The New York Jets entered the 2016 season with hopes of ending their five-year playoff drought after finishing 10-6 in the 2015 campaign.
Todd Bowles’ men were blighted in the off-season by their contract dispute with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick as he missed organised team activities before signing a one-year $12m deal.
Fitzpatrick was extremely impressive in his first term with the Jets, but his play declined immensely, resulting in his side’s poor campaign.
Defensively the Jets also struggled with several high profile players failing to pull their own weight or up to their expensive contracts.
As a result, New York stumbled to a 5-11 record and are now in a rebuilding phase, with Bowles clinging to his position, although several of his coaching staff were fired, while Fitzpatrick’s contract was voided.
We’ll now take a look back at the last season to see what went wrong for the Jets and what they will need to do to compete for a place in the playoffs.
The Jets were handed a test of their playoff mettle in their opening fixture against the Cincinnati Bengals. Worrying signs emerged from the contest, despite decent play from Fitzpatrick against a stout defense.
Former All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis was easily beaten for a touchdown by AJ Green – which would typify his season, while the defense surrendered a late drive from Andy Dalton, allowing Mike Nugent to kick a game-winning field for Marvin Lewis’ men.
New York got their first win of the campaign in satisfying fashion with a victory over former coach Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills. Ryan had done the double over the Jets to thwart their playoff ambitions in the 2015 campaign, but they had their revenge beginning with a 37-31 win at Orchard Park, with Matt Forte and Fitzpatrick starring for the club.
However, when faced against quality opposition in the form of the Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals, Fitzpatrick and the offense began to crumble, losing four matches on the bounce to all-but end their playoff hopes just six weeks into the campaign.
They kindled hope with an impressive win over the Baltimore Ravens, but a tame performance against the Cleveland Browns needed a miraculous second-half comeback to secure the victory, highlighting their struggles across the pitch.
The Miami Dolphins stuck the boot in the Jets to stifle their momentum, while Fitzpatrick suffered an injury knocking him out of their next match against the Los Angeles Rams. Bryce Petty replaced him but he struggled immensely in his first start as Bowles’ men put just three points on the board in a 9-3 defeat – all-but knocking them out of the playoffs.
The Jets were presented with the challenge of the New England Patriots for the first time after their week away from the action. Bowles’ men were given a huge boost by the fact that Rob Gronkowski suffered an injury in the first quarter of the contest, leaving Tom Brady without his primary weapon.
Fitzpatrick was favoured over Petty for the contest, and he almost did enough to guide his side to victory, throwing two touchdown strikes to Quincy Enunwa and Brandon Marshall. However, the defense, especially Revis, could not hold up against Brady and Malcolm Mitchell, while Chris Long won the game for Bill Belichick’s men with a late strip-sack of Fitzpatrick.
The reaction to the defeat was not a good one from the Jets. They produced their worst performance of the season as the Indianapolis Colts tore them apart at MetLife Stadium. Worryingly for Bowles the effort of some of his players appeared to be lacking, with a number of weak tackles and blown assignments as Andrew Luck put 41 points on the board.
Petty returned to the line-up against the San Francisco 49ers and engineered a late comeback to send the match into overtime before winning the contest with a touchdown drive. However, two inept performances on the road were around the corner in defeats to the Dolphins and the Patriots, being hammered in both contests.
A win in the final week over the Bills perhaps spared Bowles from the axe, but he faces a huge challenge to remain in his role for the duration of the 2017 campaign.
The first order of business for the Jets is to sort out their quarterback situation. They currently hold the sixth overall pick in the 2017 Draft, and pending the business of the teams in front of them they could have a shot of landing one of the top two prospects – either Mitch Trubisky or DeShaun Watson.
That would be a gamble, but at this stage the Jets have very little to lose going after a young signal-caller. The talent of either man could propel the club back into the playoffs in the future, offering a much higher upside than Fitzpatrick.
On the other hand they have been linked with moves for veteran quarterbacks. Tony Romo would be an intriguing option given his talent, although his age and injury history might put them off. Jay Cutler could also be in the mix, pending his release from the Chicago Bears, but he has had problems with consistency and attitude during his NFL career.
A trade for Jimmy Garoppolo is likely out of the question given that the Jets play in the same divison, which will force them into the draft. Christian Hackenberg remains on the roster after being selected in the second round last year, although the reports of his progress are not encouraging.
Elsewhere, the Jets could save money by releasing Revis – following his underwhelming return to the club. His attitude was in question down the stretch and has not lived up to the value of his contract after rejoining from the Patriots in 2015.
They could replace him with a player like Stephon Gilmore, Prince Amukamara or Logan Ryan to fill the void. Pass-rusher is also a need with Melvin Ingram and Nick Perry potentially available on the free-agent market.
The Jets are one of the leading contenders to snag Romo from the Dallas Cowboys, with BetOnline sportsbook backing them at +800 to have him as their starter on the opening day in 2017. Given their desperation it would not be a surprise to see the 37-year-old at MetLife Stadium.
An outside bet of +2500 is intriguing for Garoppolo should the Jets choose to give up their first-round pick to acquire the 25-year-old from their rivals.
The more intriguing bet could see the Jets select the first quarterback in the 2017 Draft. Trubisky is reported to be their preferred option should he drop to number six. Therefore backing him to be the first signal-caller selected at -105 would be a prudent punt.
Bowles has a massive task ahead of him to reverse the fortunes of his side. Therefore backing the Jets to win the AFC Conference for the first time since 1968 might seem a long shot at +6600 , but stranger things have happened in the NFL.
Tony Romo To Be New York Jets’ Starter 2017
Jimmy Garoppolo To Be New York Jets’ Starter 2017
Mitch Trubisky To Be First Quarterback Selected NFL Draft 2017
New York Jets To Win AFC Conference