Around the end of the 2014 regular season, I wrote this article on the New York Jets not being a divided house but rather being a broken one. A crumbling foundation of a mediocre coaching staff and convoluted front office operating on divergent agendas had spiraled into another season of dysfunction. Fortunately a blowtorch has been taken to everything, as the organization completed their most thorough housecleaning in over a decade.
For the first time in a long time, there were no half measures when it came to making changes. There was no prerequisite for a General Manager to keep the current Head Coach. The new Head Coach did not carry over any previous coordinators or big chunks of the old regime’s staff. When the GM was fired, he was removed from the organization and not demoted into a specialist position that allowed him to keep heavy influence. The collection of Personnel Executives and scouts compiled over the past decade by Terry Bradway was finally taken apart, along with Bradway being sent packing himself. It was a needed complete cleansing that showed the organization’s recognition that problems ran deeper than one individual or one segment of the team/front office.The most common request made by fans and people around the team heading into the 2015 off-season was that Woody Johnson needed to hire “football guys” to lead the renovation. He did just that. Instead of going with a consulting firm, Johnson tapped into the NFL’s Career Development Advisory Panel. This resulted in Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf leading a concurrent and thorough search for both a new General Manager and Head Coach. Mike Maccagnan and his extensive scouting background was tapped for GM, an important resume criteria after previously hiring two General Managers lighter on that area of experience. A day later, AP Assistant Head Coach of the Year Todd Bowles was officially named Head Coach. Bowles, who developed under Joe Gibbs, Bill Parcells and most recently Bruce Arians, was a needed change of pace from Rex Ryan who was running on redundant, exhaustive fumes of success from nearly half a decade ago.
The results need to be proven out on the field but it is difficult to be anything but pleased with how the Jets attacked this off-season. There has been a strategic utilization of available resources to add both elite talent and depth to the roster without hamstringing future assets. This is not a team who shoved all their chips into the middle of the table, while giving little thought to their long term salary cap health and roster flexibility. Outside of Darrelle Revis and Buster Skrine, the Jets didn’t invest in any of their free agent or trade acquisitions beyond this season. Brandon Marshall, Marcus Gilchrist, Antonio Cromartie and James Carpenter will all be starters and needed upgrades but the Jets can reevaluate their long term status after this season.
Despite not being as flashy, it may have been equally important how the Jets attacked their lack of depth by adding veterans with starting experience on short term, “prove it” deals. They loaded up at inside linebacker with Jamari Lattimore, Joe Mays and Erin Henderson and added needed competition and blocking with Kellen Davis and James Brewer. There was also no hesitation to add depth to already talented parts of the roster, as Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy were brought in the mix at running back and Kevin Vickerson and Stephan Bowen came over for the defensive line. The depth was further complimented by maintaining valuable holdovers BIlal Powell, Leger Douzable and to a lesser extent Willie Colon.
The Jets had a targeted and active draft weekend, swinging three separate trades that allowed them to leave with six picks and two veterans (DeVier Posey and the previously mentioned Stacy). By anybody’s measure, they got terrific value with Leonard Williams in the first round, Devin Smith in the second and Jarvis Harrison in the fifth. Their other selections were not reaches and reasonable for where the player was selected.The quarterback position remains a question mark but given their resources, the Jets new regime attacked it the best way possible this off-season. They didn’t cut bait on Geno Smith. They gave up a 7th round pick to get the best available veteran who switched teams this off-season, particularly for their roster by acquiring Ryan FItzpatrick. There was no need to overpay for Brian Hoyer, Josh McCown or Matt Cassel, when Fitzpatrick has been better than all of them and already knows Chan Gailey’s offense. There was no quarterback to draft with the sixth pick. Despite far fetched rumors, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees didn’t go anywhere. The Jets added the best veteran support possible and their own quarterback to develop in the fourth round with Bryce Petty.
It was a grim quarterback market this off-season and the Jets made due the best they could. More specifically, they supported Smith or Fitzpatrick with two new receivers, two new running backs and a new offensive guard, nevermind a defense with enough talent to be a top five unit in the league.
No off-season is flawless and no roster is without weakness. The Jets still have very real questions on the offensive line, about their speed at linebacker and running back and at a few other spots throughout the team. It has been frustrating to see Muhammad Wilkerson not get a long term deal yet. Bowles is a rookie Head Coach. Kacy Rodgers is a rookie Defensive Coordinator. Chan Gailey has been out of the NFL since 2012. This was a 4-12 team last year and the rest of the division got better too. However, at a minimum there was an infusion of talent, short and long term strategy and accountability this off-season. The divergent agendas, conflicting regimes and circus atmosphere, which led to a lost locker room every 18-24 months has left town. The only question is how much and how quickly can this team improve?