Another New York Jets season has come and gone without the team sniffing a playoff spot. The team was pragmatically eliminated when they lost a week 13 game to the 0-11 Cincinnati Bengals, spoiling an otherwise productive second half that saw them finish 6-2 in their final 8 games.
The 6-2 was not enough to dig them out of an embarrassing 1-7 start and ultimately netted them a 7-9 record overall, the same record Adam Gase had last year in Miami and the same amount of wins he’s averaged over his four years as a NFL Head Coach (30-34). It was the worst debut season for a new Head Coach since Rich Kotite for the Jets and stretched their playoff drought to nine years, the third longest drought in the NFL and ninth longest drought in the big four professional American sports.
Despite all the above, the team did improve their record by three games from 2018 and there is a zero percent chance any major changes will happen to the coaching staff. Jets fans should not expect a playoff mandate from Christopher or Woody Johnson this offseason and should begin accepting the reality that Adam Gase is probably here through 2021 even if the team stretches to ten years without the postseason, despite the team’s struggles on offense in 2019. This is as much of Gase’s organization now as anybody not named Jimmy Sexton.
What ultimately happened this year and what did we learn?
Adam Gase Is Not Changing
It is usually beneficial for a fired NFL Head Coach to take a year or two off to assess things and change his approach for his next job. Gase did not have any time to do that and was unsurprisingly the exact same type of coach he was with the Miami Dolphins, with the exact same type of team.
- An usually good record in one possession games: 20-6 during his tenure in Miami and 5-2 this season with the Jets.
- An unusually high number of losses by double digit points: 18 during his tenure in Miami and 7 this season with the Jets.
- A really bad offense: Miami was 27th in offensive DVOA in both 2017 and 2018. The Jets were 32nd, dead last, in offense this year.
- A bad point differential: Miami was 29th in point differential over Gase’s tenure. The Jets finished 25th this year.
- An inordinately high volume of injuries and players placed on IR
- Issues with players, executives and media: The Jets had public issues with multiple players around injuries this year (Kelechi Osemele, Luke Falk, Quincy Enunwa) and an awkward trade deadline, where they nearly moved Jamal Adams and Le’Veon Bell. A surprisingly timed ouster of their GM, which Gase engineered and ongoing leaks about not wanting certain players or passing off blame for player’s lack of performance away from the coaching staff.
- Player Usage Questions: It is hard to find anybody who watched the Jets offense this year who would say they played to the strengths of players like Bell and Sam Darnold. Gase is going to run his system and make his players fit into it, regardless of whether or not it emphasizes their strengths. We also saw multiple ex-Gase offensive players flourish away from him this season, namely Ryan Tannehill, DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki.
Ultimately, Gase is who he is and is not changing at this point. He is operating in a silo as the team’s “Offensive Head Coach” and is going to stay surrounded by people like Dowell Loggains and Jim Bob Cooter who are not going to challenge his existing system. The Jets need to hope they have certain key players still elevate the team enough to push Gase above his usual 7 win type seasons, starting with quarterback Sam Darnold…
Sam Darnold Is The Guy But Did Not Make The Leap
Darnold took a mild step forward in 2020 but did not make the second year leap that many were hoping for. The 22 year old is unquestionably talented and looks the part of a second contract quarterback for the Jets but it remains to be seen if he can ever become an All-Pro caliber player or a top 5-8 starter in the league. The Jets are not making life easy on him with the coaching staff they have and the offensive line around him but Darnold still needs to find more consistency with his mechanics and decision making. You can live with a turnover per game but not if your YPA is under 7 and you are not even reaching 2 touchdowns per game. Jets fans should remain excited and optimistic about Darnold long term, while being reasonable about where he is league wide right now based on his on field performance.
Sam Darnold’s 2018 / 2019
Starts: 13 / 13
YPA: 6.9 / 6.8 ⬇️
Passing TDs: 17 / 19 ⬆️
INTs: 15 / 13 ⬇️
Lost Fumbles: 2 / 3 ⬆️
Rushing TDs: 1 / 2 ⬆️
Comp %: 58 / 62 ⬆️
— Joe Caporoso (@JCaporoso) December 30, 2019
Gregg and Boyer Saved The Season
The Jets finished with arguably the best special teams unit in football for the second year in a row and with a top ten defensive unit, despite undertaking massive injuries. They also compiled six defensive/special teams touchdowns to help bolster the team’s terrible offense. Both Gregg Williams and Brant Boyer coached out of their minds this season, particularly Gregg who overcame any skepticism about his resume and jokes on Twitter about his punt return safety defensive scheme (I am happy to raise my hand and say I was 100% wrong about being skeptical of this hire).
Simply put, the Jets are a 3-13 team without Gregg being the Head Coach of the Defense and Boyer’s units bringing it every week. The challenge will likely get harder next year with a more daunting slate of quarterbacks but the Jets should also have CJ Mosley back in the line up and hopefully improved talent/depth at edge rusher and cornerback.
Change Is Coming
Yet, again. It will be a challenge for the Jets to keep lead receiver Robby Anderson, who will have an aggressive free agent market. They seem set on trying to trade Le’Veon Bell because of Gase’s system…or something. Ty Montgomery, Demaryius Thomas, Kelvin Beachum and Bilal Powell are all free agents. The Jets will also be working feverishly to upgrade their offensive line, as they are highly likely to move on from Brian Winters, Brandon Shell and Jonotthan Harrison as starters.
Defensively, the team will look to bring back slot corner Brian Poole and edge rusher Jordan Jenkins, while hopefully looking to move on from overpaid veterans like Henry Anderson, Daryl Roberts and Trumaine Johnson.
Both sides of the football but particularly the offense, should look very different next season.
In a 7-9 season, you at least hope for major strides or big years from key young players who will go on to be building blocks. The Jets didn’t exactly get a ton of that this season, although there were a few glimmers of hope.
It was a disappointing year for the 2019 rookie class, highlighted by a thoroughly “meh” season from 3rd overall pick Quinnen Williams, who was regularly heralded as the best overall player in the class prior to April. Yes, he made an impact on the Jets run defense and did plenty of dirty work this season but there is no reasonable way to say he played anywhere near expectations in 2019. The Jets need a big sophomore jump from him next year. Elsewhere, Chuma Edoga and Blake Cashman had a few okay moments but generally looked overwhelmed and could not stay healthy. Jachai Polite is long gone. Trevon Wesco was a complete non factor.
Blessaun Austin was the find of the draft, looking like a legitimate starting option on the outside at corner down the stretch. UDFA Kyle Phillips was arguably better than Williams on the defensive line this season and was a nice find. Elsewhere, second year defensive linemen Foley Fatukasi and Nathan Shepherd looked like very useful role players, after quiet rookie campaigns. Safety Marcus Maye also proved he could stay healthy and was steady alongside Jamal Adams, who had another great season on the back end for the Jets secondary. James Burgess was also a nice find at inside linebacker and could be a cheaper option than Avery Williamson long term.
Chris Herndon had a lost sophomore campaign due to his DUI and injuries. Ty Montgomery was shelved by the offensive staff for reasons still unknown. Quincy Enunwa had another lost year due to injuries and had his role taken by veteran Demaryius Thomas, who was okay but not a solid long term option for the team at wide receiver.
- The Jets did not have a 1,000 yard receiver. Jamison Crowder led the way with 833 yards.
- The Jets did not have a 1,000 yard rusher. Le’Veon Bell had a career worst season with 789 yards and a 3.2 YPC.
- The Jets did not have a player reach double digit sacks. Jordan Jenkins led the way with 8.
- The Jets scored 13 offensive touchdowns in their 12 AFC games. They managed to win two games they only scored one offensive touchdown in (thank you Gregg…and Duck Hodges/Matt Barkley).
- The Jets only win over a team who finished with a winning record was Buffalo, who was playing all their backups. Beyond that, the Jets went 0-5 against teams who finished above .500 with an average margin of defeat of 19 points.
The Jets dealt with an unusual amount of injuries but got 13+ games from Darnold, Bell, Anderson, Crowder, Adams, Maye and were benefitted by moving on from players like Ryan Kalil, Brian Winters, Trumaine Johnson and Daryl Roberts who should have been benched prior to their injuries. The Jets also had an unusually easy schedule with an unusually light amount of travel. If they handled their business against the 5-11 Dolphins, 6-10 Jaguars and 2-14 Bengals, they would have been a wild card team. Next year, the schedule will not be as kind with travel or with opponent quality (as it stands now).
The only way the Jets are going to get over the Gase 7/8 win hump is if they have an inordinately good offseason and get a major leap from Darnold in year three, otherwise this team is likely to hover around a similar record that Gase has had the past few years.