The Path to Back to Relevance

Stephen Russo offers his thoughts on Joe Douglas’ tenure as GM.

It’s a cautious step, Jets fans.  But a step nonetheless. The step I am referring to is the step out of dysfunction that Joe Douglas has seemingly taken. Weeding through the disarray and continuous blunders of a failed organization over the last decade is no easy task, but we are seeing light at the end of this tunnel. Anyone with a pulse can feel the collective optimism of our beloved and passionate Jets fan base: we have hope. We are 6 months removed from the worst Head Coach in Jets history who capped off the worst decade of football that we have all experienced. But the path to competence and relevance is paved right in front of us, courtesy of Joe D.

The peak of free agency was highlighted by big moves to sign an edge rusher in Carl Lawson and give the Jets something they haven’t had in 15 years, a big bodied wide receiver who can be a red zone and middle of the field threat in Corey Davis, and some quality under-the-radar signings like Keelan Cole and LaMarcus Joyner.

Douglas followed this up with an absolutely stellar draft. Not a single soul can argue with any of the first 4 picks. The Jets (finally!) entered the 21st century and drafted offensive players! They got their quarterback, traded up for arguably the safest pick in the draft in Alijah Vera-Tucker at a position of need and solidified the left side of their offensive line, and then followed those up with the explosive Elijah Moore in the second round and running back Michael Carter in the fourth. Weapons! Offense! Points!

To cap off the offseason, late last week Douglas made a deal with free agent Right Tackle Morgan Moses, formerly of the Washington Football Team. Moses, 30, has been nothing short of steady and reliable and has started every game for Washington since 2016. This move solidifies a premium position while providing depth and reliability at swing tackle in George Fant. With this signing, Douglas has essentially rebuilt the entire offensive line in 2 off-seasons.

When Joe Douglas took the Jets’ General Manager job in 2019, he knew he’d have to roll up his sleeves to clean up the mess that he was left.  Years of bad drafts, horrible contracts, and a myriad of terrible organizational decisions paved the way for his hiring and the proverbial light to go off in Christopher Johnson’s head to finally right this ship.  Douglas was left with a barren roster completely devoid of talent, and the little talent he did have seemed to be in the wrong places.  He kept his eyes toward the future while assessing the present – both players and coaches – and began the clean up.  He has traded assets that he knew wouldn’t be long-term answers for this team and gotten remarkable value back for them.  He’s stockpiled draft picks to maximize his swings on the most important part of building (or re-building) your team from the ground up.   He’s shown a tremendous feel for the market, both on draft day (see Denzel Mims) and in free agency, where he not only can assess where a player should be valued, but also where the 31 other teams are valuing them.  Most importantly, he spearheaded a flawless coaching search in January.  He truly operated with a clean slate to hire someone he had never met before in Robert Saleh, who was arguably the best candidate on the market.  Now, Douglas, Saleh, and new quarterback Zach Wilson are in lockstep with each other, creating a necessary symmetry in the organization that they haven’t had in years.  

In 1997, Bill Parcells inherited a 1-15 team (4-28 in two seasons) from an atrocious head coach. He quickly launched that team to respectability and sparked the best 15-year run in team history. Can Joe Douglas have a similar “Parcells-ian” effect on the Jets organization, effectively hitting the reset button after years of missteps and gaffes to set the stage for a run at sustained success? It is a tall task, but the Jets could truly be at the starting line of something great.

Buckle those chin straps, Jets fans. For the first time in a long time, this is going to be fun. All Gas, No Brake!