By Lenn Robbins
Midway through the Jets despicable performance Sunday – a 36-7 loss to the Colts that followed the Giants equally heinous 36-9 loss to the injury depleted loss to the 49ers – a friend texted. He apparently was trying to be philosophical about the state of football in the metropolitan area.
He proposed a merger of the Jets and Giants. The goal wasn’t necessarily to see if a merger of the two pathetic squads could yield one competitive team. As he put it, “Not sure it would make a difference but would only have to watch one ugly loss per week.”
Therein is arguably the best summation I’ve heard about the plights of Big Blue and Gang Green this season. The question is, “Where do we go from here?” We haven’t even made it to the quarter pole of the season and watching a Heidi rerun might be preferably to subjecting ourselves to this display of semi-pro football.
There are so many warts on the Jets they look like rotting barnacles plastered on the helmet. Clearly, the overwhelming cause for the Jets’ woes is coach Adam Gase. How he got here reads like a Who Done It?
Gase essentially made his mark in the NFL by serving as Denver’s offensive coordinator in 2013. The Broncos set a league record by scoring 606 points en route to a 43-8 Super Bowl shellacking at the hands of the Seahawks. Impressive record, no doubt, but how much help did Peyton Manning really need?
From there Gase went to Chicago where the Bears were 18th in total offense. That was good enough to get Gase the head coaching job with the Dolphins, where Ryan Tannehill didn’t play at the level he has with the Tennessee Titans. So the whole QB whisperer cover appears to be wrapped around a $1.99 Amazon book.
Having watched Sam Darnold play in college, the quarterback he most closely resembled is Ben Roethlisberger, another big, strong-armed, risk taker. Roethlisberger has thrown 192 career picks in his 17th season. Aaron Rodgers is at 84 in his 16th season, the last 13 as the starter in Green Bay.
Darnold has thrown 32 picks in his third season. With four in 2020, Darnold is on pace for season-high. He, too, has not progressed under Gase, who must crush in interviews to explain the jobs he’s had.
The swamp in which the Jets reside makes firing Gase messy. As the team’s interim GM, he recommended the hiring GM Joe Douglas to ownership. Who would hand Gase his pink slip if it comes to that? Gase and Douglas are friends in addition to their working relationship.
The feeling here is the Douglas has done a solid job. He has handed out responsible free agent contracts, improved the team’s salary cap, appears to have hit bigtime on offensive tackle Mekhi Becton and did will to get two first-round draft picks, a third-rounder and safety Bradley McDougald from the Seahawks in the Jamal Adams trade. It’s reasonable to think he can build the Jets if given time.
The Giants are just as vexing. Coach Joe Judge remains the most unknown of quantities in his first season. His 0-3 team would lead the league in worst point differential (-41) if not for the Jets (-57).
While still looking for his first win, Judge has raised eyebrows by making players run laps for miscues in practice and taping tennis balls to defensive back’s hands. Lombardi didn’t do that – at least the tennis ball shtick.
Gettleman’s tenure thus far has been inconsistent. Of course, his final assessment depends on the development of QB Daniel Jones, who was taken with the sixth pick last season, ahead of Buffalo’s Josh Allen.
Using the second pick in the 2018 NFL Draft on a running back, albeit one as talented as Saquon Barkley (now lost for the season to an ACL tear), seemed unwise compared to the laundry list of needs on both sides of the line. Successful teams are built from the outside out in, along with an elite QB.
He jettisoned Odell Beckham Jr., a move that seems better with every passing game that OBJ goes without making an impact for the Browns. With the fourth pick in this year’s draft, Gettleman had his choice of offensive linemen and selected Georgia’s Andrew Thomas. Pro Football Focus gave him a rating of 56, significantly worse than Becton (79.7), the 11th player (and fourth lineman) taken. Granted, Thomas has gone up against some of the best pass rushers in his first two games.
Unloading Olivier Vernon and his prohibitive salary for guard Kevin Zeitler was a good move. Giving the Jets a 3rd and 5th round pick for Leonard Williams looks suspect. Dexter Lawrence II is a terrific defensive lineman but former cornerback Deandre Baker, who Gettleman traded up to draft with the 30th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, was cut in after being charged with multi counts of weapons possession and aggravated assault.
That pick is especially galling considering Gettleman’s call to arms upon his hiring was to change the Giants’ culture. The only culture the Jets and Giants seem to share is one of losing.
Here’s why any calls for firings should be met with pause. Look at every successful franchise in the NFL – Chiefs, Cowboys, Packers, Patriots, Ravens, Saints, Steelers, Seahawks. They all have one thing in common – stability in management and coaching. Those franchises have found the right people and given them time to do their jobs.
The Jets have played musical chairs with their coaches and GMs. It almost doesn’t matter if the Jets win their Thursday night showcase against the Broncos. The tide of public opinion has gone out on Gase. The jury hasn’t come in on Judge.
Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs), Greg Roman (Ravens) and Kellen Moore (Cowboys) are offensive coordinators with proven results. The Jets should pick one and commit. Douglas certainly should stay. Gettleman gets the benefit of one more offseason.
As for the rest of this season? About that merger.