Joe Douglas spoke to the media yesterday right after the trading deadline passed. We live in a time where words are often used to fit certain narratives. So rather than breaking this up quote by quote, I thought it made sense to post the full transcript from the interview.
Good evening, everyone. I’m going to keep my opening statement short, so we can get to your questions. In the last three weeks, we’ve made tough decisions to move on from four players, Le’Veon (Bell), Steve McLendon, Jordan Willis, and Avery Williamson. It was great having these guys a part of our organization. They all worked hard. They were invested in the team. On behalf of the Jets, I want to thank them, and I want to wish them the best with their new teams. My message for the fans, we’re all frustrated with where we are right now, but everyone in this building has to own it. This record, it belongs to all of us. It’s incumbent on each of us to figure out how we can improve it. And I certainly take my fair share of the responsibility. When I spoke to you guys in training camp, I was not being disingenuous about my optimism of where this team was going. Unfortunately, this hasn’t played out as we all thought it would. I know you guys have a ton of questions. I want to be very clear: we win and we lose as a team, and that’s all of us. That’s front office, that’s the players, that’s the coaching staff. I will say that I’m very proud of the way this locker room has stayed together. They continue to put the work in, each and every week, each and every practice, every time they stepped the field, it’s with max effort, so I want to thank them for that. It’s a real testament to this coaching staff and these players in the locker room. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t materialized in the wins for us this year. Through the first eight weeks, the players and coaches, they’ve all stood up here, they face tough, fair questions, and I’m going to do that myself tonight. One of the things that I am excited about moving forward is that we finally had all of our rookies together on the field October 21st after dealing with injuries, and it’s really good to see these guys progressing. I want to say the coaching staff’s done a tremendous job getting these guys ready, especially in a unique year. We still have eight games left, so there’s a lot of time for us to see improvement with everyone, not just the rookies. Ultimately, to build the team and the culture that we need and want, the focus of this organization is going to remain on player development. I believe we have a solid group of young players here mixed with veterans. They’re all invested in the growth of this organization. Over the last few months, we’ve been able to improve our draft capital. As we sit here now, currently, we have nine picks this upcoming draft. We have nine picks in the next draft. Of those picks, (nine) over the next two years are going to be in the top three rounds, so that gives us a lot of flexibility and a lot of opportunity moving forward to really improve the talent on this roster. But ultimately, again, for us to get to where we need to be, we have to continue to develop and invest in our players moving forward.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Joe, I’m sure you’ve thought a lot about the last off season and what you maybe could have done to make this roster better. In hindsight, do you think you didn’t strike enough of a balance between long-term goals and short-term goals in terms of building this team for 2020?
I think we had a focus on what we going to try to attack in the offseason. That was on the offensive side of the ball with o-line and skill players. Ultimately, for a lot of different reasons, it hasn’t materialized this year on that side of the ball. But these guys, unfortunately, we’ve only had three games where our starting five offensive linemen have played together. The three wide receivers that we envisioned being our started three, they played zero games together. I’m not making an excuse about injuries, that’s just the simple fact. It’s really hindered the continuity of our offense. Again, we’re going through this off season, we’re going through what our processes were in the offseason and trying to figure out what we can do better moving forward.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Joe, how would you assess Sam Darnold’s play this season and what do you think of his future with this team in 2021 and beyond?
Yeah, my thoughts on Sam are the same now as they were then. Sam’s an ultra-talented quarterback. I really can’t say enough about his grit and his toughness. Ultimately, I’ve got to do a better job of putting talent around Sam and we have to develop some kind of continuity within the offense moving forward. The silver lining is that there are eight games left and we have guys coming back healthy, and so hopefully, we can do that over the last eight weeks of the season.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Joe, this is arguably the worst season in franchise history, and the fan base is pretty fed up. I mean, what could you say to give them confidence that things are going to get better?
Yeah, I hear you. Everyone here is frustrated. I know I touched on that in the open remarks. My message to the fans would be, as frustrated as we all are, please give these players and the staff the support as best as they can throughout the season. These guys go out and they give it their all every day in practice, every time they touch the field. Things haven’t worked out. I can tell you guys that there’s a lot of good people here, and we’re doing everything that we can to make sure that we keep bringing in the right type of person and the right type of player. And then more importantly, develop that player in terms of not only on the field but off the field.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Joe, how do you assess the job that Adam (Gase) has done?
I’m going to say that this is not all on Adam. Again, I have to do a better job of surrounding him with better players and better weapons. We’re in this together. I’m going through and thinking of everything I can do to try to help Sam, or help Adam. The goal is to get this fixed together.
Bruce Beck, WNBC: Joe, what is your vision for this team? Like, how do you win? What will it take to win? When do you win?
I don’t think my vision has changed from when I first stood in front of you guys. I think it starts up front, and I think it starts with the offense and defensive line. That’s going to lead to the rest of the team, and so we really have to win the line of scrimmage first. We have to add explosive playmakers. We have to get after the passer. We’re going to have to have guys that cover well. Those are all the things, I mean, that’s what the successful teams in the National Football League are doing. We have to get better, faster. And so, that’s on me. We’re looking at everything we can possibly do to improve all those areas.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Joe, do you believe that you made a mistake letting Robby Anderson walk in free agency?
I’ve thought about Robby a lot. As you guys know, there’s thousands of decisions that come across your desk during the year. And I go back, and I look at what I could have done better in that specific situation. I thought our guys did a fantastic job of really analyzing every position group’s market value leading up to free agency last year. I think what went wrong with us and Robby, we thought the Robby’s value was going to be even greater than he signed for in Carolina. And so, I think that’s on me ultimately, and that’s on us moving forward to get a better handle on every player’s market value. Honestly, we would all love to see Robby here, doing what he’s doing, but I tip my hat to the success he has. But obviously, we don’t want to be in the business or losing good players.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Can you say for sure now that Sam will be your starting quarterback next year?
Look, I mean, we’re trying to get through the next eight games. I mean, again, my feeling on Sam hasn’t changed. We have to do a better job of surrounding him with talent.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: Joe, you talked about the player development. How much do you worry about confidence when you guys are losing like this? Starting with Sam, where do you think he’s at there, and then with other young players being in this kind of environment where you aren’t able to get the wins?
Yeah, those are the things you think about especially when you’re talking with young players, your own especially quarterbacks, how a player is going to handle being thrust out on the field and handling adversity. I think you take that on a case-by-case basis depending on that player’s mental/psychological makeup. I think where we are now, we have a lot of rookies that we are encouraged about, we have a lot of rookies that we think are made of the right stuff mentally, psychologically, and we’re excited about those guys moving forward.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Joe, when you took the job on the first day of your first press conference, you said there was a sense of urgency to build a team with a quarterback on his rookie contract. How does that square with what you’re doing now, which is basically giving up players for future draft picks?
Right. I certainly haven’t done a good enough job of surrounding Sam with the weapons he needed last year or this year. I’m looking at what I can do better moving forward in terms of making sure that we have the right skill and the right protection for him.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Joe, has this situation that you came into, trying to kind of rebuild the Jets, has it been more of a challenge than you expected coming into this?
No, I came in with my eyes wide open. I knew the obstacles here, but I also knew that there was a lot of good people here, and I still feel that way. I’m excited about the draft class we brought in. I’m excited about the draft capital we have for the next few years. And I’m excited about bringing in the right type of people while also putting together comprehensive player development plans for each and every player to make sure that we’re absolutely doing the best. I mean, at the end of the day, our job is to serve these guys, to serve these players, and that’s doing everything we can to help them as a player and a person.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Just a quick follow-up, Joe. This past off season, you were one of the more, I should say, less aggressive teams in free agency. This coming year you’re projected to have more cap space than any other team in the league. Do you anticipate being more aggressive in the top line of free agency this coming year after sitting out a little bit this past off season?
Yeah, you’re right. I mean, part of what we’ve done is try to put ourselves in a better financial health moving forward. I think we’re on our way to doing that. But ultimately, I think when you look at successful organizations, no matter what the sport, you don’t see a lot of teams that build long-term success by buying their way out of it. You see the teams, the organizations, that have long-term success, they draft well, and they develop their players. I think that’s the model moving forward. I think that’s our vision moving forward. And we have the opportunity to strike in free agency and having that flexibility, but not none of this is going to work if we don’t draft and develop these guys, especially with the assets we added last year and then this year.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Joe, what do you say to the school of thought that at 0-8, this team is not going to go to the playoffs. You guys would be better off losing the rest of the way, getting the number one pick of in the draft. What do you think of that?
That’s not our thought process. That’s not our thought process. We’re focused on the New England Patriots and we’re focused on getting better every day. As cliché as that sounds that’s, that we’re focused on.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Joe, in your opinion, can this team get to where you want it to be with Adam as the head coach?
Yes. Ultimately, like I said, I have to do a better job for all these coaches and players, and the hope is that we can fix these problems together and be here together for a while.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: So, you’re saying he’s part of the solution then?
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Joe, do you feel the same about Sam, that with the right pieces around him, if you do a better job of getting those weapons, that he’s the quarterback that can take you where you guys need to go?
Absolutely. Absolutely, I am. Sam’s played with, I know I touched on it earlier, but I feel like he has a different set of wide receivers every week. We’ve had almost a different set of offense linemen out there every week. It’s important to surround any quarterback with talent. I think you see the flashes of what he can be, and they’re really special. Let’s not forget that Sam’s a 23-year-old quarterback that is maybe one of the toughest quarterbacks I’ve ever been around. So, no, I’m very excited about Sam.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Joe, then going off of that and believing that if you surround him with more talent, he can be a top tier quarterback, and ultra-talented I think is what you said, why not commit to him definitively as your quarterback in 2021?
I have no problem saying that he is our best quarterback and our quarterback for the future.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: Joe, one of the things, if Darnold does have the kind of talent you think he does, quarterbacks are supposed to be able to kind of overcome some of these situations, maybe not having the guys on the offensive line or the weapons, but offensively, you guys just aren’t anywhere near any other team in the league. How do you kind of resolve that?
Yeah, I think the quarterbacks that can overcome poor offensive lines and poor skill guys or those positions that aren’t playing up to par, I think there’s maybe very few of those type of players. And again, Sam’s a 23-year-old quarterback that’s still developing. He’s still getting better. I do see improvement with our entire offense, but I will say that. Again, I said this in one of our talks last year, it starts with having good periods in practice and putting a practice together, and it starts with having a good quarter and putting a half together. And I think the last two weeks we’ve been able to put to good halves together, we just need to turn those halves into games.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: I think with the way this season has gone, Joe, and the way that the record and the losses have kind of piled up, teams look at the possibility, or fans I should say, look at the possibility of number one pick and see the opportunity to potentially draft Trevor Lawrence at number one or number two if you guys were there. Is that something that you guys are not considering drafting a quarterback with a first round pick this coming season?
One, I wouldn’t really get into any of our draft plans right now, and I wouldn’t be able to comment on any college players. Again, I mean, we’re focusing on Monday night.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Joe, a couple of questions on Chris Herndon. There was a report that you guys were shopping him today. Number one, is that true? And number two, just the way his season has gone, how surprised are you at how he’s played?
First, no, we were not shopping Chris. We received no calls on Chris, so I think there was some misinformation out there on that. Secondly, look, I mean, I feel like Chris has been a little snake bit since his car accident in terms of the injury last year, the suspension and this year just hasn’t gone the way he envisioned, I’m sure, which you could say that for 51 or 52 other guys on our team as well. I know Chris, no one cares more than Chris. Chris comes out to practice, gives his all every single day. And so, like for most of our team, the practice hasn’t translated into Sundays.
Bob Glauber, Newsday: Joe, I know that you and Adam both report individually to Christopher (Johnson), so you wouldn’t necessarily have Adam’s fate in your hands, but there’s a fairly good chance that there might be a new coach next year, which makes you the guy who’s kind of like the last man standing. If that were to happen, do you feel confident that you can kind of handle, there’s a lot of pressure with that, just you’re the guy building this team really from the ground up potentially. Do you feel confident that you can kind of handle that pressure and do you welcome that pressure?
Well, I mean, there’s pressure every single day when you walk in the building. My mind hasn’t even gone there on that scenario you just brought up. My focus is helping Adam solve the problem and working together to do it. And so obviously, I think we’re all confident in our abilities, but I’m focused sort on solving these problems with Adam.
Dennis Waszak, Jr., Associated Press: Joe, with some of the trades that you made and some of the moves with McLendon and Avery, and even with Bell, you talked earlier about being impressed by how the locker room has stayed together. While making those moves, was there some concern that getting rid of those guys, who were looked at as leaders might upset that kind of balance moving forward, especially with 0-8 and getting rid of some of these guys who have kind of provided that leadership?
No doubt there was concern. And that’s a good question because especially when you’re talking about a guy like Steve McLendon, a guy like Avery, those are discussions that we did have. How is this going to affect the rest of the team? I think ultimately, the decision was made. Look, we have, in those two guys cases, we have good rooms. And what I mean by that is we, the D-tackle room is a very good room with high quality people and high quality players. We have guys like Quinnen (Williams) and Foley (Fatukasi), Nate Shepherd. John Franklin-Myers has really come on. We felt good about doing that because of the quality of player and person we had in that room and the same at linebacker, with guys like Neville (Hewitt), Patrick Onwuasor on his way back, Bryce Hager, Harvey Langi. We felt good about the quality, person and character, which gave us the ability to do what we thought was best for the team long-term.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: A quick positive question for you, Mekhi Becton, the kid you drafted in the first round, I mean, he looks about as good as advertised. Could you just talk a little bit about his development to this point, what you’ve seen from him and what you kind of believe is his ceiling potentially as now that he’s actually played some NFL games?
Yeah, I think everyone’s excited about Mekhi. I think Mekhi’s obviously turned heads with his sheer size and strength, and I know Mekhi’s as upset as anybody about where we are right now. And he truly cares, and he truly wants to help. I think he is a player that is going to help us long-term. We’re excited about working with him every day, because you’re talking about a young man that loves football. He’s very smart, he’s tough as nails, and has a rare size and athleticism. And still, he’s just scratching the surface of what he can do physically. There’s a lot of desire from him to want to be the best player that he can be, so we’ve made it our mission to sort of bend over backwards to try to help him reach his goals.
Bruce Beck, WNBC: Joe, what’s the focus for these last eight games?
Yeah, I think the focus is improvement. The focus is as simple as that sounds, the focus is improving every day. Like I said before, putting good practices together, putting good quarters together, putting good halves together, putting good games together. We need to simply do better, and that’s the focus right now, and just seeing the progression of all of our young players, whether they’re a rookie, first- or second-year player.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Would you like to see Denzel (Mims) and La’Mical (Perine) featured and targeted a little more? I mean, I know Frank (Gore) is still getting his touches, but would you like to see them featured more?
Yeah, I think you’ve seen an uptick in La’Mical’s playtime the last two weeks and excited about that. Before I get into those too, Frank has been an unbelievable veteran to have on this team. The leadership that he brings on a daily basis, how vested he is to help, not only the offense, but the entire team, and especially young guys. He’s taken La’Mical under his wing. Those guys love football so much. For him, being where he is in his career and a Hall of Fame running back, the fact that he comes out every day and he has the attitude of excited rookie, and the way that he’s taking these guys under his wings is phenomenal. But yeah, La’Mical, excited about his progression moving forward. Obviously, he brings an explosive dynamic, he helps in the pass game. He has ball skills. Denzel, I think the last few weeks you’ve seen some positive things from him. And so especially for a guy like Denzel, who’s really had two weeks of practices prior to playing in two games, I mean really this is almost like the end of training camp for him in terms of the amount of actual professional football reps that he’s had. We’re really excited about seeing his progression these last eight games and what he brings in terms of his catch radius and ball skills, route running.
Chris Ryan, NJ.com: Joe, was there any scenario where you would have potentially moved Quinnen Williams before the deadline, and kind of a follow-up just, are you confident that he could be the guy that you build this defensive line around?
Yeah, that was another situation similar to the Herndon question I answered. I think there were a couple wrong reports on what we would entertain for Quinnen. And I was able to have really positive conversations with both him and his agent, and just clarify that we were not shopping Quinnen and what our vision for Quinnen was. And so, my perspective on Quinnen is, Quinnen plays a premium position at D-line. Like I said earlier, offense and defensive line matters. It’s the foundation of what we want to be. He plays a premium position at D-line. He’s an interior pass rusher, that I think has gotten better every week. And he’s not a good person, he’s a great person. I think the focus is to keep as many of those people around as possible.