Images Courtesy of NY Daily News
By Jack Cherico
In recent history, the New York Jets have been one of the more mediocre teams in the National Football League. With the New England Patriots dominating the division, Jets fans haven’t had much to celebrate. On September 24th, a pitiful protest, consisting of 5 people, was held outside the Jets practice facility, to advocate for the firing of head coach Adam Gase. Although the protest was slightly embarrassing, this begs the question, why have the Jets been so bad in recent years? Is it because Gase isn’t the quarterback whisperer everyone thought he was? Or are there other problems contributing to the downfall of the team.
Gase hasn’t been successful in his two years with the Jets, leading them to a 0-3 start this season, and a 7-9 season last year. He has had some previous success with Peyton Manning in Denver, but struggled with Ryan Tannehill in Miami. He has not shown to be helping the franchise quarterback, Sam Darnold, progress, and top-tier free agents such as running back Le’veon Bell have declined in his scheme. His practices have also been criticized by team leaders, with safety Bradley Mcdougald saying they’ve had “some slow practices, and it correlates to the game,” as well as Linebacker Avery Williamson saying “Sometimes in practice, guys are missing tackles or we’re not doing things right. We haven’t been as crisp as we should be.” This is a problem:as my old football coach used to say, “you play how you practice”. However, in Gase’s defense, the Jets organization has been tough to watch for years.
The team wasn’t always a train wreck, with their famous Super Bowl win in 1969, the New York Sack Exchange of the 1980’s, and back to back conference championship appearances in 2010 and 2011. But now, three main problems with the team have permeated the whole organization, leading to pain for every Jets fan in America.
The first reason as to why the Jets have fallen on hard times is the decisions of the owners, Woody and Chris Johnson. The Johnsons are heirs to the Johnson and Johnson pharmaceutical company, and they purchased the team in 2000, for 635 million dollars. The two brothers have been possibly the worst owners in the league because of their football decisions. Although exorbitantly wealthy, the Johnsons do not know very much about football, and cannot seem to hire coaches and general managers that fit their vision for the team.
For reference, Jets hire a defensive minded coach, such as Rex Ryan or Todd Bowles, but then cannot find any good offensive specialists for the team to compliment a defensive oriented coach. This has led to the jets being ranked no higher than 24th in the league in total offense from 2012-2019, with the worst being 31st in 2019. The other major problem with the Johnsons is their insistence on inserting themselves into roster moves, such as trading for quarterback Brett Favre in 2008. Coach at the time, Eric Mangini, had no interest in Favre, saying “We weren’t going to be a team that was going to be built on one guy… When we had the opportunity to bring Brett in, it didn’t fit with the vision, the idea of bringing someone in who was really bigger than the team.” Woody Johnson however, did it anyway, and the team finished 9-7 in 2008, missing the playoffs. The acquisition of Favre, and many other examples, show how ownership has brought down the Jets.
The second reason why Gang Green have been subpar is the play of the most important unit on the field, the offensive linemen. In 2019, the Jets were ranked the 28th offensive line unit, and allowed pressure in 2.5 seconds or less on 27.5% of their dropbacks. For a young Quarterback like Sam Darnold, time in the pocket is extremely necessary to make offensive reads, and to have a sense of security. In a 2019 game against the Patriots, Darnold reported “seeing ghosts” in the Patriots secondary. This was because Darnold had no time in the pocket, and in a cover zero scheme that the Patriots were running (all corner-backs in man coverage, everyone else pressures the QB), the O-line had to step up. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, and the Jets lost 33-0. Darnold completed 11-of-32 for a career-low 86 yards, was sacked once for a loss of 13 yards and tied a career-high with four interceptions. Since future Hall of Fame center Nick Mangold, and guard D’Brickashaw Ferguson retired, the Jets have had no good players in their front 5, which has contributed to the decline of running back Le’Veon Bell. To even be competitive in the AFC East, the Jets will have to improve the O-line with big name signings, such as Brandon Scherff and Alex Mack, who are both slated to be free agents this upcoming off season.
In all fairness, you can’t mention the Jets without bringing up the massive amounts of injuries they have suffered. 18 Jets players were on the Injury report going into their most recent game against the Indianapolis Colts, and rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton, a future bright spot for the team, left the game with a shoulder injury. A few players to highlight on the injury report are middle linebacker Avery Williamson, rookie wide receiver Denzel Mims, the aforementioned Bell, and strong safety Bradley McDougald. This is a Jets team that is missing star middle linebacker CJ Mosely due to a COVID 19 opt out, and does not have much talent in terms of depth.
For a Jets fan, it may seem like the season is already over, and it is painful to watch the team sometimes. However, this article may have shed some light as to why the team has struggled, and what they need to fix.