The New York Jets have done plenty of tearing down this offseason, as general manager Mike Maccagnan is clearly getting ready for a necessary rebuild.
Gone are veterans Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis, Nick Folk, Breno Giacomini and Ryan Clady. The Jets probably aren’t done cleaning house yet as they try to free up cap space and rid themselves of regressing veterans.
ESPN’s Bill Polian hints that there might be an alternative motive in mind. While he said each of New York’s moves were justified, Polian thinks the team might be looking ahead to the 2018 NFL Draft.
“Don’t forget, next year in the draft is a good quarterback year,” Polian said on ESPN’s NFL Insiders. “Shall we say that maybe they’re reloading with the idea that this year may not be a terrific year record-wise.”
Co-host Adam Schefter interjected, asking Polian whether he thought the Jets might actually be tanking in 2017 and made a comparison to the Philadelphia 76ers, who have blatantly been losing basketball games to stockpile top-level draft picks.
“Well I don’t want to say that,” Polian responded. “But we saw the Browns do it with no repercussions, by the way. So, who knows? Maybe it’s an objective. It’s hard for me to believe in New York and the moves they’ve made thus far have been justified, without question.”
Let’s all be completely honest: It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if the Jets completely bottomed out in 2017. In fact, it might be the most prudent approach, as insane as that sounds. Whether that’s a true definition of tanking or not doesn’t really matter.
There’s already a ton of hype surrounding the potential quarterbacks in the 2018 draft class. USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Wyoming’s Josh Allen are among the players already generating buzz.
This shouldn’t be news to anyone, but the Jets need a quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith are goners after disgruntling careers. Bryce Petty didn’t show much in four starts last season and 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg might be locked away in a dungeon and is already being deemed a bust without taking a snap.
The Jets could go ahead and take another quarterback in this year’s draft, but the quarterback class isn’t very inspiring. The best prospects — Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Deshone Kizer — might not be worth taking with the No. 6 overall pick and there isn’t a ton of depth behind them in the class.
Plus, the Jets don’t have a roster conducive to developing a rookie quarterback. They’ll likely part ways with receivers Brandon Marshall and/or Eric Decker. They have gaping holes at center, left tackle and right tackle. Their defense likely won’t be very good, which means any quarterback will be dropping back a ton trying to rally out of deficits.
But that’s the art of a teardown and why the Jets might be better off with a bridge veteran.
If the Jets are “tanking,” they have to do it on the condition that Todd Bowles will get at least one more year after the 2017 season. It wouldn’t be fair to expect a winning season with a depleted roster. It wouldn’t be fair to can Bowles unless he made too many inexplicable mistakes to ignore.
Only the most cynical actually root against a team to lose as many games as they can. But it kind of worked out for Cleveland, who will pick first and 12th in this year’s draft.
Surely, most fans could cope with the Jets having one pitiful season if it meant finding the elusive franchise quarterback that has seemingly dodged the organization since Joe Namath left. That’s the end game, which is why Polian’s thinking makes plenty of sense.