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What Will it Take to Get the Jets Back into the Playoffs?

It's been 11 years since the Jets last made it to the postseason. This former scout has a five-step plan to get this club back to the playoffs.

As the playoffs kick off this weekend, Jets fans are left wondering why their team can’t seem to get their act together. 

New York is the largest market in the NFL, but the Jets’ last playoff appearance came in 2010. Despite billions in payroll over the past 11 seasons, and all the coaches, executives and players who have come and gone, it has not mattered.

What will it take to get the Jets back into the playoffs?

As someone who made it to the AFC Championship Game my first season scouting with the team, I will explore five things that need to happen. 

1. Stop accepting anything less than the Super Bowl.

Everyone inside and outside of the organization needs to stop accepting this new buzz phrase, “we are in the midst of a rebuild.” Organizations that cling to that phrase are expecting and accepting losing before the season even starts. Bill Parcells took over the Jets in 1997, after a 1-15 finish and took them to the AFC Championship in 1998. It can be done.

I will never forget when I worked under Scott Pioli (who was then the pro scouting director) at the Jets, and I made a comment during a car ride a few months after the Jets had lost the AFC Championship Game. I blurted out, “Well, last year sure was great, we only missed the Super Bowl by one game.” The car went dead silent. Pioli turned around while looking directly at me and sternly saying, “I don’t ever want to hear you talk like that again! One game away isn’t good enough!” 

It’s an attitude. 

2. The team needs to take on the identity of their head coach. 

Great teams take on the identity of their head coach. 

Andy Reid brings up thoughts of offense, just as Bill Belichick brings up thoughts of defense. 

What do you think of when you think of the Jets? 

I am betting it is not defense and why would it be? The Jets statistically fielded the worst defense in the NFL in 2021. 

Jets’ head coach Robert Saleh’s resume says “Defensive Coordinator,” but the team has not taken on the identity of being a defensive football team. If anything, the Jets have taken on more of the identity of offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. 

READ: Is Robert Saleh Responsible for Bad Jets Defense?

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3. New York needs to do whatever it takes to land EDGE rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and left tackle Ikem Ekwonu in the first round. 

Thibodeaux and Ekwonu have the strongest alpha male personalities in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft. It is not even close. Thibodeaux and Ekwonu are as New York as New York comes. 

Thibodeaux is extremely disruptive. He would be the most disruptive defender in New York since Lawrence Taylor. Ekwonu is a mean son-of-a-gun with an intimidating presence, who enjoys driving defenders into the ground. 

While defensive end Aiden Hutchinson will likely go first overall, (2) Detroit and (3) Houston are quarterback (QB) starved. It is distinctly possible Detroit takes QB Malik Willis and Houston selects QB Matt Corral. That would drop Thibodeaux to the Jets at fourth overall. 

Thibodeaux and Ekwonu would change the entire complexion of the organization. 

READ: Ex-Jets Scout Explains Why New York Should Draft OT Ikem Ekwonu

4. The offensive game plan needs to be built around what QB Zach Wilson does best. 

It was apparent watching Wilson at BYU, and it was just as obvious watching him during his rookie season. Wilson is at his best when he is improvising. 

The Jets must come to this realization. They need to stop trying to get Wilson to conform to be something he is not. Wilson needs an offensive game plan filled with designed rollouts and one that is filled with trick plays. 

5. Focus on building the best special teams units in the NFL. 

The Jets need to attack free agency to find the best special teams players. This is the quickest and most economical way of improving a team. 

The top special teams’ coverage players (those who block and tackle) are under-appreciated and they are overlooked. They can be signed for next to nothing and they would give the Jets’ a distinct game day advantage.

Improvement on special teams would spell better starting field position for the offense and worse starting field position for opponents’ offense, which would put the Jets in better position to win.

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