TOJ Fan Friday – New York Jets Crossroads

Guest writer Sean L. Durham writes about the New York Jets at the crossroads after the 2016 season, in this week’s TOJ Fan Friday

This week’s TOJ Fan Friday comes from Sean L. Durham. If you have a topic you want to write about e-mail us at Today’s article breaks down the crossroads the New York Jets currently reside at…

The Jets find themselves in a familiar situation. It’s not difficult for teams to make changes, we see it every off-season and sometimes before the off-season – sometimes it’s inevitable.  Change, ultimate change, is usually presented as a viable tactic or strategy to positively and immediately address team issues and concerns.

It is also presented as a way to alter the dynamic and culture of said team in seemingly convincing fashion presumably for the better, but not all teams can effectively hold on to the momentum usually associated with change. It’s not easy but I find it hard to believe that it’s as hard or as difficult as the Jets have made it seem over the past few seasons.

No need to bore you with specifics as most Jets fans are already unmistakably familiar with the 2009 and 2010 Jets and the success those respective Jets team garnered. If you’re unfamiliar with those teams — the 2009 Jets finished 9-7 and second in the AFC East. They essentially backed into the playoffs to make a run that ended in the AFC Championship game in Indy.

The 2010 Jets improved on their 2009 record by going 11-5 and once again found themselves in the playoffs and ultimately reaching an end to their season in the AFC Championship game. Those back to back “successful” seasons seem like a lifetime ago for Jets fans. In the minds of most Jets fans, from our current position in time, those two seasons seem surreal and more distant than they actually are and there’s seemingly no doubt that the four immensely disappointing subsequent seasons that followed is a major reason for this.

Hope, unfiltered hope after the 2010 season was incredibly high but what followed was essentially four seasons of heart break, disappointment, front office mismanagement and consistent head shaking on the part of annoyed and frustrated Jets fans.

At the end of the 2010, after the loss to the Steelers in the AFC Championship game the Jets subsequently found themselves at a cross road in their franchise.  Needless to say, the Jets made the wrong turn at said cross road.

I won’t go who is to blame for that wrong turn by the Jets at the end of the 2010 season because in the end the blame doesn’t matter, only the bottom line and the bottom line is the Jets wrong turned hurt not only themselves as a franchise but as usual, it once again found a way to destroy the hope and optimism of die-hard passionate Jets fans.

Here we are today — five seasons removed from the last time Jets fans felt any sort of genuine end of the season optimism regarding the Jets.  Here we are today — Jets once again find themselves at a cross roads having yet activated their turn signal as they are still pondering on which direction to turn or deciding if proceeding straight ahead is the best option.

Is it feasible to believe this Jets team will do things any differently?

The 2015 Jets ended the season at 10-6 but missed the playoffs due to their inability to close the season the way they needed to and due to the fact that they are a member of the AFC East and not the AFC South. It’s hard to technically classify the Jets 2015 season as a success, considering the offensive records broken and the overall upgraded play by the entire Jets team from the 2014 season to the 2015 season, I’d argue that the season was a failure.

With that being said, this current Jets team, finds itself completely contrasted from those aforementioned Jets teams that made those back to back AFC Title game runs.  Some important pieces remain, but overall, a complete structural modification and transformation from top to bottom that essentially gives Jets fans a cautious sense of hope.

Cross Roads — with General Manager and NFL Executive of the Year Mike Maccagnan behind the wheel and Head Coach Todd Bowles in the passenger seat operating the GP –this Jets team finds itself at the beginning of what appears to be another franchise shifting moment.

Jets fans can only judge as far as what their team’s management shows them and despite missing the playoffs in Maccagnan and Bowles’ first season and despite personnel and coaching not being absolutely perfect in their first seasons, there should be a sense of genuine belief resonating from within and outside of this current seemingly transformed Jets organization.

There are legitimate reasons to be both optimistic and concerned but balancing out the middle part between the two is essential to the mental stability of any Jets fan conceptual fandom right now as in the end, none of it is in the fan’s control and everything will be subjected to over analysis, judgement, ridicule and debate.

The Jets find themselves heading into an offseason which comes on the tail end of a 10-6 playoff-less effort that fans are expecting the team to build upon, while simultaneously suffering from battered fan syndrome.  Jets fans aren’t used to consistent competent management and coaching, so the doubt lingers and festers.

This Jets team has been fool’s gold over the past eight years and that’s putting it nicely.  Consistently teasing fans by annoyingly “addressing” the team’s symptoms and not the disease which in turn causes the ailments to linger and consistently and further damaged the team long term potential.  For a change or for now, it sort of feels like the Jets have reversed this immensely flawed strategy and now find themselves adequately addressing the disease while simultaneously dealing with the symptoms.

Once again the Jets find themselves in a position having to adequately, sufficiently and essentially build off of the team’s recent “success” in order to ultimately maintain some sort of positive long term stability.  A logical approach that in theory, has always had a place in the hearts of Jets management over the past few seasons but one that has been stagnated by counterproductive execution and strategies.  WR Derrick Mason over Jericho Cotchery is one move out of many that still keeps me up at night.  It was one of the moves made after the successful 2010 season — one example of so many that was made by the Jets at the crossroads that off-season en-route down what was ultimately the wrong road.

Upon quick glance, some would find it somewhat difficult to compare the playoff absent 2015 Jets team to those 2009 and 2010 Jets teams that technically and ultimately had more successful seasons, but when you step back and gaze at it from behind a bigger frame, the 2015 Jets team was birthed from the hard work and diligent yet incredibly competent efforts on the part of their new GM Mike Maccagnan.  Mike’s refreshing competence in turn completely transformed this Jets team from a 4-12 directionless team that appeared to be headed towards an endless black abyss of irrelevancy, to an impressively modified 10-6 team that exhibited, more times than not, all the characteristics of a team that, competitively seem to be on a journey in the right direction.

The Jets currently have legitimate questions and concerns everywhere — from offense to defense and especially on special teams.  They currently find themselves in need of stability at the RB position and speed and consistency at the pass rushing position.  They find themselves in the inescapable position of having to resign QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who in 2015, broke numerous Jets records but somehow finds himself on the other end of some Jets fans doubt and concerns.

I have my thoughts and opinions on what I believe the Jets should do going forward. I have my thoughts and beliefs on what personnel the Jets should add or remove.   I have my opinion on what players I believe the Jets should add/draft and should part ways with.  I have my thoughts on what contract respective players should or shouldn’t get, but in the end none of it matters.  But, what does matter is knowing and ultimately realizing that overall competent management and coaching is more important and goes further than any opinion or belief any Jets fan can have regarding this team.

Competent management and coaching is reality that no one can change or dismiss no matter how hard they try.  It is the two important aspects of a NFL franchise that trumps everything else.  They are the two vitally important pieces of a franchise that will consistently and effectively cut through the fog.

Reality has this thing about itself in that despite what others may think, say, feel or believe, it won’t’ change or alter said reality.  Reality is here no matter how much one denies it, and I have a hard time denying the fact that, despite their imperfections, the Jets franchise are in competent and capable hands with GM Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles.

I can’t deny that part of me is concerned that Macc and Bowles will turn down the wrong road and once again drive this franchise down a lonely and immensely dry highway surrounded by complacency and mind numbingly underachievement. I have doubts, but for the first time in a long time, the optimism seems logical.

True the entire concept and tone behind everything I’m saying falls dangerously close to nothing more than opinionated talking points wrapped loosely around a clichéd enriched point of view, but I for one believe the Jets find themselves in good hands.

I’m merely a passenger on this current journey and though there have been times in the past in which back seat driving was not only necessary for this Jets team, but at times, vastly more effective than the primary driver, I will roll the back seat windows down and allow the winds of change to smack me across the face as hopefully I’m being carried to the ideal and ultimate destination by this Jets management.

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Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the EVP of Content at Whistle Sports