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You’re Joe Douglas. And this is your dream job in football.
And your moment of truth has arrived.
You confront arguably the most massive rebuilding job of any Jets general manager in history.
Of any general manager right now in the NFL.
These dream jobs, you know, can turn into nightmares. John Idzik’s dream job lasted two years. Mike Maccagnan’s dream job lasted four years.
For the GM, it always starts with hiring the right head coach and the right quarterback, and you are confident that Robert Saleh, who still hasn’t lost a game, will be the right head coach and culture-building CEO, and you are confident that Zach Wilson, who still hasn’t thrown an interception, will be the right quarterback. You got it right resetting the financial clock at quarterback.
You also know that if you are wrong about Wilson, more than anyone, there will likely be someone else picking the next head coach and the next quarterback. Geno Smith and Rex Ryan couldn’t save Idzik. Sam Darnold and Adam Gase couldn’t save Maccagnan.
As Thursday night’s NFL draft draws near, it is on you, and only you, to help them, to support them, to get them the horses so the Jets can run the race again in the AFC East — and with 21 picks over these next two drafts, you will have at least a puncher’s chance to close a gap between you and the rest of the division that is as massive as Man Mountain Mekhi Becton as long as you make knockout draft picks.
It is Joe Time.
Because given where you stand now, given the current state of the Johnson and Johnson franchise, you are as big an underdog as Joe Namath was in Super Bowl III.
Up in Buffalo, the Bills have become New York’s Team because Sean McDermott has proven to be the right head coach and Brandon Beane, hired four months after McDermott, has proven to be the right GM, and Josh Allen has proven to the right quarterback. The Bills will be defending their AFC East title and are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
“The most impressive thing I think that we accomplished is him and coach are joined at the hip and at the head,” Bills owner Terry Pegula says in Beane’s bio.
The last Jets coach-GM tandem that was truly joined at the hip and at the head was Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum.
Up in Foxborough, Bill Belichick came out swinging and spending in the wake of Tom Brady beating him to a seventh Super Bowl with a drunken-sailor free-agency splurge that landed TEs Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry and WRs Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne and pass rusher Matthew Judon, among others. Now the question is whether Belichick will trade up to secure his next franchise quarterback, perhaps Justin Fields, with Cam Newton as his hold-the-fort guy. What Bum Phillips said once about Bear Bryant still applies to Belichick: “He can take his’n and beat your’n and then he can turn around and take your’n and beat his’n.” Belichick is 69. The future is now for him.
Down in Miami, GM Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores have been joined at the hip and at the head for two seasons now, and improved from 5-11 to 10-6 and the precipice of the playoffs in 2020. The Dolphins have the sixth and 18th picks and four picks in the top 50 this week.
“I was looking for the best leader,” Grier said when he hired Flores. He also said: “We are completely aligned with our vision on how to build a successful organization.”
The question remains as to whether Tua Tagovailoa is the answer as franchise quarterback because right now Douglas can thank his lucky stars that Justin Herbert, drafted one spot behind Tua, is a Charger.
Douglas hit a home run in last year’s draft with Becton as his first draft pick, and league evaluators are high on second-round WR Denzel Mims and third-round safety Ashtyn Davis, and fifth-round CB Bryce Hall may have been a steal. WR Corey Davis and edge Carl Lawson were important free-agency additions, along with former Saints No. 1 pick DT Sheldon Rankins.
But Douglas, with many holes to plug and so little time, has a long road to hoe in his quest for sustainable success.
His top priority must be getting Wilson more protectors and playmakers than Darnold ever had. “We have to surround our quarterback with as much talent as possible,” Douglas said.
He must get Saleh the cornerback or cornerbacks and another pass rusher he will need to unleash his violent “All gas, no break” defense.
The days of the organization giving up on its own top-six picks (Leonard Williams, Jamal Adams, Darnold) must end.
Douglas has picks 2, 23, 34, 66 and 86 this year. Enough premium picks to pick the best players rather than reach for need.
He has two first-rounders this year and two first-rounders next year. He has seven picks in the first two rounds of the 2021 and 2022 drafts.
“Our goal and our plan is to be a team that really builds this through the draft, and hitting on draft picks,” Douglas said.
And: “Ultimately, for us to get to where the great teams are, the most consistent teams are, you do that through the draft. For us to really be that team that’s consistently competing for Super Bowls, we have to hit on our draft picks.”
On the day he was introduced, Douglas told me: “It doesn’t happen overnight, but we’re just gonna try to put this thing together brick by brick.”
For the New York Jets, he is only The Most Important Joe since Namath.
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