The New York Jets currently sit at a disappointing 3-6 record. They are 31st in DVOA, are nearing benching their starting quarterback for the second time and their 86 million dollar defensive end is being disciplined for missing meetings. Todd Bowles is being put on the hot seat by many. Darrelle Revis took off the first half of the season. The list goes on. So, what went wrong?
Regression is an inevitable reality for many teams season to season. With the Jets, it was expected there would be a degree of it in a few main areas: redzone efficiency, quarterback performance and turnover margin. The regression has occurred in all three areas but more violently than expected.
Last season, the Jets were third in redzone efficiency, when it came to scoring touchdowns. This season? They dropped to 31st in the NFL. The lack of production is most directly correlated to the decline of their quarterback play and at times, questionable play calling from Chan Gailey. They are also seeing certain players, like Brandon Marshall, leave plays on the field that he didn’t last season.
The regression of quarterback play was probably the most expected, especially if you have tracked Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career. Nobody expected him to duplicate a career season, where he was 15th in passing yards and 10th in touchdowns. Overall, Fitzpatrick was probably the 16th-22nd best quarterback in the NFL last year. This season, it was fair to expect him to be closer to the 22nd-25th best quarterback in the league, not the absolute worst. Fitzpatrick leads the NFL in interceptions, is dead last in completion percentage and quarterback rating. He is playing quarterback at a historically poor level, even for Jets quarterbacks.
Finally, the Jets were tied for 6th in turnover margin last year. This season, they are 31st. There is a degree of luck involved in turnovers, namely falling on fumbles and having teams drop your quarterback’s interceptions. Yet, this year the Jets are plagued by a turnover happy quarterback, who is making passes easier than ever to intercept, a rash of dropped interceptions from their defense, and a limited pass rush that is not taking the ball away from quarterbacks.
There are degrees of regression. There is a difference in going from 3rd to 15th in redzone efficiency and 3rd to 31st, same with going from 6th in turnover margin to 18th, instead of 3rd to 31st. Ryan Fitzpatrick could have just been below average this year and regressed, without going full Gabbert…or actually even worse than Gabbert. If the Jets suffer a more standard regression in these three areas (or even two of three of them), they are likely 5-4 right now, not 3-6.
On top of the expected regression areas, the Jets have been hit by disappointing and unexpected steps back from Todd Bowles, Chan Gailey, Darrelle Revis and a handful of other players.
Todd Bowles did a good job last season as a rookie head coach. He navigated a Sheldon Richardson suspension, Quincy Enunwa suspension, Jaw-Gate and a mid-season losing streak to a 10-6 record. There were problematic game management decisions at times but on the whole, you left last season thinking the Jets found a coach with potential to develop here.
Unfortunately, Bowles has taken steps back in game management, aggressiveness and player management, namely stubbornly sticking to Ryan Fitzpatrick for too long. Rightly or wrongly, Bowles is set up to be a scapegoat this season and if he doesn’t clean up gameday and player management errors soon, the seat will only grow hotter.
In conjunction with Bowles, Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey has failed to diversify the creativity of the Jets offensive attack and made too many mistakes in the redzone. Yes, he is constrained by Ryan Fitzpatrick’s general awfulness but the lack of rushing attempts on short yardage plays and in the redzone is inexcusable. Last year, Gailey’s winning wrinkles were moving Enunwa to H-Back and Eric Decker to the slot. What are the adjustments this year? Why are Enunwa and Bilal Powell so criminally underused?
Finally, big money cornerback Darrelle Revis took the first half of the season off. Most expected Revis to regain his early 2015 season form after recovering from wrist surgery but instead he showed up out of shape and not willing to play physical. There seems to have been a trickle down effect to the rest of the young secondary, as players like Calvin Pryor and Marcus Williams also regressed.
Outside of Pryor and Williams joining the regression party, Lorenzo Mauldin started slow and has not yet developed into the consistent threat off the edge the team needs him to be. Before the year, many were talking about Mauldin as a double digit sack guy and Pryor as a Pro Bowler, both have fell comically short so far this year.
Not be outdone by Revis, Muhammad WIlkerson has struggled to come back from his offseason surgery and tarnished his reputation by repeatedly showing up late to meetings. The Jets are now faced with the reality that they paid their third best defensive end 86 million dollars and still have no idea how to use him in conjunction with Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams, one of the few bright spots this year.
Finally, many are beginning to build a narrative that only blames Bowles and Fitzpatrick for the Jets problems but conveniently leaves out Mike Maccagnan by pawning any questionable looking decisions to Woody Johnson and crediting Maccagnan for all successful decisions. It does not work that way. It always easier to blame one person for a football team’s issues but never accurate. It wasn’t all John Idzik’s fault in 2014 (and he actually looks smarter so far in hindsight for not wanting to pay Wilkerson and Revis big money) and it isn’t all Bowles’ fault now.
Maccagnan currently has a “INC” as a grade. He paid huge money to rebuild the Jets secondary but the Antonio Cromartie deal was a dud, the Revis deal is looking questionable and Marcus Gilchrist is regressing back to his San Diego days. He blinked at the last second on the Fitzpatrick and Wilkerson negotiations, neither of which is looking wise right now. Offseason signings for the Jets this year included Bruce Carter, Erin Henderson, Jarvis Jenkins, Khiry Robinson, Kellen Davis and Daryl Morris. He didn’t rebuild the middle class of this roster which started the following players last week: Mike Catapano, Daryl Roberts, Brandon Bostick, Ben Ijalana, Wes Johnson, Breno Giacomini and Julian Stanford.
Every draft class needs 2-3 years to be evaluated but the early returns for Maccagnan remain very up in the air, especially with young quarterbacks lighting it up all over the league while he started this season carrying his two picks as a 3rd and 4th stringer. The Jets have got next to nothing so far from their top five picks this year, which has been disappointing.
Two years ago, the Jets were 1-8 through 9 games coming off a non-playoff season with tons of cap space. This year, the Jets are 3-6 through 9 games coming off a non-playoff season with limited cap space. There is a frustrating lack of progress despite regime change that brought “football people” into the front office and “accountability” to the coaching staff.
Now is not the time to panic or blow anything up. Both Maccagnan and Bowles deserve to see this year out and be brought back for year three, despite whatever hysteria ensues among fans and the media. Hopefully, the team finishes strong and gradually begins heavier implementation of younger players who show potential, while the coaching staff cleans up game management issues.
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