On the Monday morning following the New York Jets week 8 loss, which dropped their record to 3-5, Seth Walder of ESPN Sports Analytics sent out this tweet: “Jets have an equal chance of reaching the playoffs and landing No. 1 overall pick. 0.1% chance for each.”
In other words, the Jets were in NFL limbo or no man’s land. With a Thursday night victory over the Buffalo Bills, the Jets’ chance of reaching the playoffs likely went up a bit, and their chance of landing the first overall pick likely went down significantly. But the point remains: the Jets are not quite good enough to be good, and not quite bad enough to be bad. So what are they? And what does this mean for the future?
At their worst, the Jets are a team with a turnover-prone QB, overhyped defense, and shaky offensive line that can neither protect the quarterback, nor propel the running game. Against the Bills, the Jets showed off what they can be at their best: a team carried by their defense, with an adequate running game, and a QB who makes just enough plays to win. This formula works well for a team with a young play caller with the potential to blossom into more than a game-manager (such as the Sanchez-led 2009 and 2010 Jets). But with a 38-year-old quarterback, what purpose does this identity serve?
The Jets have 7 games remaining in their 2017 season. Let’s say they stay competitive and win 3 or 4 of those games, finishing with either 7 or 8 wins and on the outskirts of the playoffs. Barring injury, Josh Mccown, Jermaine Kearse, Matt Forte, and Buster Skrine will play all 16 games. Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg will play 0, and rookies ArDarius Stewart, and Chad Hansen will mostly stay glued to the bench. Going into next season the Jets will have a combined 3 starts of experience from the most important position in all of sports (quarterback), and a middle of the order draft pick. They will still have significant question marks at the cornerback, edge rusher, wide receiver, offensive line, and of course, quarterback.
From the moment Mike Maccagnan became the general manager of the Jets, he has preached the importance of building a team with “sustainable success.” The most defining characteristic of a continuous winner in the NFL is a top-15 quarterback. While it’s possible to find one without a top pick (see: Texans and Deshaun Watson) it makes it significantly harder. Barring a surprising run to the playoffs, many fans’ greatest fear before the season will come to fruition: the Jets will not be bad enough to land a franchise-altering quarterback in the draft, but not good enough to make the playoffs and a run at the Lombardi. That will likely leave this franchise where they have been for the last 48 years: wandering in no man’s land.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com