There are two sports teams I am fans of: the New York Jets and the New York Knicks (fun!). When I was younger, not married, not a father and not working in sports full time, I had a companion site for this one “Turn On The Knicks.” It stuck around for a few years but ultimately fizzled out when I couldn’t put the necessary time into it and couldn’t physically stomach covering them because of their prolonged incompetence and hopelessness. I still love basketball and consider myself a Knicks fan but apathy has long set in.
As for the Jets? For a variety of reasons this hasn’t happened yet (I like football more and I am better at talking football than basketball) but for the first time since I’ve been “covering” the team, they are entering the Knicks stratosphere of prolonged incompetence and hopelessness. The black hole of perpetual losing propped up by weak willed excuses and increasing profits for owners who don’t need to win to make money.
The Jets were not this way for most of my life. They were #good from 1997-2011. 11 winning seasons. 13 seasons with at least 8 wins. 6 playoff appearances. 7 playoff wins. 3 AFC Championship Game appearances. Same Old Jets didn’t make much sense as the team regularly won somewhere between 9-11 games, upset the Patriots dynasty in the playoffs and employed current and future Hall of Fame players/coaches like Bill Parcells, Bell Belichick, Kevin Mawae, Curtis Martin, Darrelle Revis and Nick Mangold and other Ring of Honor caliber players like David Harris, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Laveranues Coles, Jerricho Cotchery and Chad Pennington.
They were regularly a destination for other great players looking to win late in their career (imagine that!): Alan Faneca, Damien Woody, Ty Law, Jason Taylor, LaDainian Tomlinson, Tony Richardson. They had exciting offensive players like Santana Moss and Keyshawn Johnson. They had pass rushers like John Abraham.
The beginning of the Jets drought was due to the clock striking midnight on Rex Ryan’s brand of football. I was not the biggest Rex fan in the world and thought he was overmatched the final three seasons he was here but at least the Jets had an organizational identity they were built around. It worked in 2009. It worked better in 2010. It almost worked again in 2011 (the team was 8-5 before melting down in December). They stuck with the identity three years too long but at least it was off the basis of going 28-20 over three seasons with four playoff wins.
2015 was a perfect positive storm season that the Jets failed to take advantage of. The schedule was soft. The quarterback played above his head thanks to a great one off year from their Offensive Coordinator and a collection of holdover skill position players (Eric Decker, Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell) and short term band aids (Brandon Marshall) meshing well together. It was a team that should have been 12-4 if they handled their business against TJ Yates and a Bills team with nothing to play for. The AFC playoff field was soft, as a Jets wild card game would have been teed up against AJ McCarron. A noodle armed Peyton Manning won the AFC and the Super Bowl, as Denver was able to beat a Patriots team the Jets should have swept that season, if Brandon Marshall doesn’t drop a critical pass in Gillette Stadium.
10-6 was treated was like a rousing success when it should have been treated like a massive disappointment. The Jets missed a very tiny, very random perfectly constructed window to make a serious January run. The 10 wins masked the reality that outside of the Marshall and Fitzpatrick trades, Mike Maccagnan’s free agent splurge was a disaster. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie were washed. Buster Skrine and Marcus Gilchrist were JAGs. Kellen Davis stunk. The 10 wins also gave both Maccagnan and Todd Bowles more of a patience runway than they deserved. Bowles underachieved by winning 10 games in 2015, as crazy as that sounds. The Jets were 5-5 and nearly saved by a five game winning streak against four awful teams (including barely beating Dallas and the Giants, who were both well under .500 in 2015).
Since then, the Jets have become the Knicks. They have been the worst team in the NFL since the beginning of the 2016 season with a 18-42 record, ahead of only the Cleveland Browns who are 13-46-1. Cleveland at least had a season with over six wins (2018) and they have beat the Jets the past two seasons.
The drafting problems are well known. The free agent decisions have not been much better from Matt Forte, to Trumaine Johnson, to Spencer Long, to missing out on the edge and corner class last offseason. The Jets did not have a chance to win or build something meaningful in 2017 and 2018 thanks to Mike Maccagnan. They finally moved on, later than they should have, but did ultimately make the move but it unfortunately left them with another massive impediment to winning, the eminently mediocre Adam Gase.
A normal organization may have given Gase a vote of confidence through the end of this season when the team was 1-7 to avoid the chaos of a mid season firing. Instead, the Jets doubled down on a terrible hand and guaranteed him his job through the end of the 2020 season, boxing the Jets into mediocrity for at least another 20 games.
There are no questions left about who Gase is as a NFL Head Coach. He has been one for over 60 games. He is the same coach for the Jets that he was in Miami, where he went 23-26 and left such a toxic situation that Miami decided to undertake the most ambitious tank in recent NFL history (and still may win more games than Gase’s Jets this season). He is going to hover a little below .500, have occasional bursts of competence/winning before flaming out when he plays a 0-7 or 0-11 team. At the same time, he is going create conflict with his players, the local media and do things that only fit to “his system,” and always find a wide range of excuses for why he isn’t winning.
2019 set up similar to 2015 to be a window for the Jets to compete. Table the redundant injury and offensive line excuses, this team should have won three of the four following games: Buffalo week 1, Jacksonville, Miami and Cincinnati. There is no excuse for being 0-4 in those games, they should be at least 3-1 and currently sitting at 7-5 right now with a reasonably good chance to swipe a wild card spot in another year where New England looks a bit more down (for them) than usual.
Gase had his chance to buy his goodwill like Bowles with an inaugural 9-10 win season thanks to a comically easy schedule both in terms of opponents and lack of travel, as it stands now it isn’t even clear if he could exceed Bowles 2017 or 2018 win total despite adding Le’Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder, Quinnen Williams and being on track to get the same amount of Sam Darnold starts (13) that Bowles did in 2018.
The unfortunate reality for the Jets is they have the worst coach in their division. There is no reason to think Buffalo and Miami won’t be better next year. The 2019 NFC East cupcakes are going to be replaced by flying to Seattle to play the Seahawks, flying to Los Angeles to play the Rams (and the Chargers) and hosting the San Francisco 49ers. The trip to Cincinnati is going to be replaced by a trip to Arrowhead to play Kansas City.
The black hole of losing propped up by weak willed excuses is likely here to stay. The Jets couldn’t hold a 16-0 second half home lead against Buffalo because CJ Mosley left in the third quarter. They couldn’t beat the 5-7 Browns because Luke Falk played (even though Trevor Siemian, Gase’s hand picked backup, started and was down 13-0 with negative 14 yards before getting hurt). They couldn’t beat Jacksonville (4-8) and Miami (3-9) because of their offensive line and since certain players were distracted by the trade deadline. They couldn’t beat Cincinnati (0-11) because of the offensive line or something.
The Jets have a quarter of their season left. They can take the spice off everything written above by finishing strong and pulling off a road upset against Baltimore or Buffalo. They can surprise us and beat a better coached Pittsburgh team who is 7-5 despite starting a quarterback who was 4th string for them over the summer and having their top running back and receiver miss time down the stretch. They can avoid the embarrassment of being swept by Miami, who has a coaching staff with three times as many excuses for losing as Gase.
Gase’s life raft could end up being Sam Darnold, who has flashed brilliance at times this year but remained inconsistent (he is currently a bottom ten quarterback in DVOA, YPA and QBR while being top ten in interceptions). Darnold badly needs a big game both against an AFC East opponent and on the road before the season ends to make everyone feel a higher degree of hope heading into 2020. Yet, even when Darnold does play very well, it is hard not to imagine if he could be even better away from Gase, as Ryan Tannehill leads the NFL in YPA and is currently pushing the Titans towards the playoffs.
Maccagnan was an albatross the Jets could not overcome the past four years. Let’s hope Gase is not the same thing for the next few years…and yes a few years is on the table with how the Jets ownership is currently operating. A few more years of this makes the Jets every bit as hopeless as James Dolan’s Knicks.