Photo: Matt Ludtke/AP
Let’s get this out of the way now: The Jets are going to be awful this season. This offense lacks sizzle and this defense does not scare anyone. This team is ticketed to be in last place this season.
And you know what? That’s okay. This season is not about wins and losses. Jets fans know the score. They understand it’s about the development of Zach Wilson, Elijah Moore, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Michael Carter, La’Mical Perine, Denzel Mims and Mekhi Becton.
Their progress will determine what the Jets do next year and beyond.
Seeing Wilson grow with Moore, Vera-Tucker, Carter, Perine, Mims and Becton makes this season worth watching. The new Jets offer curiosity to see what they can do.
For the Jets to go as far as they can, it starts on what they do offensively.
We all know the Jets lacked a franchise quarterback since Joe Namath was traded. It wasn’t for lack of trying. They hoped to build around Chad Pennington, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith and Sam Darnold. All four of them lasted long.
Pennington could have been Namath, but when he had a torn rotator cuff and a bone spur in the right shoulder in that 2005 season, he was never going to be the same again. He lasted 10 seasons to his credit, but he served more as a game-manager after that injury.
Sanchez and Smith never had the arm strength to be great.
The jury’s out on Darnold only because he never had an offensive line, wide receivers or a running back during his forgettable time with the Jets. It will be interesting how he does as the Carolina Panthers quarterback. The Jets will get a birds-eye view on Sunday when they play him and the Panthers.
Wilson will try to solve the Jets quarterback riddle. He played great in the preseason, and his work ethic stands out. But then again Darnold did the same thing back then, and everything fell apart.
If Wilson does well, it will because he had players to work with. He can’t do everything himself. How he does will be based on what Moore, Perine, Mims and Carter do. It’s going to be important that his offensive line does well for him to succeed.
This goes back to what this season is about. It’s about how the young players on offense fare. This season is a success if they show improvement in November and December. If the offense comes along then, there’s a reason for optimism heading to next season.
Just seeing the foundation the Jets can build here is why Jets fans are invested in this season. They know this team finally has a plan. They understand Jets general manager Joe Douglas and Jets head coach Robert Saleh agree on how to build a team. That was never the case with Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan and Rex Ryan and John Idzik.
For the first time in a long time, the Jets could offer hope. When was the last time any Jets fan can say that? The Jets missed the playoffs for 10 straight seasons, and there was no hope because there was always awful management, hideous coaches and terrible players. Now, something could bear fruit in the next four months.
Everything starts Sunday when Wilson starts his first NFL regular-season game.
It was the right move to have him take lumps now rather than wait. Now is the time in a sense he can have chemistry with the guys he will be working in the next few years. It could have been easy for the Jets to get a veteran quarterback like Nick Foles to start the season and integrate Wilson in, but this team is not winning anything this year, so there is no point going through the charade of trying to get some wins early.
Yes, the Jets still have offensive lines issues. No matter. It’s hard for teams to get good offensive lines these days, so it’s up to Wilson to try to make due and get by.
For the first time in recent seasons, there’s a reason to watch the Jets.
A dynamic head coach who can lead. A quarterback who has the potential to be a star. A wide receiver that could be the best since Laveranues Coles in Moore. An offensive line that could be bookends that provide protection in Becton and Vera-Tucker.
If all works out, Jets fans can think playoffs next year.