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Arrested Development

NFL: New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

To explain where I’m coming from, I should note that I’ve been a huge Jets fan my entire life. When I was just a few years old, the Jets GM had a home nearby and would host a party for many of the players. I tossed a ball with some of the team, left wearing a shiny new Jets hat, and I was hooked. It didn’t change matters that I lived in a Giants household, I was a Jet for life. When I worked in China, I would pull all-nighters every Sunday night so I could watch the Jets play at 1:00 or 4:00 AM before work. I never missed a minute of any game and even tuned into the draft before dawn to see who would be the next new Jet.

This is the first year in which I just can’t bring myself to care. I still tune in to the games, but I actually missed the start of the Jets-Colts game. I didn’t miss it because I had something else to do or because I didn’t want to watch the massacre I knew would be coming. I was checking emails as I waited for the game to start and when I looked away, it was past 4 and the game was already tied 7-7. For the first time, I cared so little that I didn’t bother to check the time.

I could get into the years of mismanagement that have lead the Jets to a decade without a playoff appearance and just one winning season. It’s not hard to explain why the Jets are as bad as they are right now. If you’ve watched any other games this season, it’s pretty clear that the Jets have the worst roster in the NFL right now. Sam Darnold has been about as bad as any quarterback in football in his third year, ranking bottom 5 among QBs starting all 3 games this season in TD percentage, INT percentage, passer rating, QBR, yards per attempt, and really any other pertinent metric you can find. His supporting cast is the worst in the NFL, with his below average rebuilt offensive line somehow becoming arguably the strongest part of the offense. The defense is a sieve without a single player playing above replacement level over the course of 3 games.

While re-watching the Jets game against the Colts, I started to wonder if any other team in the NFL this year has not had a lead at any point during their first 3 games. A few minutes of research later, I realized that the Jets stood alone. Then I began wondering how often the Jets played from behind. I calculated it myself, so bear with me on any rounding errors, but I found that the Jets have been playing from behind for 161 minutes and 57 seconds out of their 180 total minutes of playtime this year. That comes out to about 90% of game time, or approximately 54 minutes per game. The average NFL drive lasts around 3 minutes, meaning that by around the end of the second possession of the game, you can expect the Jets to be losing with no hope to ever even tie their opponent.

Now in my desperation for football during my quarantine misery, I’ve watched all of the other 0-3 teams play in a competitive game this year. I’ve seen fans of other teams comment on their misery, and understandably so when their team is 0-3. The Jets are different. Outside of the Jets rookies, there isn’t a single player I wouldn’t trade on this roster (salary restrictions aside) for a handful of peanuts. While teams like Atlanta and Minnesota are also 0-3, you can find multiple players that would likely fetch first or second round picks in a trade. Thus far in the season, the Jets best player is a rookie tackle who has played moderately well.

I remember writing an article prior to the 2015 season thinking that Maccagnan’s spending spree was a bad idea. The Jets need to rebuild and were nowhere close to being competitive. When the Jets won 10 games that year, I was both shocked and ecstatic. I was even foolish enough to believe that if the Jets could draft a young quarterback and develop him, maybe the team was closer than I thought. The 2016 season reminded us that Maccagnan’s strategy never works. When you’re as bad as the Jets have been and you don’t have a QB, you need to tear it all down.

That’s what the Jets have done and now we will have to reap the whirlwind. If the Jets continue to play as the way they have in the first 3 games, they deserve to go 0-16. I don’t care if the Jets can beat a Broncos team missing nearly all of its star players. Who cares if Adam Gase wins that game? Gase now has as many double digit losses in his coaching career as wins. Sam Darnold’s career passer rating is now about 7 points below Jameis Winston and nearly 10 points below Marcus Mariota, the top two picks from a few years before he was picked. Marcus Mariota is actually closer to Tom Brady than Sam Darnold, and he was set to back up Derek Carr this year.

Yes, Darnold likely has the worst supporting cast in the NFL. I get it, and I don’t care. It feels like the only way you can judge his play at this point would be to put in Flacco and judge him by comparison. The fact is, Gase and Darnold are not passing the eye test. The offense looks set to be the worst in the NFL in back to back years. The defense isn’t any better, and Gregg Williams isn’t looking quite as rosy this year trying to keep it together. The team has completely failed to develop and retain any of its young players.

We haven’t seen enough from Joe Douglas to know if he’s “the guy.” The Jets have given him a small fortune for a long contract, so as far as running the team goes, he’s going to be our guy. It’s time to let him completely tear down the roster, pick his coach, draft his guys, and sign the free agents that fit the coach’s scheme and philosophy. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t know if it will, but at this point, it can’t get any worse.

All I ask at this point is that I care about watching the team again. For most of the last decade, I knew the team wouldn’t be any good, but I was encouraged to watch the games to see the young guys and the development of the team. Right now, I can barely force myself to look up from my phone and see the next play. I feel like Darnold is nearly done with the Jets. I feel like Gase is an embarrassing placeholder who has failed upwards his entire career. I feel like the owner doesn’t care and I’m being taken for granted as a fan. He probably just assumes there’s always money in the banana stand. But at this point if the franchise doesn’t put together some kind of plan for the future soon, I can’t see how anyone could be blamed for walking away from the Jets.