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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Jets' first win in Week 15 puts more NFL Draft pressure on GM Joe Douglas

Sam Darnold of the New York Jets against

Sam Darnold of the New York Jets against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on December 20, 2020. Credit: Getty Images/Sean M. Haffey

You want to know how Jets fans really felt after watching the team pull off the biggest upset of the NFL season on Sunday and thereby suffer the potential loss of a franchise-changing shot at drafting Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence?

It’s easy. Just ask the question on Twitter, and you’ll get the full range of emotions.

"Last time I felt this sick as a Jets fan, we lost to the Steelers in the 2010 AFC Championship game." — @VPerricone92

"I wish I was a Chiefs fan."

— @dlDesignDouglas

"Going through 13 weeks of true awfulness to get a pointless win and set the franchise back 10 years is unlikely to bring a positive feeling." — @Qu1ny

"W is for WINNING! Then again, it’s also for WOEBEGONE." — @TheKulu

"Like I felt after Gastineau hit Bernie Kosar." — @gjet93

At least there was one tempered take.

"Disappointed Lawrence probably won’t be a Jet — but far more interested in who Jets hire as next HC, and what [general manager Joe] Douglas does next April with all those draft picks. A better coached team, with more talent, can win with Darnold." — @MartyLevine

Even longtime Jets center Nick Mangold, one of the most celebrated players in franchise history and a man whose abiding affection for the team remains as strong as ever, had a hard time processing Jets 23, Rams 20. It’s a victory that might open the door to the Jaguars getting the first overall pick and grabbing a quarterback many scouts believe to be a generational talent.

"Yay? As a former Jets player and a current Jets fan, I’m confused and torn," Mangold tweeted. "Oh, well. Print the shirts: Victory Monday!"

Current Jets players and coaches indeed were happy to celebrate their first victory Monday after 13 straight defeats, but they’re among the only ones cherishing the fact that they won’t join the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns as the only 0-16 teams in NFL history.

The rest of Jets Nation is in mourning over the potential loss of Lawrence, who may be on the verge of winning the Heisman Trophy and appears set to join the NFL in 2021.

As my colleague Neil Best wrote in his column about the game, players and coaches are never in on the tank. Thus, you can’t blame Adam Gase and Sam Darnold and Mekhi Becton and Frank Gore and everyone else on the roster for celebrating the fruits of their labor.

"I know it’s a huge relief for a lot of guys in the locker room to be able to get this win," Darnold said Monday. "It was a lot of emotion and excitement in the locker room after the game."

That’s completely understandable. Darnold cares deeply about his team, and beating the Rams in his hometown meant a lot. As it should have.

But you also can’t blame fans who have been beaten down year after year . . . after year after year . . . for being distraught over the implications of what happened at SoFi Stadium.

The Jets missed out on the chance to draft Peyton Manning the last time they had the No. 1 pick. Now it looks as if a quarterback with similar talent might be heading to Jacksonville instead.

No wonder there were all those conflicted emotions over what might otherwise have been a cause for celebration.

It puts all the more pressure on Douglas, a man I believe is the single most important person in New York sports in terms of determining the future of his team heading into 2021.

The future of the Jets really is in the hands of this man, who will have the biggest say over the choice of the team’s next coach after Adam Gase is let go at season’s end.

Douglas will have to formulate his draft plans knowing that he may not have access to the clear-cut top quarterback and a chance for a new beginning. (The Jets and Jaguars both are 1-13, but the Jaguars have the easier strength of schedule, giving them the tiebreaker.)

Douglas will keep his options open, and one of those options might include keeping Darnold if Lawrence isn’t available. Douglas has always held Darnold in high regard — although he recently has kept his opinions close to the vest — and the quarterback’s performance against the Rams reinforced the idea that he is capable of being more than just a functional player.

With a full arsenal of draft picks, including the two first-round choices Douglas acquired in the Jamal Adams trade, and a healthy salary-cap situation in 2021, building around the quarterback position may be the general manager’s preference.

If the Jets somehow get that first overall pick, it will be an easier decision to take Lawrence and build anew. But a general manager’s job is to deal with the reality around him and make logical decisions about the team’s long-term future. Douglas’ reputation around the league indicates he’s capable of doing just that, and his 2020 draft and free-agency decisions offered a promising window into his ability.

It’s a tall task, one that might be easier with at least having the option of Lawrence as part of his blueprint. But as Jets fans know all too well — with Sunday’s emotions providing the latest example — things don’t always go according to plan.

Isn’t that right, @C_RabbyblastEm?

"Tbh I wish my family liked a different team and didn’t raise me to watch them at a young age," he wrote on Twitter. "But here I am. 28 years later."

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