Back in August, I wrote an article detailing the best and worst case scenarios for the New York Jets. The short version is that because the Jets had no realistic chance of being a contender, the best case scenario was losing and getting a high draft pick so they could add an impact player. The worst case scenario was going 7-9 or 8-8, getting a middling draft pick and not being sure about the futures of Rex Ryan and Geno Smith.
Sound familiar? This is the exact path the Jets are headed down, and it is going to make their offseason very difficult. If the Jets finish with a decent record but miss the playoffs, the team will have no idea what to do with Ryan. That will be three straight seasons with no playoff appearances, often cause for being fired. On the other hand, he will have exceeded all expectations for this season, often cause for a contract extension. Ryan’s contract expires after this season, so the Jets have to pick one.
Owner Woody Johnson and GM John Idzik will likely be divided on the matter, as Johnson is a big fan of Ryan but Idzik wants to bring in his own coach. Ryan is a very good coach, but there is definitely a sentiment that he is much more suited to being a defensive coordinator than a head coach. There are pros and cons to both situations, but I think in the end the team will end up letting Ryan go.
As far as Smith goes, the Jets have to be torn about his future. He is far from the first QB to have a rough rookie season, but no one knows how much faith the Jets have in him going forward. He is a second round pick with a small contract, so it’s not like the team has a huge investment in him. If they have a shot an established veteran via free agency or trade, or if one of the top QBs in the draft falls, don’t be surprised to see the Jets make a move.
The Jets desperately need to see some improved play from Smith down the stretch, regardless of whether the team wins or loses. If he continues to be inaccurate and turnover prone, the Jets will struggle to be comfortable considering him their quarterback of the future. He needs to become consistent and cut down on the turnovers over the last five games, or the Jets will be in a tough spot.
Finally, the Jets are likely going to have a pick in the middle of the first round, which is not ideal. By then, the best talents and safest picks will be off the board, possibly including star receivers Marquise Lee and Sammy Watkins. Of course, teams find great talent at all spots of the first round, and the Jets’ two best players, Nick Mangold and Muhammad Wilkerson, were the 29th and 30th picks in their respective drafts.
However, the ideal situation for a rebuilding team is to have a higher pick, which is not likely to happen for the Jets. They will have to hope that an immediate impact player is available for them when they do pick, because the Jets have several key holes to fill, and they need players who can step in and start from day one.
Finishing in the middle of the pack was always going to make the Jets’ offseason much more difficult, and it appears that is exactly what is going to happen. Johnson and Idzik were facing some decisions anyway, and Ryan, Smith and the rest of the Jets are making their job that much harder.