by Dan Galal
The Jets will break .500 this year. Yes, this is a profoundly absurd statement from a team that, for the past ten years, has refused to be competitive. An endless cycle of quarterbacks, a lackluster defense ever since the end of Revis Island, and a hapless coaching staff and front office have all hindered the team’s prospects. However, the tide seems to be turning: the Jets selected QB Zach Wilson with the second pick in the 2021 first year player draft, as well as underrated receiver Elijah Moore and some solid O-line talent. With first-year head coach Robert Salah and young GM Joe Douglas, the faces of the New York Jets are fresh and confident. But what about the team’s prospects?
You can’t say much about the Jets’ 2020 season. Well, you can actually say many things about that season, just nothing good. Being a Jets fan is–and I’m being only slightly hyperbolic–an insufferable fate, but last year’s performance was the tenth circle of hell. I’ll summarize with the now infamous final play of the Jets-Raiders game last year. The Jets had just scored to take a close lead over the heavy favorites, but Derek Carr and the Raiders found themselves in the red zone in Jets territory. With the clock dwindling, it seemed obvious that Carr and the Raiders offence would go for a hail mary, targeting their speedy rookie receiver Henry Ruggs III. What do the Jets do? Deploy proper coverage down the field to protect against the passing attack?
Instead, then-Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams orders the defence to blitz. A blitz sends a few extra players to, essentially, abandon their positions to target the quarterback; this puts pressure on the quarterback and the offensive line, but also leaves the downfield vulnerable to a quick passing attack. With the Jets blitzing on a hail mary play, Carr found just enough time to find Ruggs on the deep ball, scoring a touchdown and closing out the game. To put it simply, the Jets forfeited the game on a bizarre and short-sighted defensive play call, costing them what would’ve been the first win of the year.
Now, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The Jets did win a game; in fact, they closed out the season with a 2-14 record. But the 2020 season was, by all accounts, simply irredeemable. So how do they improve? Well, the Jets drafted well this year. Their young quarterback Zach Wilson is mobile and versatile, and their other skill-position picks look to be steals. They also bolstered the offensive line this draft, choosing guard Alijah Vera-Tucker with the 14th pick, building on last year’s selection of tackle Mekhi Becton. Now, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but this year should be an improvement. With better coaching, better management, and fresh young talent, the Jets look to be on the right path to break .500.
I won’t make any bets though. The Jets play in the AFC East; each team in that division is objectively better than the Jets. Since their division is very competitive, and each team appears to be on the upswing, winning a few of those divisional games will be crucial. However, their schedule outside of their division doesn’t appear to be exceptionally challenging, and I think this young offense could pull a few surprise victories.
I’m not sure where this faith comes from, but things are looking up for the Jets. Maybe it’s delusion, or “Cleveland Browns Syndrome.” Whatever it is, I think this young team has potential. I could see the New York Jets finally taking off the runway this year, let’s just hope they make the plane back home.