Jets fans began dreaming about 2021 shortly after watching their team get dismantled in Buffalo in Week 1. It was clear when they fell behind 21-0 in the first half that day, that this Jets team was not very good.
That point has only been driven home further each week the Jets have taken the field. Tanking for Trevor has now become the battle cry with Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence viewed as the reward for enduring this brutal season. Adam Gase is hanging by a thread as the Jets coach and that thread will surely snap at some point and the Jets will be seeking a new head coach.
But the most important person in the Jets universe at the moment is not calling plays or executing any of them. It is Joe Douglas, the general manager who must improve this roster if the team is to have any hope.
It won’t matter if Lawrence is a blend of John Elway and Peyton Manning if he has an offensive line that cannot protect him or wide receivers who can’t get open or tight ends who can’t catch. It won’t matter if Douglas finds a way to bring Vince Lombardi back from the dead if that coach does not have players who can win one-on-one matchups and make plays when called upon.
At the moment, Sam Darnold and Adam Gase do not have the supporting cast to win games. That does not excuse their performances. They both bear plenty of blame for this 0-8 mess, but look at who they are working with.
Douglas took blame for that during his midseason press conference on Tuesday, saying he has done a poor job of giving Darnold and Gase much to work with. It runs much deeper than that, of course. It is about 10 years of bad drafts by the last three GMs. It is about horrible decisions in free agency such as signing Trumaine Johnson and Le’Veon Bell. It is about an ineptness that has permeated the Jets for most of the last decade.
It makes you wonder if Douglas actually knew what he was getting into when he took this job.
“I came in with my eyes wide open,” Douglas said. “I knew the obstacles here.”
Douglas made mistakes this offseason. He owned up to the Robby Anderson miscalculation on Tuesday. He tried to get cute with the way he rebuilt the offensive line, searching for bargains, but sometimes you get what you pay for.
The Jets have been eyeing 2021 internally for a while. Douglas spent a lot of this year cleaning up their salary-cap situation, acquiring draft picks and making sure to save cap space this year that can be carried over into next year when the salary cap could decrease dramatically.
Douglas has nine draft picks in each of the next two years and an estimated $80 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap, which would be the most in the NFL.
That gives Douglas flexibility. The trove of picks can help him move around the draft if he desires. The money should help him fill holes, which the Jets have plenty of, although he cautioned Tuesday that he does not see free agency as an elixir.
“You don’t see a lot of teams that build long-term success by buying their way out of it,” Douglas said. “You see the teams, the organizations that have long-term success, they draft well and they develop their players. I think that’s the model moving forward.”
The “draft well” portion of that quote rests on Douglas. He has positioned himself to have a big offseason. That offseason looks like it will include a coaching hire and possibly Lawrence with the No. 1 pick. But that won’t be enough.
This is a players’ league. Just look at what former Jets coach Todd Bowles is doing in Tampa Bay now that he has good players again. Look at former Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer in Seattle with Russell Wilson. Jets fans hated those two coaches by the end of their time here. Good coaches are nothing without good players.
When Gase is gone, the bull’s-eye moves to Douglas. We’ll soon find out if he is up for the challenge.