6:00 AM ET
Rich CiminiESPN Staff Writer
- Longtime Jets beat writer for New York Daily News
- Syracuse University graduate
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Race for top pick: The COVID-19 outbreak has overshadowed the game, but it still matters. The Jets have a path to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft, but that goes by the wayside if they defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). So we pose the question: Which is more beneficial, a victory or a shot at the top pick?
In my opinion, the most important thing is the play of quarterback Zach Wilson, who can change the narrative with a strong finish. After that, it’s draft position and winning, in that order.
Yes, the Jets could use a win in the worst way. They have lost three in a row and 42 of their past 55 (yes, really). The players, who don’t care about draft position, want something to feel good about. The coaches, too. But we all know one victory over a dysfunctional franchise won’t flip the culture. Will anyone remember a win over the Jaguars if they get blown out by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills the next two weeks?
Again, it’s all about Wilson. If he plays well, there’s your positive momentum for the offseason.
The feeling from a win is fleeting; draft position is permanent. The last thing you want to do is win yourself out of a key draft spot, like the New York Giants did in 2019 by pulling out a Week 16 win that cost them a shot at taking defensive end Chase Young in the 2020 draft.
For the Jets, draft position was more important last year because of the need at quarterback. This time, the consensus top prospects are edge rushers, Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. The Jets’ 32nd-ranked defense could really use one of them.
The Jets, who picked second last year, have an 11% chance of landing the top pick, per ESPN analytics. That rises to 23% with a loss to Jacksonville.
If the Jets lose their final three to finish 3-14 — they will be heavy underdogs against the Buccaneers and Bills — they could leapfrog the Jaguars (2-12), Detroit Lions (2-11-1) and Houston Texans (3-11). But only if the Lions find another win. The suddenly hot Lions finish against the Green Bay Packers, who could have the NFC’s top seed locked up and could look to rest quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his sore toe.
The Jaguars, Jets and Texans are very close in the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker. In the end, fractions could decide the order.
2. Did you know? Both the Jets and Jaguars are in danger of picking in the top two again. Only one team since 2010 has picked in the top two in consecutive drafts: the Cleveland Browns in 2017-2018. They had the first pick in both years.
3. Corner market: The Jets will be linked to a lot of cornerbacks in the offseason, both in free agency and the draft, but it sounds like coach Robert Saleh is content with his current crew, led by Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols and Michael Carter II. They need to make more plays on the ball, but Saleh’s feeling is that those plays will come with a better pass rush.
4. Heeeere’s John: For seven years, John Idzik kept silent. The former Jets general manager, fired after a tumultuous 2014 season, turned down multiple interview requests over the years, politely explaining he wanted to keep a low profile while working in the Jaguars’ front office. Now that he’s out of the NFL, he agreed to go on the record for ESPN.com’s story on the decade-long struggles of the Jets and Giants.
Idzik’s two-year run was known for three things: His ill-fated relationship with coach Rex Ryan, his 12-player draft class in 2014 that produced no impact players and, of course, that bizarre, midseason news conference that fueled his ouster. For those who don’t remember it, he read a 19-minute opening statement. Team officials warned him not to go that route. Sure enough, it backfired. He was vilified by the media and fans.
“I wanted to take the bullet for the entire organization,” Idzik told me. “I wanted the target on me, so I decided to address everything at the outset.”
Commenting on the 2014 draft (safety Calvin Pryor, tight end Jace Amaro et al), Idzik said, “I heard it from the New York media; they wouldn’t let it go. That draft was judged off its rookie season, which wasn’t fair. That kind of climate wasn’t conducive to giving those guys the ability to show what they were capable of. I’m not trying to defend the ’14 draft. Our goal was to get younger and more physical, and I think we did that.”
Idzik seems to feel he got a raw deal. GMs usually get more than two years and, as he noted, “I didn’t even get a chance to hire my own coach.” Asked about the organization’s instability, he said, “You need to let longer-term decisions take hold to have a chance.”
5. Schott from the past: The Jaguars’ new offensive playcaller, promoted in the aftermath of Urban Meyer’s firing, is passing-game specialist Brian Schottenheimer — the former Jets coordinator. Friday was the 10-year anniversary of the game that got Schottenheimer fired by the Jets. In a Christmas Eve 2011 loss to the Giants, he called 64 passes for Mark Sanchez and the Jets’ playoff hopes went to smithereens.
6. Shake Shaq: The Shaq Lawson trade seemed like kind of a big deal at the time, at the end of the preseason, but he has faded to the point where he was a healthy scratch last week. The defensive end won’t be back next season, at least not on his current contract. He’s due to make $9 million in 2022, all of which comes off the books if he’s released.
7. He did what? If Laurent Duvernay-Tardif had remained with the Kansas City Chiefs, he’d be on the current No. 1 seed in the AFC, with a chance to earn his second Super Bowl ring. But he waived his no-trade clause in October to play for the cellar-dwelling Jets, who will be watching the playoffs on TV for the 11th straight year.
Interesting decision: Continue to ride the bench on a terrific team or go to a losing team where he could get on the field. Duvernay-Tardif, who lost his starting job after opting out last season, said the Chiefs sent a “clear message” that he wouldn’t play unless a starter got injured.
So he asked for a trade, and the Chiefs obliged.
“So, in that regard, I’m really happy to be here, to be on the football field, to show what I can do,” said Duvernay-Tardif, though he was added to the COVID-19 list on Thursday. “I love playing football. It’s tough to lose, but the adrenaline of walking out of the locker room, getting ready for the game, nothing can beat that. That’s why I wanted to come here — to play football. That was the best opportunity from a personal standpoint.”
It’s a cool story, him choosing a bad team for the love of the game, but there’s a business aspect to it as well. The playing time is an opportunity to put himself on tape as he heads into free agency.
8. What a kick: Eddy Pineiro, perfect so far (4-for-4 on field goals, 3-for-3 on extra points). Who knew?
9. Tricky Mike: Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur seems to dial up two or three gadget plays every week. The best one came last week on a third-and-15, when Wilson threw a short pass to receiver Jamison Crowder, who fired a long backward pass to receiver Braxton Berrios, who scampered for 22 yards. LaFleur said he came up with that one in 11th-grade gym class.
10. The last word: “We’re all professionals. We have a job to do. He said, ‘Our routing number doesn’t change. We still want to get paid.'” — linebacker C.J. Mosley on Ron Middleton’s message to the team upon becoming the interim coach after Saleh’s positive COVID-19 test