Instability Isn’t the Result of Losing; Losing is the Result of Instability (New York Jets Edition)
The best thing we can say about the New York Jets trip to Miami on Sunday is that it is over. It is hard to find anything to highlight in the Jet’s play. Nothing went well; nothing worked; and the game was decided early. Let’s move on.
The Jets host the Commanders this week in what should be a much more competitive game. Washington is one of the few teams in the league with a worse record than the Jets. The Commanders have lost five straight games. In the Commander’s loss Sunday against the Rams, starting quarterback Sam Howell was replaced by backup Jacoby Brissett. Brissett rallied the Commanders to within a touchdown of the Rams after the team fell behind 28-7. It’s unclear right now who will get the start Sunday against the Jets. One of the Commander’s biggest issues in their 4-10 season so far has been turnovers. The team is tied for last in turnover differential at -9. Howell has 15 interceptions for the year.
The Commanders are one of the few teams with as much uncertainty at quarterback as the Jets. Zach Wilson left the Dolphins game with an injury. The offense did nothing to distinguish itself while Wilson was in the game. They did even less once Wilson left the field. There is no better opponent to be visiting the Meadowlands right now for the Jet’s struggling offense. Washington is dead last in overall defense. The Commanders are allowing a staggering 30.2 points per game. The Commanders are last in passing yards allowed, which should bode well for whomever gets the start at quarterback for New York.
This Sunday’s game has significance despite both teams being out of the postseason. There are ramifications for draft position, with both teams solidly in the top ten. There is also significance for the head coaches. Ron Rivera is widely expected to be let go by Washington at season’s end. The Commanders may elect to speed up that timetable if they were routed by the struggling Jets. There are some reports that Jets head man, Robert Saleh, is also on the hotseat. Saleh should get another season to prove his capabilities, but another embarrassing loss, especially one to a team playing as poorly as the Commanders, could end Saleh’s tenure abruptly.
The hotseat season in the NFL is in full gear as misguided front offices seek an easy means to turn their franchises around. It’s ironic that the record free agent deal recently signed by baseball mega-star Shohei Ohtani included an opt-out clause allowing Ohtani to end his contract if certain changes occur in the Dodger organization over the next ten years. It is the first time that such a clause has been included in a contract. It took a player from outside the United States to be able to see what is wrong with so many American professional sports teams.
Two NFL franchises share the top spot with six Super Bowl wins. The Steelers have six Lombardi trophies. The Steelers have had three coaches since 1969. That is three coaches over 54 years. The New England Patriots also own six Lombardi trophies. New England has employed three coaches over the last 30 years. The Patriots current head coach, Bill Belichick, has been in charge for the last 23 years. The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers are right behind Pittsburgh and New England with five Super Bowl wins each. The Cowboys have had eight head coaches in the last 34 years. The 49ers have been the least stable of this elite group, with eleven coaches over the last 44 years.
The New York Jets have one Lombardi trophy. It was won on January 12, 1969. That was 54 years ago. Over those same 54 years, while the Steelers were employing three head coaches, the New York Jets have had 18 head coaches. The Steelers have six times as many championships as the Jets, and the Jets have had six times as many head coaches as the Steelers over the same period.
Chuck Knoll was hired by the Steelers to be their head coach in 1969. The Steelers went 1-13 that season. In today’s NFL, Noll would have been fired after that year, if not at some point during the season. In Noll’s second year, the Steelers improved to 5-9. They went 6-8 in Noll’s third year in 1971. After his first three seasons, Chuck Noll’s record with the Steelers was 12-30. Noll’s winning percentage at that time was 28.5%. Robert Saleh’s record with the Jets so far is 16-32. Robert Saleh’s winning percentage with the Jets is 33% today, slightly better than Chuck Noll at roughly the same point in their tenures with their respective teams.
It’s time to stop expecting things to change while repeating the same mistakes. Saleh has done as much with this team as anyone could have, given the roster and circumstances. Change the culture, not the personnel. Instability isn’t the result of losing; losing is the result of instability. Shohei Ohtani sees the correlation between stability and winning in professional sports, and he hasn’t even mastered English yet.