate young impact players instead of a plethora of marginal players better suited to backup roles.  Yes it would have meant filling the remaining holes from within, or through the draft, or with marginal players on minimum deals.  But in retrospect, isn't that basically what happened anyway?  Didn't the Jets end up with a host of free agents who contributed little or nothing to the team?  How much worse could the alternatives have been?  With $20 Mil to spend last year Idzik chose a certain direction, and that path turned out to be primarily circular, with the team right back in the same place it was a year ago.  If you had slept through the 2013 season, Rip Van Winkle style, then awoke to see at a glance the team's results and current needs, you could be excused for thinking you had just fallen asleep for a 5 minute nap.  The current situation imbues the observer with a strong sense of deja vu; we've seen this play before, seems like only a year ago.  With $40 Mil to spend this year, it will be interesting to see whether the Jets' approach alters, and whether the team can step off the treadmill in 2014 and make real progress.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Gang Green Nation

You must be a member of Gang Green Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Gang Green Nation. You should read them.

Join Gang Green Nation

You must be a member of Gang Green Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Gang Green Nation. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker