The Jets’ 0-5 start has led to plenty of comparisons to the 1996 Jets, arguably the worst season in team history.
These Jets appear to be marching toward being in the same category as that group, which went 1-15. This year’s team may not even get that one win.
The comparison to Rich Kotite’s squad in 1996 is fair. The only solace that any Jets fans should take in the Jets again bottoming out 24 years later is what came after ’96. The Jets hired Bill Parcells in 1997 and he turned the franchise around. He guided the Jets to only one playoff appearance, but he laid the groundwork for success under Herm Edwards and Eric Mangini over the next decade.
Parcells brought gravitas, something the Jets desperately needed after their run of mediocre to terrible play under Bruce Coslet, Pete Carroll and Kotite. It is exactly what the Jets need now after a similar run under Adam Gase, Todd Bowles and the last few years of Rex Ryan’s tenure.
The Jets need someone who can walk in the door and establish a culture. It is something Bowles, Gase and Ryan all talked about doing but ultimately failed at. None of them could institute change just through their presence. None of them had the résumé to instantly command respect from players.
That is what Parcells had, and what the Jets need — but is that person out there, and are the Jets ready to admit they need him?
Looking through the past 15 years of Super Bowl-winning coaches, there are not many obvious choices. Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy seem content in the broadcast booth. Tom Coughlin had a bad run in Jacksonville and is 74 years old. Parcells shook free for the Jets because he was unhappy with the Patriots and wanted to move on. Could the Jets find that situation again? Would Sean Payton want to leave the Saints if Drew Brees retires? Would John Harbaugh ever leave the Ravens? Mike Tomlin seems content in Pittsburgh. And I don’t see Bill Belichick riding to the Jets’ rescue.
Payton is a name that has been speculated, but here is the problem with the idea of a Parcells-like figure taking over in 2021 — Joe Douglas. The Jets just hired Douglas a year ago and gave him a six-year contract. He has not had time to build his team. Any coach with a résumé like Payton’s or any of the others’ is going to want total control of the football operation. Would the Jets make Douglas a glorified personnel director? I doubt it.
If the Jets fire Gase, which feels inevitable at this point, they will likely end up hiring whatever coordinator they fall in love with during the interview process. Douglas surely will oversee the hiring process, so pay attention to coaches with ties to him from Baltimore or Philadelphia.
So, those 1996 comparisons may fit right now, but it does not feel like 2021 will be 1997, when Parcells arrived and brought immediate credibility with him. This will be on Douglas to find the right coach and then find the right players to help out that coach.
If the Jets finish with the No. 1 draft choice, it will be another reminder of the 1997 draft. That year, Peyton Manning chose to stay at Tennessee for his senior season rather than play for the Jets, and Parcells moved the pick to the Rams.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the prize in the 2021 draft. That is unless he goes back to school. Not even the Jets can have that kind of bad luck, can they?
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