He loves the quarterback. He thinks they’ve found the right coach and general manager. And the right running back.
Boomer Esiason is all in on the Jets.
“I’m pretty jacked,” Boomer Esiason said Tuesday at a CBS preseason media event in Manhattan. “I just think the whole building is different. There’s a lot of excitement. I’m pretty jacked about what they’re doing. Very bullish.”
Esiason, who enjoyed a stellar NFL career that included an MVP season and Super Bowl run with the Bengals in 1988 and stints with the Jets and Cardinals, feels as buoyant about this year’s Jets as he did when the team last went to the playoffs.
“I’m telling you, I just felt the vibe over there that I haven’t felt since Rex Ryan was there,” said Esiason, who also hosts the WFAN weekday morning show in addition to his broadcasting duties at CBS. “But I think it’s a more polished thing. I think [recently hired general manager] Joe Douglas is going to bring a level of professionalism to that job that Jet fans are really going to like.”
The biggest reasons for optimism, according to Esiason: an improved Sam Darnold, who looks like he’s ready to take a sizable step forward in Year 2, and the presence of coach Adam Gase, whose expertise in working with quarterbacks could be a boon.
Esiason sees plenty of potential in Darnold, who had a solid rookie season, especially toward the end, following a three-game absence because of a foot injury. But as much as Darnold needs to make substantial improvement in his game from a technical standpoint, it’s his emotional development that counts just as much.
“The biggest thing for Sam is going to be, now that he knows who he is, he knows where he is in the pecking order, he’s got to own the team,” Esiason said. “This only happens over time, and not everybody has the aggressive personality to make it happen. But quarterbacks have to own their teams. All the great ones have done that. Very rarely do you find a guy that doesn’t own his team and goes on to become a great player.”
Esiason points to Darnold’s 2018 draft classmate as a perfect example of being the emotional leader of his team.
“Baker Mayfield already owns the Browns,” he said. “Everybody knows it’s his team. I think Josh Allen is owning the Bills, especially because he has the same coaching staff, the same offense and everything else. Sam has to start over a little because of a new coach, but I think that coach recognizes that the reason he got hired was to get [Darnold] to throw 35 touchdown passes and win football games.
“[Darnold] has got to be the man now,” Esiason said. “He’s got to learn to be the man. It’s the next step in the process for him, and I think it’s well underway.”
Darnold’s work with Gase will be a huge factor for the Jets, both now and into the future, and Esiason endorses the new head coach, despite an uneven performance in his three seasons leading the Dolphins.
“A lot of people criticized [Jets CEO] Christopher Johnson with what he was doing and how he went about it, but I think he got it right,” Esiason said. “I know he wanted young, I know he wanted offensive-minded and I know he wanted a coach with a head coaching resume. He got all that and more in Adam, and then being able to land Joe Douglas, which may be the final thing that Christopher Johnson does to get this organization straightened out (before Woody Johnson returns from his term as Ambassador to the United Kingdom).”
Esiason believes Johnson needed to find the right executive to work with Gase, which meant firing Mike Maccagnan after the draft. But it doesn’t mean that Maccagnan didn’t leave the Jets with an important nucleus of players.
“Mike Maccagnan knows football,” Esiason said. “He’s the one that traded for Sam Darnold. He’s the one that drafted Quinnen Williams and Jamal Adams and Leonard Williams. I think it was more about personalities. If you have a Type A, aggressive head coach [like Gase], not a coach that’s going to sit by the wayside and not say anything [like Todd Bowles], you need personalities that are going to match, and that’s why [Johnson] got Joe Douglas. I think it’s going to end up being a smart move.”
Maccagnan also signed All Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, who will be a centerpiece of the Jets’ offense.
“He’s a great football player,” Esiason said. “He’s a special breed of athlete and he looks like he’s pretty much in great shape.”
Put it all together, and Esiason sees bright things ahead for a team that hasn’t had much to cheer about the last decade.