Every NFL team is looking to balance winning now with building for the future. Things look bleak for the 2016 Jets. Teams that start 1-4 make the Playoffs just 6% of the time under the current format. Realistically, things are going to start to shift to the side of building for the future.
It won’t happen immediately. The team cannot simply quit with just 4 losses on the season. Even if things get bleak, you still have to try and win games. This team won’t bench a healthy Brandon Marshall solely to get young players reps.
As we look forward, the team might hit the point of reassessing its goals for 2016 in the next week or two. For the front office, that should begin right now. Any move the team makes from this point forward should have 2017 and beyond in mind. There should be no Percy Harvin style half season rentals of expensive players to try and make the cosmetic record better for the end of the season.
Where are some areas where the Jets might consider at least increasing the snaps of younger players in the weeks ahead. In some cases, it will be to get a player experience. In others, it will be to evaluate what a player can do. Sometimes it is just trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Every now and then a shakeup can produce the right mix to spark a team.
Frankly, I would already be making this change. While I thought it was worth giving Ryan Fitzpatrick a one year contract to see whether he could build on his 2015 success with the Jets, the jury has returned a definitive answer in just five games. He cannot. At his age, I see no reason for continuing to run him out there.
I don’t think Geno Smith is a great option. Nor do I believe he has done a whole lot to earn another chance. His number simply is up right now. He is the best alternative to Fitzpatrick on the team. The Jets should give him a four to six week stretch to see whether he can resuscitate his career. Sometimes it is just about being in the right place at the right time. Right now Smith is at the right place at the right time.
If Smith shows himself unworthy in his four to six week trial (or plays himself out of the lineup Fitzpatrick style before that time), then it will be time to look at whether Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg have used their practice reps through the season to grow.
An NFL team has to keep trying to win games. That’s the way it is. It might be easy to talk about tanking, but you can’t reasonably expect anybody on the team to go forward with it.
Brandon Marshall will keep playing. Eric Decker will return to the lineup once he gets healthy.
What this team’s condition has done is make it unwise for Decker to rush back. This is not a situation where he needs to return as soon as humanly possible. There is no reason for him to be playing at less than 100% and risk aggravating his current injury or sustaining a new one. It hasn’t looked pretty for Robby Anderson. Charone Peake has had a few moments but generally been quiet. In the meantime, they should continue to see snaps.
This season has shown that Breno Giacomini is not a necessity. The Jets have used scrap heap guys and not seen a big dropoff in play. It probably says as much about Giacomini that scrap heap guys could replace him, but there does not seem to be a need to return him to the lineup even if he does get healthy. Brent Qvale actually might have a future role with this team, even if it is a depth one. He should continue to get playing time.
This is where the star power is, but we are reaching a point where it might be wise to try and develop Deon Simon more. No, the stars should not lose snaps, but many some could go away from the likes of Steve McLendon and Jarvis Jenkins.
David Harris’ injury might leave the Jets without a choice in the matter, but it probably is time to see Darron Lee take a full load of snaps. If Harris is let go in the offseason for salary cap reasons, Erin Henderson might slide into a starting role for 2017. We are quickly reaching the point where him seeing snaps instead of Lee is going to stop making sense.
Somebody is going to the bench once Darrelle Revis returns from injury. If Darryl Roberts is healthy, it should not be him at least in the short run. Roberts was tested a lot in the game against Pittsburgh and held up pretty well. At the very least, the Jets should make sure they get him more playing time to examine whether he is worth keeping around. Roberts is dealing with an injury of his own so health could become a factor.
Part of me initially hesitated to suggest reducing the snaps of Marcus Gilchrist since he has an important job at the back of the defense holding things together and making sure the defense is on the same page. Then I though about how out of sync on defense the Jets have looked for much of the season. It might be worth getting Rontez Miles more snaps to see up close whether a Miles/Calvin Pryor safety tandem would be doable.