Answering some questions for us about the Jets is Michael Nania of SB Nation’s Gang Green Nation.
Away we go!
Ed: It’s often said that players take their biggest leaps from Year 1 to Year 2. What are the expectations for Sam Darnold as he enters his second season?
Michael: Without a doubt, the expectations are high. The year 1-2 jump is especially crucial for quarterbacks, and that has only been becoming more so the case over the past few years.
Darnold is still only 22 years old, as he was the youngest Week 1 starter in league history last September. On opening day in 2020, he will still be younger than Baker Mayfield was when he made his NFL debut in 2018.
Darnold should still have plenty of room to improve beyond what we see from him this year. Because of his youthful age, the expectations should be tempered a little bit - he doesn’t have to be year 2 Patrick Mahomes, or even year 2 Carson Wentz, but at the least, the expectations are that he perform at the level of an average to above average starting quarterback this season; top 12-16 range.
While “average” is the minimum bar, there is certainly the potential for Darnold to break out to even brighter heights in 2019. With the additions of a QB-friendly head coach in Adam Gase, plus Le’Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder, Kelechi Osemele, and Ryan Kalil, the Jets have seemingly fixed a ton of holes that plagued their offense last year.
Long-term, Darnold certainly has the upside to be a top-10 quarterback, or even better. Will he hit that ceiling this season? Time will tell.
Ed: From the outside it’s been a sort of weird start to Adam Gase’s tenure as Jets head coach. Thoughts on Gase to this point?
Michael: Gase has actually been checking most of the boxes to this point - these offseason/media/fan relation victories don’t really matter at all, but he has done a solid job so far.
There were a couple of nationally reported stories that definitely were a bit questionable. First was the report that Gase wasn’t a fan of doling out big money for Le’Veon Bell. We’ll never know if that was true, regardless of the fact that he refuted it. However, throughout training camp thus far, there has been no beef whatsoever between those guys. They’ve been seen joking around with each other on the practice field a ton, and Gase speaks extremely glowingly of Bell.
Then there was the post-draft Mike Maccagnan firing. It was an odd timing for sure, but the team did a good job getting back on its feet. They went out and got a premium GM candidate in Joe Douglas, and things have really been smooth-sailing since then. Drama has been non-existent, which is something you have almost never been able to say about a Jets training camp in recent years.
Wins and losses are what Gase will ultimately be judged on, as is the case with any coach in any sport. However, while positive offseason vibes don’t necessarily win football games, Gase has put on a show thus far that Jets fans have been really happy with. The vibe around the team is as positive as it has been in a very long time, and Gase deserves some credit for that. In a few months, we’ll see if that energy translates into a significant win total.
Ed: Although the timing seemed strange what are your thoughts on the hiring of Joe Douglas as GM?
Michael: The timing of Maccagnan’s firing was certainly strange. It reflected poorly on the team’s January process. Instead of firing both Todd Bowles and Maccagnan, the team curiously retained Maccagnan instead of cleaning house entirely.
Maccagnan actually did a solid job in the offseason, making good use of the Jets’ huge chest of cap space, trading for Osemele, and recording a solid draft on paper with Quinnen Williams in the first round and Jachai Polite in the third. Obviously we need to wait and see how these moves pan out, but for the most part Maccagnan executed the team’s plans fairly well.
Regardless of how erroneous the January process may have been, if it was clear Gase and Maccagnan weren’t going to mesh, it was probably the right decision to move on as soon as possible.
Douglas was by most accounts the best option available, and also one that wasn’t a guarantee to leave his old home. Being able to come up with Douglas was a great recovery from the dysfunction portrayed by Maccagnan’s firing. So far, he and Gase have appeared to be a pair in perfect sync with each other. Douglas’ signing of Ryan Kalil was an impressive show of initiative and persuasiveness.
As of now, any dysfunction that might have existed is clearly gone, and the leadership pair of the team seems to be stable and on the same page.
Ed: What would be considered a good year for the Jets?
Michael: I think eight wins should be considered the minimum expectation. The Jets have won five games or fewer in each of the last three seasons. They just spend boatloads of money in free agency and have a second-year quarterback in an era where second-year quarterbacks are expected to take mammoth leaps. Slight improvement isn’t good enough for the Jets right now - they’re expected to be competitive this year.
The Jets aren’t ready to compete for a championship yet, as they still have holes on the offensive line, at cornerback, and at outside linebacker. However, they’re a team that certainly has enough talent to compete for a wild card spot in the AFC. They are more than capable of winning nine games and remaining in the wild card mix until the very end.
Ultimately, Sam Darnold is the biggest key. If he can prove that he is going to be a quarterback that can lead the team for the next decade-plus, then the season will likely be considered a win regardless of what else happens. But the Jets are expecting to compete this year. You don’t approach the offseason the way they did with the hope you can jump from four wins to seven.
For me, anything less than eight wins would most likely be disappointing, but the talent is there for the Jets to flirt with one or a couple more victories than that.
Ed: The Jets won four games last year. The Giants won five. Which organization do you believe is best set up for success over the next five to 10 years? Why?
Michael: The one position on a football team that is most likely to still look the same five to 10 years in the future is quarterback, and I think that this question ultimately comes down to that spot. Until Daniel Jones hits the field, we have no hints as to how good he might be. On the other hand, in just about a month, Sam Darnold is going to more-or-less show us all what his NFL ceiling is going to be.
In a few months, we should have a better answer to this. If Darnold makes the leap many expect him to, the Jets will be in a better position, having confirmation their franchise quarterback is in place. If he disappoints, then the team is likely going to be stuck with his mediocrity for a while until they can restart at the position. That would tilt favor back in the Giants’ direction, who would still have Jones’ second year ahead of him.
For the first time in a very long time, NY/NJ has two young quarterbacks leading its respective franchises. It should be fun to watch them progress side-by-side over the years.