Year 4 of the Mike Maccagnan-Todd Bowles era has finally hit rock bottom. Sunday, the Jets hosted the 2-7 Bills, who were reduced to starting Matt Barkley, a fourth-string quarterback who wasn’t even on an NFL roster until Halloween. Oh, and Buffalo came in with the worst offense in DVOA history. The Jets lost, 41-10. How was that even possible?
The Jets are well on their way to an eighth straight season without a playoff berth; only the Browns and Buccaneers have longer droughts. The Jets are 13-30 since Week 17 of the first year of the Maccagnan-Bowles regime, which began with a 10-5 record before they farted away a playoff spot by losing to the Bills in the finale. The Jets had used a ton of rolled-over cap space that year to spend big on veteran free agents, only to watch the entire shithouse collapse the following season when everyone got old at once. Last year was a tank job, and this year they drafted what could be a franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold. That’s assuming they don’t ruin him.
Darnold and wideout Robby Anderson didn’t play Sunday, but that’s beside the point. The on-field product has shown little promise after all these years. The Jets can be counted on for a handful of costly penalties a game—Sunday they somehow had three guys get flagged for holding on the same play—and Bowles’s clock management and general risk-aversion have often been costly. Former Jets lineman Damien Woody and ex-Jets head coach Rex Ryan both tore into Bowles for the Jets’ overall lack of passion. They’re not wrong, even if Ryan has some selective amnesia about how sideways things had gone by the end of his days in Florham Park. But the basic point—that things are not getting better, and in fact seem to be getting worse—still stands.
Bowles is a goner; the only question is when it happens. (Well, and who on staff is capable of taking over for him on an interim basis if he gets whacked before the end of the season?) But as GM, Maccagnan can no longer hide behind a “wait till next year” brand of rebuild. Next year never seems to get here. The Jets still have no edge rusher, no depth, and they’ve invested next to no draft capital in the offensive line. Maccagnan has picked some good players, but the roster is full of holes thanks to some awful picks in the middle rounds. Yes, Maccagnan made some shrewd moves to select Darnold this year. But he’s also the same guy who drafted Christian Hackenberg and then had to give up three second-round picks to move up to get Darnold, all because he passed on Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes last year. The Jets will have more than $100 million in cap room to spend in the offseason, but a lot of other teams will have lots of cap to play with, too. And what has Maccagnan done in free agency to show he’ll spend that money judiciously? Trumaine Johnson, whom he gave $34 million guaranteed last spring, got smoked for a 47-yard gain on Sunday’s first play by a receiver who had been on the practice squad until Saturday. In an parity-driven era in which teams routinely turn things around quickly, Maccagnan’s patient rebuild should be much sturdier than it is. The Rams, who looked like they had flubbed by picking Jared Goff the same year Maccagnan drafted Hackenberg, already have constructed a high-rise with a sweet view. Maccagnan has hammered a few slats together but still expects fans to wait on the arrival of more nails. Come January, it might be time to blow the damn thing up. Again.
Sunday was a sunny, windy day in East Rutherford, N.J., with temperatures in the 40s. A lot of Jets fans schlepped out to the Meadowlands to see that disaster in person. A lot of them are probably wondering why they bothered. The CBS cameras frequently captured their forlorn looks, and you can see a lot of those reactions below. But let’s not blame Jets fans for behaving like whipped dogs. Their loyalty cannot be questioned, even if their sanity perhaps can be, given all of this. Truth be told, the Jets probably ought to be paying these fans to show up.