By Lenn Robbins
The game ended as it should have, with arguably the worst Patriots team in Bill Belichick’s tenure, beating, arguably, the worst Jets team in history.
New England (3-5) keeps its faint playoff hopes alive. New York (0-9) keeps its hopes of getting the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft very much alive.
For the first half of their 30-27 loss, the Jets played like the second-half Jets of last season when they won 6-of-8 to finish 7-9. In the second half the Jets played like, well, the Jets of 2020.
Tampa Bay fans need to chill. They’re bent of out shape because the Bucs ran the ball just five times in their 31-3 demolition at the hands of the Saints. The Jets ran just four plays in the fourth quarter of their Monday Night Football embarrassment.
So what’s a Jets fan to do?
Put your trust in GM Joe Douglas. I know, this is a big ask. But consider where the Jets currently sit. Trading away defensive lineman Leonard Williams and safety Jamal Adams among others has put the Jets in this envious position:
The Jets have two first-round picks, a 2nd-rounder, two picks in the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th rounds. The following year they have two first-round picks, a 2nd– rounder, a 3rd-rounder, a 4th-rounder, two picks in the fifth round, three in the sixth and one in the seventh. And, if the Jets do finish with the worst record in football and get the chance to draft Trevor Lawrence, they could recoup a 2nd to 4th round pick for QB Sam Darnold.
The Jets also will have money to spend. They will have the fourth most cap room in the league next season, between $56 million ($175 million cap) and $71 million (190 million cap). This is what the combination of cap space and high draft picks can build – the Miami Dolphins.
By shedding salary and obtaining high draft choices, the Dolphins are arguably the surprise team in the AFC, if not the NFL, after beating the Cardinals in Arizona, 34-31, for their third straight win to improve to 5-3 after a 1-3 start. Tua Tagovailoa proved his starting quarterback bonafides by throwing for 248 yards and two touchdowns (no interceptions) and running for 35 yards on seven carries.
Just as the Jets traded Adams, the Dolphins traded safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (to the Steelers) and got back less of return than Gang Green got for the former Alabama star (a first-rounder, 5th-rounder and 6th-rounder). The Dolphins also got two 1st-rounders and a 2nd-rounder in exchange for OT Laremy Tunsil.
When the 2020 season opened, the Dolphins had 22 new players on their roster – 11 draft picks, such as Tagovailoa and linebacker Raekwon Davis, and 11 free agents, such as cornerback Byron Jones and linebacker Kyle Van Noy. The franchise that won five games all of last season has equaled that total at the halfway mark this season.
Which brings us back to Douglas. He has been prudent with his free agent signings and in Monday night’s loss, 2020 picks WR Denzel Mims, safety Ashtyn Davis, CB Bryce Hall, DE Jabari Zuniga saw more action than they have and performed well. Offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, who left with a chest injury, was rated as the fourth best rookie in this year’s class by ESPN.
Telling Jets fans that there will be more pain is like telling folks in Seattle there will be more rain. But the Jets are taking the painstaking steps that are necessary to climb out of their quicksand of shame. Of course, it will take a new coach (Lincoln Riley?) and a new starting quarterback, (Trevor Lawrence!) not small steps.
But every now and then, an Average Joe succeeds.