It’s all quite simple, actually: The most important ingredient for the Jets in their eternal quest to finally steer all their engines in the proper direction is already on the payroll, and has been for almost five full months.
No matter what changes occur from here, general manager Joe Douglas is already here. And that has to be the key.
Look, cards on the table? The Jets, and the long-suffering constituents who have supported them through (fleeting) thick and (relentless) thin have little choice but to hope that’s the case. Plans B, C, and D are so unappetizing as to be nauseating, because if Douglas can’t be entrusted with this task … well, then everything gets blown to smithereens. Again.
And they start all over. Again.
And that’s just not tenable. It isn’t realistic. It has to be Douglas, hired as GM in June and signed to a six-year deal that was both reflective of his standing in the game and the fact that he is the undisputed core of whatever the Jets will become.
Because he was hired so late, it has been an odd year for Douglas. His one attempt at rectifying the team’s grotesque offensive line, coaxing center Ryan Kalil out of retirement, didn’t work out. Through no real fault of his own, his willingness to take a phone call about Jamal Adams’ availability at the trade deadline caused a 48-hour rush of banter and bruised egos. And for those who believe Adam Gase is responsible for everything that’s wrong with football, society, the country and the earth, it was his professional tie to Gase that helped lure him here.
But Douglas has too solid a background for all of that to land and for much of it to stick. Think of trying to jump into a Honda Accord at full speed and then also trying to win the Indy 500 with it. That’s been Douglas’ first five months. This has all been prologue. The real job begins when the season ends.
“This is a game of wills,” Douglas said on the day he was hired, “and we’re going to try to build a team that can impose their will on other teams.”
More important, it seems as if Douglas is committed to imposing his will on this team as a first step. And that’s a good thing for the Jets. In truth, when you look around the landscape of New York sports, the Jets are as well-positioned to rise from where they are as any of the downtrodden teams in town. Douglas makes that so. His slate is clean and his reputation impeccable. That guarantees nothing, of course. But it is a good place to start.
It’s also hard, once you see these two quotes back-to-back, to not be intrigued by them:
“To Jets nation: You’re getting a general manager that is a relentless worker, someone that understands a winning culture, someone that is going to strive to put a product each Sunday that competes for greatness and that I hope will make you proud.”
That was Douglas, saying hello to his new job last June 12.
“To fans of this club, we will promise you one thing: we will work, night and day, to make this the kind of franchise you can be proud of. We will compete, I can promise you that, all of us: players, coaches, front office. You have my word.”
That was Lou Lamoriello on April 30, 1987, the day he took over the Devils. He was another one known better for a solid reputation than anything else before we saw what he could do, and central to his belief system was betting on himself, and his own vision and work ethic.
That day, Lamoriello also quipped, “Someone told me with the Devils, there’s nowhere to go but up.”
Over the next 27 years, he showed just how far “up” really was. Nobody is expecting three Lombardi Trophies to match the three Stanley Cups that Lamoriello brought to New Jersey. But the Jets have nowhere to go but up, either. Maybe, just maybe, it’s Joe Douglas who can find that fickle footpath. If you are the Jets, it is really the only way to root.