Jets general manager Joe Douglas took his turn Tuesday taking the blame for the mess that is the 2020 Jets.
Douglas admitted making mistakes this offseason, including not re-signing wide receiver Robby Anderson and not surrounding quarterback Sam Darnold with enough talent. The Jets (0-8) are careening toward the worst season in franchise history and the No. 1 pick in next spring’s NFL draft.
“My message for the fans: We’re all frustrated with where we are right now,” Douglas said in his first press conference since the season began. “But everyone in this building has to own it. This record, it belongs to all of us. It’s incumbent on each of us to figure out how we can improve it. I certainly take my fair share of the responsibility.”
Douglas predictably voiced support for embattled coach Adam Gase, saying he hopes the two of them can fix this together. He also backed Darnold, who is the worst-rated passer in the NFL right now and has thrown just three touchdowns.
“Sam’s an ultra-talented quarterback,” Douglas said. “I really can’t say enough about his grit and his toughness. Ultimately, I’ve got to do a better job of putting talent around Sam. We have to develop some kind of continuity within the offense moving forward.”
Many fans are hoping the Jets continue to lose and land the No. 1 pick in the draft, at which they could select Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Douglas said the Jets are not thinking that losing the rest of the way is the best outcome for this team.
Douglas initially dodged a question about whether Darnold would be the team’s quarterback in 2021. Later, he gave a stronger endorsement to Darnold.
“I have no problem saying he is our best quarterback and our quarterback for the future,” Douglas said.
Douglas pointed to the constant changes on offense this year due to injuries as part of the problem for Darnold.
“I feel like he has a different set of wide receivers every week,” Douglas said. “We’ve had almost a different set of offensive linemen out there every week. It’s important to surround any quarterback with talent. I think you see the flashes of what he can be and they’re really special. Let’s not forget that Sam is a 23-year-old quarterback that’s maybe one of the toughest quarterbacks I’ve ever been around. I’m very excited about Sam.”
Douglas is in a tough spot answering questions about Darnold and Gase. There are eight games left in the season and this is not the time for the general manager to publicly speculate on offseason decisions. Gase’s future is also not in his hands, but in the hands of team CEO Christopher Johnson.
The specific decision that Douglas admitted he got wrong was the decision not to re-sign Anderson, who is now playing well for the Panthers, the team that signed him in free agency to a two-year, $20 million contract.
“I go back and think about what I could have done better in that specific situation,” Douglas said. “I thought our guys did a fantastic job of really analyzing every position group’s market value leading up to free agency last year. I think what went wrong with us and Robby, we thought there was no way … we thought that Robby’s value was going to be even greater than he signed for in Carolina. So, I think that’s on me ultimately and that’s on us moving forward to get a better handle on every player’s market value.
“We would all love to see Robby here doing what he’s doing. I tip my hat to the success he has, but obviously we don’t want to be in the business of losing good players.”
Douglas has a big cleanup ahead of him, but he is armed with nine picks in the next two drafts and is projected to have $80 million in salary cap space next year, but he cautioned about spending big on free agents.
“Ultimately, I think when you look at successful organizations, no matter what the sport, you don’t see a lot of teams that build long-term success by buying their way out of it,” Douglas said. “You see the teams, the organizations that have long-term success, they draft well and they develop their players. I think that’s the model moving forward. I think that’s our vision moving forward and when we have the opportunity to strike in free agency, having that flexibility. But none of this is going to work if we don’t draft and develop these guys.”