Like it or not, the New York Jets have set their course. Now you wait to see if this radical approach bears fruit … and that is the subject of this week’s Twitter question:
— Kris (@KrisjV86) June 23, 2017
@RichCimini: First of all, Kris, thanks for having enough faith in me to pose such a daunting question. This is one of the great riddles in sports. They’ve gone 48 years without a Super Bowl and, honestly, I don’t know how many more years it will take to get back. I thought the Jets had it right when they reached back-to-back AFC Championship Games under Rex Ryan. I thought they had it right when they hired Bill Parcells in 1997. But just when you think they have it figured out … bam!
The reality is, there’s no guarantee this roster overhaul will work. Getting younger doesn’t always mean getting better. Hitting rock bottom doesn’t always equate to a successful rebound. The 2009 St. Louis Rams finished 1-15, drafted Sam Bradford with the first pick in 2010 … and still haven’t been to the playoffs. The 2008 Detroit Lions went 0-16, took Matthew Stafford first overall in ’09 … and still haven’t won a playoff game.
The Cleveland Browns … well, every year is Groundhog Day.
On the flip side, we’ve seen quick turnarounds. After successfully executing their “Suck for Luck” plan, the 2012 Indianapolis Colts went 11-5 with Andrew Luck, just one year after finishing 2-14 and landing the No. 1 pick. Thing is, transformative players such as Luck come along about only once a decade.
The Carolina Panthers provide a more realistic blueprint for the Jets. The Panthers earned the No. 1 pick in 2011 after a 2-14 finish, and they took Cam Newton. They built a strong team around him and, by his third season, they were a playoff team. By his fifth year, they were in the Super Bowl.
The Jets are far, far away from reaching that level. Based on conversations I’ve had with opposing scouts, only four or five players on the roster are capable of starting for most teams in the league — Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, James Carpenter and maybe Brian Winters. Like I said … far, far away.
Best-case scenario: Christian Hackenberg finishes the season entrenched as the starting quarterback and some of the key picks from Mike Maccagnan’s first three drafts establish themselves as ascending starters.
The more likely scenario: They end the year without a clear-cut answer at quarterback, draft one in 2018 and endure another year of growing pains. Maybe, by 2019, they’d be able to contend.
The Jets haven’t won the division since 2002. Not coincidentally, that’s the last time their starting quarterback posted a 100 passer rating — Chad Pennington, 104.2. I’ve said this many times, but it’s worth repeating even though it’s hardly a revelation:
It. All. Comes. Down. To. The. Quarterback.
As for Bowles, he probably won’t be around to see this through. He’s in an almost impossible situation and, as we know, Woody Johnson isn’t the most patient of owners. Maybe he’ll buy a soccer team while in England and forget about the Jets.