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To break cycle of mediocrity, Jets must surround Sam Darnold with stars

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive

The Jets have now gone eight straight seasons without a trip to the playoffs, and their misery really runs deeper than that. In the last 12 seasons, spanning three coaches, they’ve had four winning seasons, and they’ve won double-digit games only twice.

Everyone knows the Jets haven’t been to the Super Bowl in 50 years, but the bigger problem is they haven’t even been a threat to get there very often. In the last 32 years they’ve had double-digit win totals six times and they’ve had back-to-back winning seasons only five times.

They may be 14-33 over the last three years and 24-39 under Todd Bowles, but the bigger picture is the entire franchise has been stuck in a cycle of mediocrity-at-best that they just can’t figure out how to break.

So how do they do it? Well, a new coach and new attitude will be a good start, but according to several NFL sources recently interviewed by SNY, they also need a personnel overhaul where they add the kind of talent they haven’t had in quite a while.

“What guy on their team scares you?” said one NFL executive. “Offense or defense, who’s the one guy that the opposing coordinator has to worry about and game plan against? There really isn’t a guy. Maybe Jamal Adams eventually. But that’s the problem. With all the top picks they’ve had, you think there’d be one guy who really scares you.”

That really stands out when you compare the Jets to some of the other rebuilding teams. The Browns, for example, have receiver Jarvis Landry, tight end David Njoku and running back Nick Chubb on offense, and defensive end Myles Garrett, safety Jabrill Peppers and cornerback Denzel Ward on defense. The Cardinals have running back David Johnson and receiver Larry Fitzgerald on one side, cornerback Patrick Peterson and defensive end Chandler Jones on the other.

Even the Giants have Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley and maybe safety Landon Collins at their core.

What do the Jets have? Mostly nothing around their promising, young quarterback, Sam Darnold. Robby Anderson has been the best receiver all season, but he only has 47 catches for 728 yards. No running back has topped 700 yards. And on defense, they have absolutely no pass rush. Defensive end Leonard Williams is supposed to be their best front-line player, but he has just four sacks on the year.

“They are easy to game-plan against,” one NFC scout said. “They do mostly basic stuff because they don’t have the personnel to do anything else. Some of it on offense is because of the rookie quarterback, but if Anderson and (Quincy) Enunwa are the 1-2 at receiver and (Isaiah) Crowell is the best they can do at running back, what are they supposed to do?

“They need some studs on both sides of the ball. Game-changers. Stars. What they have is a bunch of guys.”

So the consensus is the Jets need an upgrade in several spots. “Do what they can to get Le’Veon Bell,” the scout said. “And spent the money to add a premiere pass rusher.”

“They also need help along the offensive line,” another scout added. “They’ve got to make sure they don’t get the kid (Darnold) killed.”

The good news for the Jets is they will have another high pick in the NFL draft and this one is rich with pass rushers. They also will have more than $100 million in salary cap space in a free agent market where Bell is available along with plenty of pass rushers too. Top receivers and help for the offensive line will be much harder to find.

“But you can find and develop linemen,” the executive said. “It’s the guys who wreck the games that you need.”

And that’s where the Jets fall short. No receiver or edge rusher that will draw constant double-teams. No player so good that he can take over one side of the ball on his own. Until they find that, mediocrity is their ceiling.

“A great quarterback needs great players around him,” the executive said. “Without that, he can’t win.”

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