EVERYBODY PANIC! Darnold is a bust. Todd Bowles must go. Jeremy Bates is a younger Brian Schottenheimer. Leonard Williams is overrated. Robby Anderson must be traded. If only Josh McCown or Teddy Bridgewater were under center, the Jets would be a glorious 3-0 rolling towards a AFC East title! The New York Jets fanbase is currently in a fit of hysteria following a Thursday night loss to the Baker Browns. What is one to do from here outside of folding up the franchise or moving them to London to take Wembley Stadium over under Woody Johnson’s watchful eye?
Let’s level set with a few realities and reminders in this very young season:
Not New News: Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan are 21-30 through 51 games as a Head Coach and General Manager combination. As exciting as the move to acquire Sam Darnold was, it does not change the reality that both have been thoroughly below average at their jobs since being hired. Bowles will rightly be a punching bag today because he is far too conservative, his offensive coordinator looked lost last night and he doesn’t have the demeanor to combat the media when the team is playing poorly. However, Mike Maccagnan has also left him with a thin roster thanks to years of mediocre drafting. It is a combination that produces a below average team, who most people rightly expected to win 6 or 7 games this year. It isn’t crazy or surprising for a team with those expectations to start 1-2 with two one possession losses.
The Browns Thing: The streak is an easy thing to latch on to but every season is different in the NFL. Cleveland should have been 2-0 heading into last night if it wasn’t for atrocious kicking, with victories over two playoff teams last year (Pittsburgh and New Orleans). They have a better overall roster than the Jets, were at home on a short week and made a quarterback switch mid game to a player the Jets were not prepared for. At the end of the season, losing to the Browns is not going to look nearly as bad as it does now.
Sam Darnold: Is 21 years old and was making his third NFL start after playing well the first two weeks. There is an inaccurate perception that he played poorly against Miami, when in reality he had one bad interception, one 50/50 interception that was arguably more on the receiver than him and beyond that would have racked up about 400 yards passing and 2 touchdowns if Chris Herndon could catch and had any field awareness. To emphasize, he would have had 400 yards passing and 2 touchdowns with Chris ‘Freakin Herndon as one of his primary receivers in his second career NFL start. Darnold was bad last night and will have other bad games this year, which will benefit him in the long run. However, he isn’t getting help from Robby Anderson who is playing like a somebody who is unhappy Quincy Enunwa took his job as the lead receiver and Terrelle Pryor sleepwalking. As it stands now, the Jets need to adjust Jermaine Kearse into a bigger role and get Neal Sterling back because Herndon and Jordan Leggett can’t handle major reps.
Predictable Woes: Cleveland has one of the most talented front sevens in the NFL. The Jets are average, at best, on the offensive line. They played on the road, on a short week. Guess who won the matchup? The Jets own pass rush has been better than expected but and will show up against average to below average quarterbacks but struggle when facing more talented signal callers.
Unpopular Realities: Leonard Williams is a good starter who is nowhere near as good as most fans make him out to be. Trumaine Johnson has been undisciplined, injured and picked on through three games. Morris Claiborne is a liability against speed receivers on the outside. Isaiah Crowell is racking up touchdowns but Bilal Powell is still easily the Jets best running back. Through three games, it doesn’t seem like the Jets are going to get much of anything from the rest of their 2018 draft class besides Darnold in this season (not overall).
Most importantly, the goal of this year is to develop Darnold and set him up for success from 2019-2022, not to win games. The Jets would still be 1-2 with Josh McCown or Teddy Bridgewater and even if they might be 2-1, who cares? The Jets are better served going 6-10 with Darnold learning than going 8-8 with either of those veterans. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Jacksonville is a brutal matchup but is followed by two home games against beatable opponents (Denver and Indy). The peaks and valleys aren’t going away any time soon.