When the Jets hired Joe Douglas on June 7th 2019 it was hopefully a turning point for an organization that was mired in a disastrous run of futility. The New York Jets were a team with little talent, they were not getting better under Mike Maccagnan but in fact were getting worse; much worse. Many surmised that things would get even worse before they got better. Those prognosticators (including yours truly + many of you) were correct in their assumption. The Jets hadn’t yet reached the bottom of the abyss.
Remember that Mike Maccagnan was fired on May 15th 2019 and the Jets named Adam Gase as interim GM at that time. This move that was like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse and the players inside the henhouse were not too pleased, with good reason. Fortunately the Jets signed Joe Douglas less than 4 weeks later, which kept Gase from doing even further damage to an already horrible situation. Yet there was no denying the carnage to the Jets roster and cap space before Joe arrived. Let’s look back.
The Jets allowed Mike Maccagnan to spend over $120 million in free agency with an astronomical contract to an off ball linebacker in C. J. Mosley for 5 years/$85 million, plus Le’Veon Bell for 4 years/$52.5 million. Bell hadn’t even played the year before so many here were very skeptical of the move, especially when the head coach didn’t want either player. Of course Rich Cimini summed up the Bell signing as “This is a home run for the Jets, no matter how you look at it.”
Of course the Jets then allowed Maccagnan to handle the 2019 NFL draft before firing him only weeks later. Chris Johnson was right on top of things (okay I just threw up a little in my mouth) when he said “The more I looked, the more I realized that I wanted to move on. It was only through diving deep into the organization, it was only through going through this particular offseason deeply that I understood how this organization was lacking in certain ways. This isn’t a decision that I could’ve made at the end of the season. I could with Todd. I could not with Mike.”
It is stunning to think that a man in charge of a team worth in excess of $3 billion could not see the lack of talent or just understand that a team that had records of 5-11 in 2016, 5-11 in 2017 and 4-12 in 2018 was headed in the wrong direction. Sure, the head coach has to take some blame, but the GM is the guy who supplies the talent and that talent wasn’t there.
This is why the Jets under Chris Johnson’s leadership had an 18-46 record, a .281 winning percentage, which tied the New York Giants as the worst record in the NFL during that period. Also the Jets were so bad at amassing talent under Mike Maccagnan that Marcus Maye is the only player on the team who was a Jet before Chris Johnson took control of the team. This is a mystifying lack of talent evaluation that many here could see so clearly but the man running the team was so blind to.
Yet while many here at GGN were seeing the inevitable slide into the chasm of futility, many in the media and supposed football gurus were praising the Jets. Walter Football had this insight about the Jets chances in 2019:
2019 New York Jets Analysis: The Jets are a legitimate Super Bowl threat. Yes, that’s correct. If Sam Darnold makes the expected leap in his second season, he can lead the Jets to a deep playoff appearance. He has legitimate talent around him, while his offensive line has been upgraded. The defense, meanwhile, will be much stronger with Quinnen Williams and C.J. Mosley on the field, as well as Trumaine Johnson presumably healthier. The Jets also will have the luxury of navigating a fourth-place schedule, so 10-plus victories are expected.
Projection: 10-6 (2nd in AFC East)
While the Jets had the fortune to squeak out some close victories against teams late in the season who may or may not have been trying to win, they finished with a 7-9 record but a point differential of -83. By the first week of November they were 1-7 and essentially out of any playoff run. So even though the Jets finished the year winning 6 of 8 games they were never Super Bowl contenders like Walter Football thought.
The late season run was devastating in that it precluded Joe Douglas from moving on from Adam Gase in the offseason. We have no idea what Joe thought of Gase at the time, but I am sure the Jets brass were probably pounding their chests over the 6-2 finish of the season and thinking the Jets were headed in the right direction. As a first time GM, Joe Douglas may not have wanted to be questioned about firing a coach who appeared to move the team forward. The debacle that transpired in 2020 only cemented what many of us already knew; that this was an unmitigated disaster that had to be cleansed, then rebooted.
Joe Douglas had some curious free agent signings and his offensive line in 2020 was just that - offensive. So some of the problems associated with Adam Gase (which were many) have to fall at the feet of Joe Douglas also. Yet at least Joe didn’t make that signature, awful, huge free agent signing that is an albatross around the neck to the team for years to come.
He also didn’t bring in a Davis Webb or Trevor Siemian at backup QB that had never worked in the offensive system before. He didn’t draft a player in the 3rd round with such horrendous character issues as Jachai Polite. A player who was so terrible he didn’t even make the final cuts out of camp as a 3rd round draft pick.
In fact I will go on record that I think he did an excellent job in the 2021 NFL draft that will pay dividends for the Jets for years to come. I would have drafted slightly different than Joe did but informed minds can disagree without retribution or blame. I think overall he did a fine job, he brought in talent.
It was time to turn the page
Joe Douglas fired Adam Gase then hired Robert Saleh, who was my choice as coach before we had hired Gase. So we get my choice for coach eventually but with an additional two years of coordinator experience, which is a good thing. Saleh comes in highly respected by players with the type of can-do attitude that is the antithesis of his predecessor. He has been a breath of fresh air at Florham Park.
All Gas No Brake
Saleh has instituted a new manta for the Jets which is “All gas no brake.” This differs from the previous mantra of Adam Gase which was non existent, he had no mantra. Now slogans and catch phrases are great if they motivate the team but mean little overall. What is significant is that the all gas no break chant gives the players insight (with little or no explanation) of the way the Jets players are supposed to play. It tells the players go, go, go, go, go. Fly to the ball on defense and take the ball to the house on offense.
The players have taken to Saleh’s positive attitude, veteran C. J. Mosley said “First day here, he brought the energy, that’s what you want from a head coach. Our job as players is to come in every day and make sure we buy into the system, that we buy into the new way of the Jets — all gas, no brake — and we bring it to the field when it’s ready.”
I have never seen such a polarizing Jets draft selection than the Jets first pick in the 2021 draft, and I have been obsessed with the Jets draft for more than 50 years. I have also scouted the NFL draft for over 30 years, and I was one of the proponents of the Jets drafting Zach Wilson. I was one of the lone supporters of the Jets drafting Josh Allen over Sam Darnold back in 2018. At the QB position you draft for intelligence, elite talent, desire to work, movement skills and then arm talent. Allen and Wilson both show me what I am looking for, especially in the first three indices which for me are the most important. I really think Wilson can be special - not just average - special.
I think most would concede that Wilson is very intelligent with superior arm talent. After his sophomore season at BYU (when he was only 19 years old) he sought out help with his technique which was poor. He would end up driving 10 hours from Provo Utah to San Diego California to work with former BYU and NFL QB John Beck who was now a QB coach. They worked on his mechanics from the ground up. Over the course of many sessions Wilson began to make huge strides in his technique. This led to his superior 2021 season, the difference in his transformation was night and day. This is still a work in progress but as long as he continues to seek improvement, then puts in the work, he will continue to become a much more polished player.
The best NFL players never stop trying to improve their game and working hard. I could regale you with stories about Peyton Manning and Tom Brady working on their games continually but suffice it to say that they did, and reaped the rewards from it. I’m not saying that Zach Wilson will have a career like either of those players (not ruling it out either) but the fact he puts in the work is refreshing.
Wilson is also a film room junkie, not only watching tape of his opponents but also his own play with the hope of improving his play. He has been known to practice for hours upon hours with the team, then go home and watch film all night, at times eating his dinner in front of his laptop. Mike LaFleur was warned by his brother (Packer head coach Matt LaFleur) not to burn out his QB by making him watch too much tape. Mike LaFleur responded “He’s the one who wants to watch the film.” That’s the type of effort I want from my QB. Some of the initial thoughts about Zach Wilson from the Jets OTAs;
He’s a junkie, I mean, he just wants film to the face, It’s just unique and it’s cool to watch him be able to sit there and stay focused and process all the information we’re trying to give him.
That’s always been big, but it has been pointed out a little more recently with Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers guys that do it at such a unique level, that popped off the tape right away. There’s no doubt about his arm talent, he has a skill that can’t be taught — the ability to adjust his arm angle.
He looks good. His arm is live. Gets the ball in and out of his hands pretty quickly. He’s a good decision maker and all that good stuff. So there’s gonna be ebbs and flows with them, but we’re really excited about what he’s shown so far.
He’s relentless in terms of his want for knowledge. In terms of studying, it’s interesting when he’s watching tape, the things he’s able to pick up and recognize on tape. He’s already trying to get himself in that (graduate level) 501 world. He’s got a lot of horsepower in his mind and he’s not afraid to go with it.
As time goes by, we keep working together, we start working these different types of routes together, I think it’s all gonna take care of itself. I enjoy throwing to these guys. We’ve got some studs.
Learning plays, formations and assignments, it’s kind of like eating that bowl of cereal, You’re not really thinking about lifting that spoon up to your mouth and chewing and all that kind of stuff. It just naturally happens.
I guess what you can say is so far so good and hope this work continues into training camp then shows fruit in the regular season. I have to like what I’ve heard so far.
Some things Joe Douglas has changed for the better
Joe Douglas has created an athletic care and sports performance department which will be run by Dr. Brad DeWeese. Dr. DeWeese has trained Olympic athletes with an emphasis on speed and power.
The sports performance department will have a detailed plan for every player with special attention paid to weight training, injury recovery and even a specialized meal plan. Joe Douglas and the Jets have been criticized in the past over care of injured athletes like Quincy Enunwa, Kelechi Osemele and Muhammad Wilkerson, who all had harsh things to say about the Jets in the press.
The fact that Joe Douglas has shown special attention to the needs of his athletes is a step in the right direction for the Jets and the NFL as a whole. This is a violent game, and everything possible should be done to alleviate any trauma the players suffer. It will also hopefully get players back faster but also prevent injuries like soft tissue injuries from happening. The Jets have lost many players for prolonged periods of time due to groin, hamstring and other soft tissue injuries. The hope is to get players help faster, with all their needs met in short order, with everything under one division of health. Robert Saleh stated “We feel like, at least from a physical standpoint, when they walk into this building, there’s 100% attention on each individual.”
To aid in this quest the Jets have hired strength and conditioning coach Mike Nicolini, who like Robert Saleh comes from the San Francisco 49ers. With familiarity and a better, more condensed care program, players will have improved training along with better, faster care.
Joe Douglas has also hired Matt Burke to be a game management specialist who worked in the same capacity with the Tennessee Titans a few years back. Burke will be a liaison for the Jets, who will work with the analytics department, then meet with Robert Saleh on some possible game situations. Using recent data many in-game situations will have been worked through in advance to devise the correct course of action before they arise. Saleh said of Burke, “He’s a tremendous asset.”
Jets power structure
The Jets have made it clear that when Robert Saleh was hired that he will report directly to Joe Douglas and not Woody Johnson, unlike the structure with Todd Bowles and Adam Gase. Joe Douglas is now the sole team representative who will report to ownership. This will alleviate the disastrous relationship the former GM-coach-owner relationship that was foolishly used in the past.
What do you think? Do you think the moves the Jets have made are taking the team in the right direction?