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!

TOJ Live ft. Stephen Rodriguez

The TOJ Live hosts interview Stephen Rodriguez of FTN and Bleav Podcasts.

Check out the latest episode of Turn on the Jets Live on Youtube!

Hosts Stephen Zantz and Stephen Russo chat with Stephen Rodriguez of Bleav Podcasts and FTN about a variety of Jets-related topics.

Continue reading “TOJ Live ft. Stephen Rodriguez”

Free Agency Frenzy: Joe Douglas Finds Himself in a Lucky Spot

Stephen Russo shares his thoughts on the Jets before free agency begins.

We are on the brink of the most exciting time in a Jets fans’ world… NFL Free Agency. With the always confusing oxymoron of “legal tampering” beginning Monday at noon, the entire fanbase is set to refresh twitter 5,000 times a day waiting for Adam Schefter to break the news that the Jets are signing every free agent they’ve been linked to for the past 4 months… or maybe that’s just me. While the games that they have actually played over the last decade have left much to be desired, the month of March typically brings the excitement that has filled that void for us fans, and it is set to live up to expectation yet again in 2021. However this time, it’s just a little different. The Jets and Joe Douglas find themselves in a very rare and fortunate position.

As Free Agency begins and kickstarts the offseason, the Jets have money to spend in a buyer’s market. The team has holes to fill in a lot of places – basically everywhere except for left tackle and interior defensive line. The free agent pond is stocked with potential targets that would immediately improve the Jets barren roster. Targets at interior offensive line like Joe Thuney and Corey Linsley. Top wide receivers will be on the market like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kenny Golladay and Curtis Samuel. Their long-awaited solution at edge rusher could be solved with Carl Lawson, Bud Dupree or Trey Hendrickson – or a combination of them. Teams aren’t built through free agency, but it sure is a good way to add necessary pieces. Joe Douglas finds himself in a favorable position where his team has the 3rd most cap space in the NFL ($22M more than the 4th ranked team and with more potential depending on roster moves) in a year where the salary cap was reduced and many teams are doing everything they can to get themselves out of the red. Douglas can take advantage of this market and the Jets rare position to get aggressive and pay the “Jets Tax” to get quality starters into Florham Park to build this roster his way.

The draft is only 6 weeks away and yet again, Douglas is in another advantageous scenario – to his credit. The Jets will have a total of 9 picks (potentially more with a Darnold trade) and 5 picks in the first three rounds. The Jets have many needs, but the positions where they should put value – OL, WR, CB, EDGE – the draft is rich in.

The most important question of the offseason is what will the Jets do at quarterback? Well, whatever the answer ends up being, the Jets are in a good spot. They hold the #2 overall pick in this year’s draft where they will have their pick of 3 legitimate top QB prospects that every Jets fan should be excited about in Fields, Wilson and Lance. That same pick could be the key to land Deshaun Watson, who is a top 5 quarterback in this league already at the age of 25 and is somehow miraculously available for a trade (despite what the Texans say). If they choose to move Darnold, they will almost certainly get a 2nd round pick and another later round pick, and be able to continue to stockpile talent at important positions… a foreign concept to previous regimes. And, albeit the worst of all scenarios, if they choose to keep Darnold, they will undoubtedly get a haul back for the 2nd overall pick and be able to continue to round out this roster with premium capital.

We can only speculate what Joe Douglas’ plan for the 2020 season was. From the outside, it looks like he set it up as an evaluative year where he could take a holistic look at the entire roster and coaching staff, and objectively see what he had and what he needed. Anyone would agree that it turned out better than he could have hoped. Now, he finds himself with a new coach that everyone is fawning over, a boatload of cap space in a talent rich free agent pool where he can outspend almost any other team, and a litany of draft picks at his disposal to rebuild this roster.

Joe Douglas, with a little luck, put himself in a nice situation. It is his job to capitalize. This IS the offseason to do it. The days of 5 year rebuilds are long gone. He has a chance to turn this team into a competitor immediately. No more half-measures, no more saving for a rainy day. The time is NOW.

Buckle up, Jets fans. It’s going to be a wild ride.

The Jets (Finally) Got It Right

Stephen Russo explains why the Jets got this coaching decision right.

For the better part of a decade, the New York Jets have been swimming in the sewers of ineptitude. They have consistently had the look and perception of dysfunction. They have taken repeated half-measured attempts at digging themselves out, only to find themselves deeper in the hole of mediocrity that we are all so desperate to climb out of. And now, after the 2020 season, the Jets are proud owners of the longest playoff drought in the NFL. And as the offseason officially begins (which is typically a Jets’ fans Super Bowl), I ask you to put everything on hold for just a brief moment. Forget the Deshaun Watson drama. Don’t worry about Zach Wilson or Justin Fields. Forget Darnold and if he’ll stay or how much he will get us in return if traded.

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The Darnold Decision

The season from hell has come to an end and the man responsible, Adam Gase, was finally relieved of his duties no more than 20 minutes after his return from New England. The most pressing thing that this franchise had to accomplish is done, and they have rid themselves of the biggest problem since Rich Kotite. Now the Jets embark on what is really the “most important offseason” in franchise history… as if we haven’t heard that one before.

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A Plea to Jets Fans: Don’t Hit the Panic Button

Stephen Russo on why Jets fans have reason for optimism.

There is no doubt the Jets delivered a gut punch to every fan this past Sunday in Los Angeles. Somehow, some way, Adam Gase managed a win against Sean McVay on the back of 76-year-old Frank Gore and his 24 touches (and his 2.7 yards per rush). The entire Jets fanbase took a collective hit to the groin like we did when Keith Byers fumbled in Denver, or when Drew Coleman let Peyton Manning’s pass go over his fingertips to Pierre Garcon, or when Big Ben hit Antonio Brown on 3rd down to seal the deal, or when Ryan Fitzpatrick almost connected with Kenbrell Thompkins in the 4th quarter in Buffalo, or… did I make my point clear enough?

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New York Jets – Ranking The Head Coach Candidates

Stephen Russo ranks the New York Jets head coaching candidates…

Adam Gase’s 23-month tenure as HC of the NYJ has been one for the record books. He has set records for bad offense, ruining careers, ineptitude, affinity for 37-year-old running backs, and number of people involved in a single play call. However, one thing that Gase should include on his resume is that he was the first person since Bill Parcells to unite the Jets fanbase. It seems as though he is the one person who is unanimously hated across all of Jets land, and pretty much has been since day one. You don’t have to go back too far to realize that Gase was very low, if not the lowest, on everyone’s totem pole of candidates back in January, 2019. He may have gotten a slight nod over Rich Kotite or Lou Holtz, but in his almost 2 years he has proven every single one of us right.

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The New York Jets Dream Offseason

Stephen Russo with his dream offseason for the New York Jets

In a season mired by historical ineptitude, the Jets have also managed to find themselves on the verge of some other history. They are well on their way to the worst season in franchise history, possibly having the worst season in NFL history and they are pairing that with potentially the worst point differential of any team, ever. They are led by a historically bad head football coach, and to top it all off I think that we can all agree that they have made history for the earliest they have ever made a fanbase want to fast forward to the offseason. However, the upcoming offseason provides the light at the end of the tunnel that so many of us need.

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New York Jets – The Sad Truth About Sam

Stephen Russo with thoughts on Sam Darnold…

It pains me to write this. It really does. If you’ve read my work before, you know that I am a Darnold believer. From his bounce back after the first pass of his career to the highlights he gave us late in his rookie year and in the middle of his sophomore season, I’ve been on his side. If you go back to before the season, I actually predicted the Jets to finish at 8-8 with a shot at the playoffs based on the sole reason that I felt Darnold was ready to make the leap in year 3… I was wrong.

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