FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — It has been a decadeslong slog for Jets fans, a run of frustration and disappointment and heartbreak and anguish so deep that even the most faithful devotees have stretched the boundaries of their loyalty to this woebegone franchise.
Joe Douglas has only been here 4 1./2 months, but he feels your pain and understands your rage. And so desperately wants to do something — anything — to help.
“I can tell them I understand their frustration,” the Jets’ general manager said Tuesday evening when I asked what he can say to fans of a 1-6 team that has so brutally underachieved in Year 1 of the Douglas-Adam Gase era. “No one is more frustrated than me.
“I see the frustration on a daily basis. I can promise you that we come to work every day and there’s a lot of people that have a relentless work ethic, scratching and clawing, trying to make this team better. I can promise you that we’re doing everything in our power to make sure we don’t have a start like this again.”
Douglas is still new to the Jets’ history of misery, but he is now living through one of their lowest moments. Though hired after Mike Maccagnan had already fashioned the bulk of this season’s roster, Douglas nevertheless feels a kinship with this team and takes no solace in the fact that the players were brought here by someone else.
“I don’t look at this roster as one team’s players versus my players,” Douglas told radio host Michael Kay on ESPN after meeting with reporters at the Jets’ training facility. “I’ve tried to spend the last 4 1/2 months trying to know these guys. Strictly from an objective perspective, I can tell you that this team cares. They fight hard every day. The effort has never lacked. The execution has.”
The execution has been miserable. Outside of a 24-22 win over the Cowboys, the Jets have been unimaginably bad in spots. Perhaps you can excuse three straight losses without Sam Darnold. You cannot excuse these last two games, though. A humiliating 33-0 home loss to the Patriots, followed by a woeful 29-15 loss in Jacksonville.
Even Jets CEO Christopher Johnson was caught venting his frustration. Before the Jaguars game, a fan told Johnson that he traveled nine hours to see the game. To which Johnson responded, “Hopefully, the team will actually show up this week.”
“He seemed like a person that was like a lot of people in this building — passionate and frustrated about where we are at 1-6,” Douglas said. “He deserves better than 1-6.”
So do the people who have spent so many years and so much money and given so much of their emotions in supporting a team that has delivered so little in return.
Douglas spent much of the last 48 hours taking calls from teams interested in many of his players and pulled off one deal by sending Leonard Williams to the Giants for third- and fifth-round picks. He admitted to having discussions about Le’Veon Bell, Robby Anderson and Jamal Adams, although he was careful to say he wasn’t shopping those players.
Adams disagreed, writing on Twitter that he believes Douglas went around his back and did indeed shop him after the third-year safety had specifically told Douglas he wanted to remain with the Jets.
“I was taught when a team calls you, you always have to listen,” Douglas said. “We listened, we had good conversations. At the end of the day, there was no fire sale. The offers we received for these players didn’t equal the value we have for them.”
Douglas will have some explaining to do with Adams, who was miffed earlier this season at being taken out of a game late in the fourth quarter. But the fact is that Douglas would have been committing GM malpractice had he refused to listen to offers. For Adams or anyone else not named Sam Darnold. Can you imagine if Jimmy Johnson had refused to take the Vikings’ call in 1989? He would have missed out on the biggest trade in NFL history.
Adams needs to understand that Douglas was doing his due diligence in trying to reshape a roster that can one day climb out of the mess it now faces.
He is convinced he has the right coach. “My stance on Adam hasn’t changed,” Douglas said. “I think he’s a great coach and a great communicator.”
And the right quarterback. “We see a guy that’s made of the right stuff, warrior mentality,” he said of Darnold. “We have to take care of him — playmakers, protection, everything. We have to wrap our arms around him.”
Much work needs to be done.
And Douglas needs to show a fan base so scarred with disappointment that he can transform this team into a winner.
Like so many others who have tried, Douglas does not have history on his side.