In many organizations a yearly narrative will be built to frame results in a positive light. Regardless of output, the available data will be cooked in a way that allows those in charge to tell the story they want to tell, not the story that is necessarily happening in the real world. The New York Jets are a business with a primary goal of generating revenue. Ideally, assembling a winning product will directly feed into that goal but in the absence of that happening, another story needs to be told.
The NFL is built to be a league filled with parity, where turnarounds can happen relatively quickly. Yearly goals should be built around winning football games, not rolling over cap space for a perpetual rebuild. Seattle was allegedly rebuilding this season from the post Legion Of Boom Era and yet they have clinched a playoff spot heading into week 17. It is about what is preached as being an acceptable level of performance.
Since 2010, the Jets are a team who gives Gatorade baths for going 8-8, pushes Coach of the Year candidacies for going 5-11 and is never under a yearly mandate to make the playoffs. While working on the third longest playoff drought currently in the league, the Jets have effectively pushed an endless cycle of different types of rebuilds.
After a failed “competitive rebuild” across 2015 and 2016, the Jets moved to what some fans have now dubbed the “true rebuild,” where the bar is low and the extensions for losing records flow…
“No,” Jets owner Woody Johnson said when asked that question at his end-of-season press conference. “I don’t really like mandates because they normally don’t work – lines in the sand or whatever. You don’t want to judge it that way. The way we’ll judge it is getting better each and every year, and seeing it in our players, our young players – are they getting better or are they going the other way.”
“Believe me, I like winning a lot more than losses, but that’s only part of the equation. The real way to judge this team and the people on it, including me, is are we getting better?” he said. “It’s not going to come down to games. It’s more about the play on the field. Are we getting better? Losses hurt deeply. I like wins a lot more. But it’s not going to be the sole or even a really important way for me to judge Mike and Todd.”
“My brother said back early in the spring to not judge the team on wins and losses but (rather) progression and I agree with that,” Johnson said. “I think it’s going to be obvious to all this team is progressing. There are so many young guys who, just because they aren’t (big) names, doesn’t mean they aren’t really talented. We have a group of coaches, including Todd, who are really good at building those players up. I think you’re going to see a lot of progression. It’s going to be obvious.”
The owner backed that up by giving head coach Todd Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan extensions despite a 5-11 record. On Tuesday, Johnson said the new contracts did not come with a playoffs-or-bust order for the Jets brass.
“I have no mandate,” Johnson said, via NJ.com. “Believe me, I want to get to the playoffs. I want to build a team with Mike and Todd that can compete for the playoffs every year. That can’t happen fast enough. But there’s no mandate.”
New York Jets CEO Christopher Johnson reiterated that there’s no playoff mandate for coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan, who have failed to reach the postseason in their three seasons together, but Johnson expects better results than last season.
“We were a team to be reckoned with last year,” Johnson said Wednesday. “I think we will be this year, too. Maybe more so.”
Johnson didn’t say it directly, but next season is when the organization expects to make a major push. As he noted, they will have the most cap room in the league, and there will be “some interesting free agents” in 2019.
“Maybe expectations should ramp up [next year],” Johnson said. “For right now, I think this team is advancing. I’m happy with what I see so far.”
Ironically, with Bowles now likely to be fired but Maccagnan likely to be retained, the “major push” for next season is likely to be delayed a year. You can practically see the story being written now for this front office. The first two years were a failed competitive rebuild that was Woody Johnson’s fault. The next two years were a failed true rebuild that was Todd Bowles fault. 2019 is the beginning of the stage three rebuild, year one for a new coach and a new system so expecting playoffs from a team who went 4-12 the previous year is unfair, regardless of what happens in free agency and the NFL Draft. This now means 2020, six years into the cycles of rebuilds, is when it is okay to expect the playoffs.
It is a dangerous, never ending line to walk because you never know what injury or other situation can occur in any given year. It is also not a good sign when you are perpetually loaded with salary cap space and selling a dream of being super aggressive in it: every. single. year. If you have endless cap space every offseason it is because you do not have enough of your own talent to pay and you are selling a dream that often fails to live up to expectations. With a rising cap each year and the franchise tag available, many teams have cap flexibility and rarely let their best players hit the market. Contracts are regularly structured with outs after 2 years so players can be turned over at a high volume. It isn’t an accomplishment to make a bad signing and then be able to cut him after two years so you can make…more bad signings. (Hello, Darrelle Revis to Trumaine Johnson, Matt Forte to Isaiah Crowell, Jarvis Jenkins to Spencer Long!)
Year after year after saying the playoffs are not the goal and year after year of saying wait until the next year is a mix of a culture killer and a Ponzi Scheme. You create an organization that is content with competitive losses and making bold projections about what is to come at some undetermined point in the future.
“It’s not like they came in here and just smacked us,” Lee said of the Vikings. “It’s nothing to sit here and hit the panic button about. We’re fine. No one is worried or panicking here. We’re fine as a group. We’re a lot more close-knit [than last year].
The quote above was after the Jets lost by double digits to an average Minnesota team this season and it preceded losing 8 of 9 games, en route to a third season of double digit losses. It is an organizational plague of excuse making and looking to clear a low bar of mediocrity.
- “Well, it’s not like they smacked us”
- “Well, everybody said we’d be 0-16”
- “Well, he’s better than the last GM”
- “Well, everybody misses on mid round picks“
- “Well, anybody who would have signed this player in free agency”
- “Well, everybody passed on Watson and Mahomes”
When these seasons pass, they are gone forever. It is one more year gone on Jamal Adams’ rookie contract. One more year gone on Sam Darnold’s rookie contract. One more year gone on your season ticket payment. One more year of being a non-competitive laughingstock in December as other teams and fanbases prepare for playoff games. One more year of New England waltzing to a AFC East title.
If the Jets are keeping their front office (they shouldn’t), their goal for next year should be playoffs or bust. Mike Maccagnan received a two year extension for some reason after 2017, which means the deal is up anyway. Before the excuses are given about a new Head Coach and a second year quarterback, let’s take a step back for a reality check on tired narratives.
Herman Edwards made the playoffs in his first year. Eric Mangini made the playoffs in his first year. Rex Ryan made the playoffs in his first year. Todd Bowles was a Ryan FItzpatrick interception away from making the playoffs in his first year.
Matt Nagy made the playoffs in his first year. Sean McVay made the playoffs in his first year. Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Mitch Trubisky all reached the playoffs within their first two years as a starter, if not their first year.
Without being rude, you are a sucker if you are celebrating anything next year that doesn’t involve a winning record, a playoff appearance and competing seriously for the AFC East. The clock is ticking on Darnold’s rookie contract and the salary cap advantage that comes along with it. Every Nathan Shepherd, Foley Fautkasi, Terrelle Pryor, Parry Nickerson, Trumaine Johnson, Isaiah Crowell and Spencer Long hurts that much more now.
The Colts wasted years of Andrew Luck’s prime enabling Ryan Grigson. The Redskins have pissed away a decade enabling Bruce Allen. Prospective franchise quarterbacks don’t come around often. Don’t allow him to be developed by a “#WellActually” and “almost” culture. The only thing that matters is winning football games and winning them now.