As teams get mathematically eliminated from the NFL playoffs, we’ll give you a jump on their offseason by examining what went right, what went wrong and what needs to change before next season.
NEW YORK JETS
The Jets started this season with everyone wondering if they were tanking. That looked silly when they started the season 3-2. They couldn’t keep up that pace and were eliminated when a Week 15 loss to the Saints dropped them to 5-9. But give the Jets credit: They were far, far better than anyone expected.
What went right: First off, Josh McCown had a fantastic season. Thought of as a stop-gap veteran, McCown posted a 94.5 passer rating and genuinely looked good before an injury ended his season in Week 14. Who knows if he can do it again at age 39, but this season was a pleasant surprise. Receivers Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse had solid seasons, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins looked good at times despite a fade in the second half of the season. Defensively, the Jets made the odd move of drafting safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye with their first two picks, but both players look like keepers.
What went wrong: Another season of Muhammad Wilkerson acting like the opposite of a team leader is a huge disappointment. He was left home from the team’s Week 15 game, and his lack of professionalism is probably going to cause the Jets to move on next offseason. You’d have also liked a rebuilding team to have some hope at quarterback, but at this point it appears Christian Hackenberg will go down as one of the worst picks in a team history. The 2016 second-round pick can’t even get on the field in a lost season. Perhaps Hackenberg will emerge after not even getting on the field for two seasons as a second-round pick, but it would be practically unprecedented in NFL history.
Will the coach be back?: Any coach losing double-digit games two seasons in a row is not a lock to return. But I think Todd Bowles is a good coach and he has done a good job this season. Does anyone think this was better than a five-win roster? The players are playing hard — they could have packed it in without Josh McCown at New Orleans in Week 15, but were very competitive — and that’s a testament to Bowles too. I just don’t know how you blame Bowles for this team not being over .500 this season. It’s not smart to fire a coach simply because you fail to reach a certain amount of wins. Bowles can still be a successful coach, but you wonder if the Jets will see the big picture.
Do they have a quarterback?: You’d have to say no. Even if free agent Josh McCown returns, there’s no guarantee he repeats this good season at age 39. We’ve seen Bryce Petty, and he doesn’t look like a starter. The Jets not playing Christian Hackenberg after McCown’s injury tells you all you need to know there. It seemed the Jets were tanking to get a quarterback with one of the first few picks of the 2018 draft, but they kind of screwed that up by playing well. The Jets likely won’t be in a position to draft one of the truly elite quarterback prospects anymore.
Quick free agent fix: The best move is to re-sign Josh McCown and draft a young quarterback. They could be in on Kirk Cousins or whatever other veteran quarterback might be available, but the Jets need a long-term plan. Retaining McCown at least buys them some time.
Quick draft fix: While you’d think their first pick should be earmarked for a quarterback, there are also some interesting quarterbacks that should be available early in the second round. The Jets justify picking a much-needed No. 1 receiver like Calvin Ridley in the first round and following that up with a quarterback in the second. Cornerback is also a huge need, and going that route in the first round would make sense. But getting a good quarterback is a must. There are a lot of holes on the roster but you can’t put off the quarterback issue forever.
Give it to me straight, can my team make the playoffs in 2018?: I like what Todd Bowles did this season and I respect how hard they have played. But this roster still needs a ton of help. I can’t imagine them having such a great offseason that they vault themselves into playoff contention.
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