If only Fox could have had a camera on Joe Douglas during the final minutes of Sunday’s Jets-Rams game.
The Jets general manager probably turned greener than a Jets jersey as he saw the team’s chance at Trevor Lawrence evaporate in front of his eyes as the Jets beat the Rams 23-20 in Inglewood, Calif.
Sure, Douglas had to be happy for the players and coaches who have toiled all season without a win. But deep down, Douglas had to know that win just made his life harder. Drafting Lawrence is a no-brainer. Lawrence looks like a rare can’t-miss prospect who comes along at quarterback about once a decade. Now, if the Jets do wind up picking No. 2, Douglas has much tougher decisions to make.
Does he stay put at No. 2 and draft one of the other quarterbacks — Ohio State’s Justin Fields, BYU’s Zach Wilson or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance? Does he try to trade the pick for a draft haul and build around Sam Darnold? Does he stick with Darnold and take the best non-quarterback at No. 2? Does he add a voodoo priest to the payroll to take the spell off this franchise?
I kid, I kid.
The reality is the Jets’ win on Sunday made their road tougher, but the idea that the Jets are now definitely ruined for the next decade is silly. Maybe Lawrence will prove to be a sure thing coming out of Clemson or maybe he won’t. But there are also other quarterbacks in this draft who are going to succeed. The trick is figuring out which ones.
Look at recent quarterback drafts. Was Patrick Mahomes considered a “generational talent” coming out of Texas Tech? No, Mahomes was passed on by nine teams, including the Jets, before the Chiefs drafted him. Draft experts thought he was a project. He is now the best quarterback in the sport.
Last year at this time, the talk was about Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. Both have had good starts to their careers, but Justin Herbert, taken No. 6 by the Chargers is the quarterback who has had the best rookie season.
If you want to look closer to home, Josh Allen (seventh overall in 2018) and Lamar Jackson (32nd) have outperformed Darnold, chosen third overall that year.
Talking about the NFL draft is a lot of fun. Mock drafts are fun. But nothing about the draft is science.
That is where Douglas comes in. Assuming the Jaguars lose their next two games and the Jets wind up with the No. 2 pick, Douglas and his staff now need to figure out whether Fields or Wilson or Lance are going to be good NFL quarterbacks or if they are better off sticking with Darnold, who is still just 23 and has one year left on his rookie contract.
While Mel Kiper and every other member of the media who gives an opinion between now and April can be wrong with their quarterback evaluations, Douglas has to be right.
Douglas has largely been in the honeymoon phase since being hired in June 2019. His first year was written off because he was hired after free agency and the draft. He has taken a few shots this season, but Adam Gase has been the main target of the fans and media. Gase will be fired in two weeks and then the bull’s-eye will rest squarely on Douglas.
And Douglas has set himself up for a good offseason. They are going to have enough cap space to be aggressive in free agency if that is what Douglas wants. He can land a top wide receiver like Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin or JuJu Smith-Schuster. He can bolster the offensive line. He can find an edge rusher.
Then, comes the draft capital he has gathered. The Jets have nine picks, six in the first 96 picks, in April. If Douglas trades out of No. 2 or chooses to trade Darnold, he will add to that war chest.
The easiest path to relevance would have been adding Lawrence’s big right arm and his perfect hair. That is not debatable. But there are other paths the Jets can go down. Now, it is Douglas’ job to blaze one.