The New York Jets 2014 season was abysmal. After an overachieving 8-8 in 2013, the team added a big money receiver (Eric Decker), a new starting offensive lineman (Breno Giacomini), two veterans for depth at quarterback and running back (Mike Vick and Chris Johnson) and a handful of spare parts. There was a massive fan and media push to fire the General Manager, one half of the incompetence equation with the Head Coach. With a bad roster and poor coaching, both Rex Ryan and John Idzik were fired after finishing with a 4-12 record. Four years later…
The New York Jets 2018 season is abysmal. After an overachieving 5-11 in 2017, the team added a big money corner (Trumaine Johnson), a new starting offensive lineman (Spencer Long), two veterans for depth at quarterback and running back (Josh McCown and Isaiah Crowell) and a handful of spare parts. There is a massive fan and media push to fire the Head Coach, one half of the incompetence equation with the General Manager. With a bad roster and poor coaching, both Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan should be fired after likely finishing 5-11 or worse for the third straight year (oh yeah, these two haven’t made a single playoff appearance since taking over post 2014 and have already clinched three straight losing seasons).
Time is yet again a flat circle and in the spirt of that, let’s compare the 2014 and 2018 rosters while bearing in mind that Idzik had 2 years to construct his roster and Maccagnan has had 4 years:
Quarterback: The 2014 team had second year quarterback Geno Smith and a washed up Mike Vick alternating starts. The 2018 team has rookie Sam Darnold and a washed up Josh McCown alternating starts. The major difference between these two teams is Darnold has a chance of being the long term starter here, while Smith ultimately did not. The somewhat scary thing is that both are likely to have near identical stat lines from these respective years (Smith finished with 13 TDs, 13 INTs, a 59.7 completion percentage, a 6.9 YPA, 238 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD). Also the Jets only used a second round pick on Smith, they used three total picks to obtain Darnold including the third overall pick in the NFL Draft. The advantage decisively goes to 2018 because Darnold is a much better prospect than Smith but the cost was high and will impact the Jets in next year’s draft.
Running Back: The 2014 team’s leading rusher was Chris Ivory with 821 rushing yards and a 4.1 YPA. Chris Johnson and Bilal Powell were the backups and combined for 804 more yards (with Johnson having 663 of it). The 2018’s team best back was shockingly still Powell all these years later but he was knocked out for the season a few weeks back. Isaiah Crowell had one monster game but beyond that has been mediocre at best while Elijah McGuire has not proven himself to be anything more than a JAG yet (25 carries for 98 yards this season and has only caught 8 of his 16 targets). The advantage goes to 2014, especially since Maccagnan has not improved on Powell being the best back on the roster in 4 years. Neither group is inspiring though (a recurring theme here!)
Wide Receiver: Eric Decker paced the 2014 team with 962 yards and 5 touchdowns…after that production fell off a cliff somewhat with Jeremy Kerley at 404 yards and then midseason acquisition Percy Harvin at 350 yards. Greg Salas rounded out the depth chart by season’s end. As it stands now, the Jets will be lucky to have a receiver pass 600 yards this season. Right now Quincy Enunwa leads the team at 427 yards with Robby Anderson just behind at 416 yards. This writer has consistently been a fan of both Enunwa and Anderson but neither has been healthy or consistent this year. Decker was still in his prime in 2014 and exceeded 1,000 yards the following year for the Jets. There is no reason to think that either Enunwa or Anderson will be able to do that next year. When you throw in Harvin on the team instead of Jermaine “65 targets for 297 yards” Kearse, the nod goes to 2014. The Jets paid big money for Decker but unlike Trumaine Johnson got some measure of production from the deal.
Tight End: It seems crazy to remember now but Jace Amaro’s rookie year was thought of as somewhat encouraging (345 yards, 2 touchdowns). Jeff Cumberland was still here and added on 247 yards and 3 touchdowns. This year, the Jets have Chris Herndon, one of the few players to be genuinely excited about on the current roster, with 345 yards and 3 touchdowns already and then two traffic cones in Eric Tomlinson and Jordan Leggett. Herndon is enough to give 2018 the advantage, though especially since he was a 4th rounder.
Offensive Line: The 2014 starting lineup was Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Breno Giacomini with a mix at guard of Brian Winters, Oday Aboushi, Willie Colon, Dakota Dozier and Dalton Freeman. Ben Ijalana/Wesley Johnson were here. The 2018 team still has Winters, Dozier and Ijalana. They have no answer at center, a JAG at left tackle, a guard in James Carpenter who is out for the year and leaving after the season and an encouraging right tackle in Brandon Shell. Both of these units had many problems but we’re giving a slight nod to 2014 out of respect to Mangold and Ferguson. 2018 deserves to be punished for drafting TWO offensive lineman in 4 years and still being thin enough to have roster spots for Dozier, Ijalana and Winters.
Defensive Line: 2014 wins this going away with good Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson leading the way along with nose tackle Damon Harrison and Kenrick Ellis/Leger Douzable as depth. Right now, the Jets have Leonard Williams who is yet to be as good as Wilkerson or Richardson were at their best and then a bunch of guys, none of whom have more than 3 sacks. Steve McLendon is good at his job but is no Harrison and he won’t be here next year.
Linebacker: The 2014 linebacker group was David Harris (106 tackles and 6 sacks for Hitman!), Demario Davis (116 tackles, 3.5 sacks), Calvin “The Legend” Pace (5 sacks), Jason Babin (he played here?), Quinton Coples (thanks Rex!), IK Enemkpali (Catfish King) and Nick Bellore. The 2018 group has a younger version of Pace in Jordan Jenkins, nothing else at edge and two quality starters on the inside, neither of whom are at Harris’ level even by his 2014 standards. Overall this is alarmingly close considering the draft capital (first rounder, two third rounders, one fifth rounder)the Jets have used at linebacker and how much they spent on Avery Williamson (who has been a good free agent signing).
Secondary: 2018 wins this thanks mostly to the presence of Jamal Adams, who will rightly receive Pro Bowl consideration this year. Marcus Maye’s sophomore year has been an injury plagued dud and the corners have all been disappointing and overpaid but they are still better than the 2014 collection of Marcus Williams, Kyle Wilson, Darrin Walls and Philip Adams. The group of safeties in 2014 was a mix of barely average starters (Dawan Landry) and JAG placeholders (Antonio Allen, who also played corner) and Jaiquawn Jarrett.
Special Teams: Nick Folk and Ryan Quigley were fine but the 2018 special teams are much better led by a surprisingly strong season from Jason Myers and Andre Roberts at returner.
Overall: In totality, the 2018 roster is better but by a small margin which is wildly problematic when the GM has had 4 years to improve upon one of the worst, if not the worst, roster in the NFL. 28 draft picks. Three in the top six. Hundreds of million dollars in free agency and all Maccagnan has to show for it is an identical winning percentage to Idzik and a roster slightly better than one of the worst teams in recent Jets history…but sure he deserves the right to pick a Head Coach, make a top five pick and spend another 100M in cap space.