J-E-T-S, JETS JETS JETS! … Don’t y’all realize you’re supposed to be tanking? The “suck for Sam” (Sam Darnold, USC quarterback) campaign in full force? Come on now. You have too many wins — two, after four games. That’s right. After four weeks, the New York Jets are 2-2, something no one saw coming after a terrible preseason, coupled with the notion they are tanking.
The idea of purposely tanking in sports is nothing new. However, with the age of social media, sports pundits, and nonstop coverage, it seems to have at least been made public and closely followed by everyone. Examples of recent tanking in other sports, the Sixers in the NBA and the Astros in baseball have tried their hand at tanking. One successful, Astros, and one TBD, the Sixers.
Tanking is fascinating to the public because it’s something that makes sense. Get worse on purpose, draft a bunch of studs, and slowly build up your program to power. It also offers hope to a fan base. Would you rather wallow in perpetual .500 seasons, or get really bad for a few seasons with the hope you’re eventually going to be great again? I’ll let you answer that for yourself, but I’d go with the latter.
Tanking in the NFL is extremely tough to pull off. In order to tank properly you have to get super young. Not only young, but young and not very talented at key positions.
First is obviously your quarterback. Quarterback is the most important position for the success of a team in any sport. You can have a talented roster but not have a quarterback, and your season goes to shit. Think of the 2015 Dallas Cowboys.
Teams must also ditch their talent on the defensive line. If you can’t pass rush or stop the run, you don’t have a chance to win.
I was part of a season that wasn’t designed to tank, but the Panthers used the recipe to execute a tanked season. That season was unique because it was the uncapped year of 2010, where teams were salary dumping to prepare for the lockout. In Carolina, we dumped lots of veteran contracts, let Julius Peppers walk, and drafted Jimmy Clausen.
I know John Fox didn’t want to play Clausen, but after two games, Clausen was in. He wasn’t ready. Everyone knew that. But he was drafted and was going to play. We had a solid offensive line and some excellent skill position players, but we couldn’t complete passes or stop anyone. We were blown out in a majority of our games and finished 2-14. The following draft, the Panthers selected Cam Newton and haven’t looked back since.
Since I’ve been a part of that tanking type of season, here’s where the rub comes in. No matter how hard the front office tries to assemble a roster of players designed to help losing, we as players don’t really give a damn. We are still going to play hard. There is ZERO incentive for us not to give 100 percent effort. Once we cross those white lines, what we put on film is on our résumé. The same is true for the coaches. They get paid by wins and losses, and quite honestly, the front office doesn’t seem to care if the roster is bad.
“I am proud of our guys’ effort. I think you see a team that is fighting. I think now what we have to get to our team, and we go back — and Kyle does a great job of doing it — is showing them, here’s the difference between winning and losing. And so, in addition to the tremendous effort and fight, we’ve got to execute, guys. We’re gotta not beat ourselves. All of a sudden these turn into wins.
“And so we knew it was gonna be a process, we focus on the process, because we think that translates into wins, when we do that. We’re still missing that part of the equation, and I can be very frank with you: I want a damn win. Enough of this stuff. And I like the way our guys are fighting, I really am proud of them.”
“I WANT A DAMN WIN.”
Lynch knows where their roster is at, but that doesn’t matter because in the end, the only judgement in the NFL is wins.
So how does this relate to the Jets?
The general notion was that the Jets were tanking this season. They released a score of veterans in March and did little to replace those positions. They traded away Sheldon Richardson. They tried to start anyone but Josh McCown at quarterback.
(McCown isn’t the best quarterback, but he’s serviceable and shouldn’t cost you games. He’s completing 70 percent of passes this season, by far the best in his career.)
The Jets still have too many pieces in place to truly be awful.
Both their wins have come at home against the Dolphins and Jaguars, not very good teams. Their defense is middle of the road, but not truly bad enough to lose games for them. Their offensive line has a quality left tackle and guards who aren’t bad enough to get McCown killed and actually pretty good in the run game. The Jets are seventh in the league at 4.9 yards per carry.
When you have quality players, those players want to make plays, as highlighted by Bilal Powell’s 75-yard touchdown run and Elijah McGuire’s 69-yard touchdown run.
The Jets have also hit on a few home runs in the passing game.
Here, McCown reads the coverage and lets it rip to their speedy receiver Robby Anderson.
I like the idea of tanking. However, there are so many variables in the NFL , it’s hard to pull off. Just ask the Jets, who might have played themselves out of the top of a quarterback-rich 2018 draft after four weeks.