Another year with no playoffs. Once the Sacramento Kings make the playoffs in the NBA the Jets will own the longest playoff drought in the 4 major North American sports. I was a pimply-faced 17-year-old high school kid the last time the Jets made the playoffs and now I am in my 30s and about to get married. Things change but the Jets do not. They keep losing. Watching this weekend’s playoff games got me thinking about their place in the NFL.
Being a Jets fan is tough and as a fan of the Mets and Knicks as well I know heartbreak. While being a Mets and Knicks fan lately is starting to feel better the Jets continue to disappoint. The Mets are one of the best teams in baseball. The Knicks are a top 6 team in the East and look like they have a reasonably bright future, they are playing to their full potential. The Jets meanwhile started to make you feel good about their future before they pulled the rug out from under you.
The Jets started 7-4 this year, only needing to go 2-4 down the stretch to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Instead, they went 0-6. After beating the Buffalo Bills I was starting to believe. The defense was legitimately one of the best in the NFL. The offense had some young playmakers. Robert Saleh was looking like a good coaching hire. Then, everything unraveled. Zach Wilson was not impressive even while the team was winning, but after the 7-4 start he completely collapsed as being any kind of competent QB. He single-handedly was responsible for some losses down the stretch. The defense played outstanding during most of the losing streak with the Seattle game being the exception. Saleh did not distinguish himself with some of his QB decisions. So now we are at an uncertain time. We probably know for sure Zach Wilson is not the answer, and now we are questioning if Robert Saleh is the answer.
I believe the Jets can win with Saleh as head coach. I do not think he is one of the better coaches in the NFL and some of his decisions are inconsistent, especially at the QB position. His overly positive attitude is grating for fans, especially in the midst of a 6 game losing streak. However, he is a defensive coach and the Jets defense was a top 5 unit this year. I think with a competent QB the Jets should have a solid team next year as long as the defense keeps up their performance.
The question is, who will that QB be? Let’s take a look at the top choices.
The best option for the Jets at QB next year would probably be Lamar Jackson. Lamar is not happy with Baltimore for not giving him a long-term contract. Baltimore is not happy with Lamar for sitting out the last six weeks of the season with a 2-week injury. John Harbaugh and several players came out with statements showing their displeasure with Lamar’s absence. This might mean Lamar could be available. It will take a lot, multiple 1st round picks, and a lot of guaranteed money for an injury risk at QB. But to solve the Jets 50 year problem at QB it is worth it. Lamar is a top 10 QB in the NFL and would make the Jets Super Bowl contenders. Plus, he is young, only 25 years old. He has some growing to do as a person and a player, but it is worth the risk.
The next best option at QB to me is Aaron Rodgers. The way the Green Bay Packers season ended made it seem like Rodgers was either leaving Green Bay or retiring. My bet is he is leaving Green Bay. He was frustrated all season with the young WRs and has been upset in the past with the front office. He is close to the end and may not see Green Bay as a place he can win. Does he see New York as a place he can win in? With their defense and weapons, I think he does. I believe only Lamar or Rodgers would make the Jets Super Bowl contenders next year but their true availability is a question. If they are out there to be acquired, the Jets have to go all out to get them. Jobs are on the line.
The best available QB out there for sure is Derek Carr. He is a solid top 15-18 QB in the NFL. If he was the Jets QB this year they would have made the playoffs. He would put them in a good spot to make the playoffs next year. If the Jets do acquire him they need to upgrade the O Line, as he does not deal with pressure well. There are also rumors out there that his personality would not fit New York well but I do not put much stock into that. He does not have the upside of Lamar or Rodgers and it would be hard for me to see the Jets winning the Super Bowl with him at QB. QBs of his caliber have won before, but they are few and far between. I would say he is a similar QB as Matt Stafford who won last year but everything has to go right. Carr would be a solid but uninspiring choice.
The next best, obviously available QB would be Jimmy Garropolo. I thought he was the most likely option while LaFleur was OC, since he has experience in that system but now I am not so sure. Jimmy is in a similar vein as Carr, but I think slightly lower on the QB hierarchy chart. He has looked good in San Francisco, but they might have the best roster/coaching combination in the NFL. The Jets do not have an organization that can prop him up as the 49ers do. If they get Jimmy, they will be a playoff contender but not a serious Super Bowl contender. He still would be the best QB the Jets have had since that one Ryan Fitzpatrick year.
The bottom line is the Jets need to make the playoffs next year. And to do that, they need to acquire a new starting QB. I do not mind them hanging on to Zach Wilson and trying to continue developing him as he has some upside as the number 2 pick in the draft and being 23 years old. They cannot count on him. Mike White was a nice story, but he had his shot and got injured twice. He is not someone they can count on. White is perfect as a backup who can give you a spark for a couple of games but hard to see him doing great as a full-time starter. The Jets have their best young roster in recent memory, and they cannot waste it. It is time for the playoff drought and competent QB drought to end.