There is youth. There is experience. There is optimism.
The Jets believe those components will equate to a winning culture that will set them up for success, now and in the future — that cliched phrase in sports that successful organizations use and losing ones aspire to obtain.
“I’d say it starts at the top and I think when you have a head coach that brings the energy, the juice, the genuine love of the game that [head] coach [Robert] Saleh brings, his communication abilities and then with his staff of teachers, high energy teachers, and then it just goes from there and you’re bringing in the right types of people,” general manager Joe Douglas said this week.
The jury is obviously very much out on Saleh, who went 4-13 in his first season as a head coach, and on the winning culture the Jets think they have in place. But Douglas is confident the Jets not only have the right coach, but also the right mix of players. They have talented youngsters, such as second-year quarterback Zach Wilson, rookie cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, rookie receiver Garrett Wilson and second-year receiver Elijah Moore. They have veterans, such as linebacker C.J. Mosley, tight ends Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins and safety Jordan Whitehead, who have won a lot at previous stops. There is, the Jets hope, the makings of a strong core in place.
“I feel like our personnel staff has done a great job pinpointing the right types of competitors, right type of football character to bring in here and mix with our coaching staff based on the criteria that we have in terms of what we are looking for,” Douglas said. “After that, you try to get as many good people in the building as you can and good things are going to start to happen and I feel like we are progressing there.
“It’s a pretty cool group of youth and experience,” Douglas added. “To watch them compete and jell and build the chemistry and camaraderie, it’s really cool to see everyday. So, just in terms of the team-building, we’ve tried to use every avenue that we could to improve this team — draft, claims, trades, free agency. It’s led to much tougher cutdown decisions and conversations than in years past.”
The Jets are more talented than in years past. They have more weapons on offense and more depth on defense. Whether that leads to actual winning remains a question mark, particularly with a tough schedule in the loaded AFC East.
One particular focus is starting fast — in games and the season in general. The Jets frequently dug themselves early holes last year. They started 1-5 and 2-8, and their best start to a season was a 3-3 record in 2018.
“It changes everything,” Saleh said. “From an offensive view when you’re behind, you feel the pressure to try to generate points and to try to pick up something and so, your game plan, which is designed to start fast and keep you on schedule and move in a certain direction, [can change]. You’ve got to have the discipline, but it’s a challenge to you personally because you’re also going to the sideline trying to figure out something to kick-start your team and on the defensive side, same thing.
“But, whenever you’re behind the eight ball, there’s only so many possessions that you have in a football game and if you’re playing catch-up, it’s not good.”
Maybe that new winning culture can help the Jets get off to faster starts. That would be one way for the Jets to take a meaningful step forward.