If you haven’t hopped on the roller coaster ride that is the New York Jets, let me tell you, you’re missing out. Well, not really. It’s kind of like that amusement park ride you always loved as a kid, and now when you go back, it’s like “this isn’t as great as I remember.” Except for the Jets, those few years that may have passed you by have been shriveled up into one season. This season.
If you haven’t caught on to the analogy yet, here’s a quick run-down:
The Jets started the season 0-2, and were pretty much nodding their heads to the beat of the 0-16 talk. They quickly flipped the switch however, and went on to win three straight. The roller coaster ride was getting good, right? Well, maybe not so much.
While it may have looked exciting and worthwhile from a distance, the Jets couldn’t live up to the hype. They followed their win streak with three consecutive losses, all of which were close games. What a tease this ride was!
A big win over Buffalo followed, and for a minute things seemed to be okay. But two losses thereafter snatched away any sense of enlightenment. Another monstrous victory the following week over Kansas City reignited some hope, but the torch couldn’t stay lit after a collapse against Denver.
Mixed emotions now flood the amusement park. Some are happy the Jets have exceeded season expectations with such a (thought to be) lackluster roster. Others are disappointed because the ending is all but clear. Playoffs are long-shot, and the hope is that this ride will be different next year.
Time to Refine the Ride
Most can agree, the Jets shouldn’t be where they’re at now. If you take away the fourth quarter, this team is an immediate playoff contender. Five of their eight losses have been one score games, with the majority of them being winnable games in the fourth.
Pressure has weighed the Jets down though. They’ve collapsed under a multitude of factors, and it only furthers the notion that a ton of refinement is needed to set things straight.
For a team that was supposedly tanking their 2017 away, it’s tough to criticize the Jets for remaining so competitive throughout the year. But in reality, they’ve blown games, and have let teams walk all over them. In simpler terms, they’ve continued to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Next year will be their chance to reverse that script. With third-year quarterback Bryce Petty leading the charge for the final three games of 2017, it makes sense that the Jets should already be constructing the formula for next year. But where are the current errors?
Subtract the Penalties, Turnovers
Costly penalties have been a major factor. The Jets currently rank 28th in the league with an average of 7.5 penalties a game. They’re also 29th in the league with an average of 66.7 penalty yards a game. While it’s understandable for a young team that is learning their way, it will be a major detriment if the trend continues into next year.
Late turnovers also find their way into the equation. The Jets have handed games away in the fourth quarter with sloppy mistakes, and that needs to be cleaned up. This falls in the hands of a few: the offensive line, the quarterback, and the coaching staff.
The Jets offensive line has struggled all year. They have failed to protect Josh McCown in crucial moments, and have failed to create holes for the running game when needed. This transparency has resulted in turnovers for the Jets time and time again. The O-Line needs to be reconstructed, especially if a rookie quarterback is set to be under center in 2018.
Add the Quarterback, Playbook
That will also be a piece to the puzzle for the Jets fixations. With the high probability of the Jets having a new quarterback at the helm next year, they’ll have to pick and choose wisely. Plenty of low risk options will be available in free agency, but at a price. If they do indeed look for a leader in the draft, they’ll need to analyze closely. Baker Mayfield remains a potential good selection. With 41 touchdowns and five interceptions at Oklahoma, he could certainly help the Jets through their turnover struggles.
Others such as Sam Darnold out of USC, and Josh Rosen out of UCLA present a steeper risk. Both will come into the draft with a higher touchdown/interception ratio on the year. While they may be top prospects, they may not be the right fit for the Jets, especially since turnovers have been the Jets’ Achilles heel all year. They also present themselves as “project quarterbacks” which wouldn’t be ideal for the Jets if they decide to retain many of their veteran stars.
Much of this, of course, will be in the hands of the coaching staff. The Jets have been the center of some questionable play calling all year, which in turn has resulted in both turnovers, and losses. The Jets and OC John Morton may need to refine the playbook next year, as inconsistency in high-pressure situations has crushed them.
Upgrade to First Class
If the Jets can put these pieces together in 2018, they have the potential to make their so-called “rebuild” a speedy one. With emerging weapons in Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Quincy Enunwa, the Jets could certainly be an offensive threat. The same goes for the developing defense with future stars in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye.
And while it is frustrating to put a damper on 2017, which isn’t quite over, it’s hard not to imagine where this team could be next year. The pressure will certainly be back on, but a reworked approach could have the Jets soaring for a long, long time.