Expectations minus reality equals disappointment.
The New York Jets have started the 2021 season by losing the first three games. Is that disappointing? That depends on what your expectations for the team are.
I didn’t expect the Jets to be competitive in 2021 so the 0-3 start comes as no surprise and it actually meets my expectations. If you believed the Jets were a playoff-caliber team then I would question your ability to evaluate an NFL roster and the process that would lead you to that type of conclusion.
The Jets are in year one of Robert Saleh as the head coach who replaced the historically bad Adam Gase. Joe Douglas is only in his second year as the general manager and he took over a roster littered with holes and mismanaged resources. Those mistakes don’t get corrected in an offseason or two and it’s going to take some time to get things turned around in New York.
Zach Wilson is a rookie quarterback with plenty of promise but early growing pains were always the expectation. Wilson struggled in 2018 and 2019 as the starter at BYU before delivering an elite 2020 campaign where he embraced winning off-script and making challenging throws to all levels of the field. Considering that style of play, learning what he can and cannot get away with in the NFL was always going to be a big part of those early growing pains. Meanwhile, the Jets’ offensive line and offensive weapons are still very much a work in progress. Consider me unsurprised that he’s already thrown seven interceptions and been sacked on 12.5% of his dropbacks with a passer rating of just 51.6. His future is bright, but he’s in the infancy stage of his development and he has a lackluster supporting cast with a young offensive coordinator.
Saleh is considered one of the best defensive minds in the NFL but the talent on the roster is severely lacking on defense. The cornerback depth chart is abysmal and the injury to Carl Lawson left a thin defensive end group without its top option. C.J. Mosley hasn’t played in two years and the rest of the linebacker corps is unproven. Saleh can coach defense but he doesn’t have enough talent to reasonably expect much from the unit.
It’s hard to argue that the Jets are an improved football team today over where they were a year ago. But with Gase no longer in the mix and more developing players added to the roster, they are positioned to take steps in time.
The Jets finished last in the AFC East every year since 2016 except for 2019 when they managed to slot third. And while they are trending toward another last-place finish, there is hope for better days. The Jets are armed with 11 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, including two first-round selections and two second-round picks. New York is also slated to have nearly $65 million in cap space next offseason to continue adding to the roster.
The hard part for the Jets is likely behind them should Douglas, Saleh, and Wilson be the answers at general manager, head coach, and quarterback. Now it’s about building things up around them and establishing a new culture. But that’s going to take time, so it’s important to have realistic expectations to avoid being disappointed.