When Does A NFL Franchise Become Unsalvageable?

Jim Geraghty asks if the New York Jets are completely unsalvageable….

You don’t need me to lay out in detail the litany of disappointments and failures facing the New York Jets at this moment. The quick rundown: no playoff appearances in a decade, in a league designed for parity. One winning season since 2010. Just 21 wins since the start of the 2016 season. A miserable 0-5 start, after general manager Joe Douglas said the players were “angered” by the rest of the football world having “low expectations” for them.

Arguably the highest-touted quarterback of the 2018 draft class landed in their laps, and despite flashes of brilliance, he’s still hit-and-miss, still making rookie mistakes under a head coach who was explicitly sold to the fanbase as a quarterback whisperer.

If fans were allowed into MetLife stadium this season, the chants of “GASE MUST GO” and boos would be deafening. Four of the past five weeks, the game appeared to be more or less over by the end of the first half. The team is getting dramatically outplayed on offense, defense, and special teams. The team endures tons of injuries on both sides of the ball, free agents and draft choices not panning out, and each week, a plethora of baffling and maddening coaching decisions. Each postgame press conference is another dispiriting exercise in excuses and lame claims that the team practiced well the previous week.

The Gase era has coincided with an odd and dispiriting departure of whatever top talent the team had. On April 4, 2019, the team unveiled new uniforms in a glitzy ceremony/fashion show with eight players that the team clearly considered their stars or rising stars.

  • Quarterback Sam Darnold, who is, as of this writing, out with a shoulder injury.
  • Safety Jamal Adams, who was traded to Seattle.
  • Quincy Enunwa, who was released after injuries.
  • Robby Anderson, who was not re-signed in free agency.
  • Defensive end Leonard Williams, who was traded to the Giants.
  • Linebacker C.J. Mosley, who missed almost all of last year with injuries and who is sitting out this year under the coronavirus protocol.
  • Linebacker Avery Williamson, who missed all of last year, but who has played this year.
  • Tight end Chris Herndon, who missed almost all of last year, and who is off to an awful start this year.

One player who did not participate in that evening was Le’veon Bell, who was unceremoniously released on October 13.

For almost the entirety of the Gase era, the Jets management has failed to meet the minimum standard of being competitive. You often hear announcers say of teams, “there’s no quit in them.” Look at the Jets sideline on the second half. Look at the slumped shoulders, the shaking heads, the frustration and exasperation on the faces of the players and coaches. There’s plenty of quit in this team.

The NFL has a lot of bad teams, but it has few consistently bad teams. The Giants made the playoffs in 2016 and won the Super Bowl in 2011. The Jacksonville Jaguars were in the conference championship in 2017.  The Atlanta Falcons were in the Super Bowl in 2016. Cleveland Browns fans are enduring a longer playoff drought and the humiliation of going 0-16 in 2017, but they’re off to a hot start this year.  Even Cincinnati Bengals fans have the genuine hope of Joe Burrow. Maybe Washington Redskins fans are cursed with a comparably persistently humiliating franchise.

At some point, hopefully soon, the coronavirus pandemic will end, and fans in green jerseys will be able to return to MetLife in September 2021. The Jets will probably have a new head coach then, and maybe a new quarterback – perhaps they will have the first overall pick and start fresh under Trevor Lawrence.

If the Jets don’t have a promising new start in 2021… it’s fair to wonder if at some point, a significant portion of the fan base just stops caring. The team doesn’t just stink; it stinks largely because its leadership keeps making decisions that turn out terribly.

A year or two from now, acting owner Christopher Johnson probably will give some interview and lament that it didn’t work out with Adam Gase. He may even admit that hiring Gase was a mistake, and he may admit that it was a mistake to keep Gase as long as he did.

Put another way, the overwhelming majority of Jet fans were right to be skeptical of Gase when he was hired, right to call for Gase’s firing after last season’s 1-7 start, right to be underwhelmed with Gase’s 7-9 overall finish last year, and right to see Gase as a toxic personality who alienates and ruins good players. Chris Johnson was convinced he knew better than everyone else. He wasn’t. And the team is paying the price.

No doubt, a lot of fans walk around with an excessive faith that they know more than their team’s owner, general manager, and coaching staff. But in the case of the Jets, it is very likely true. At some point, rooting for the Jets is like having your car’s driving controlled by a Garmin with a defective GPS. You know you’re going in the wrong direction, you’re screaming as loud as you can that you’re headed towards a tree, but you can’t control the wheel.

From all available data, the Jets are a profitable organization. But gate revenues are gone for this year, and you figure the apparel and paraphernalia sales have to suffer in years when the team stinks. They’ve often had the problem of being second fiddle to the Giants.