What’s stopping the Jets from becoming the next Bengals?

Everyone has had that road construction area near their home that seems to take forever. Year after year there are cones and signs to drive around, leaving you wondering what they’re actually doing and if they’ll ever finish the project.

Sound familiar, Jets fans?

Sunday’s loss to the Bengals was another reminder that the Jets are still in the early or middle stages of a rebuild that sounds like this never-ending road-building project. The Jets have been rebuilding since 2012, and the end is not in sight.

There was hope that the Jets might be able to build momentum after the miraculous victory in Cleveland and find a way to surprise the Bengals and then the Steelers, who look beatable, but the Jets came out and played another uninspired game on Sunday.

Zach Wilson’s return this week will give some hope, but anyone who thinks Wilson can fix whatever ails the Jets is dreaming.

Here’s the hardest question the Jets have to answer right now: why can other teams turn things around so much faster than they have?

Zach Wilson’s return to the caucus could give the Jets a chance to assess their future, but he’s unlikely to significantly change their present.
bill kostrun

Sunday’s opponent recalled how fast you can go from low to high. The Bengals suffered a five-year playoff drought and were one of the worst teams in football in 2019 (remember when the winless Bengals beat the Jets?) before going to the Super Bowl last season . The team the Jets faced two weeks ago, the Browns, went from being one of the worst teams in the NFL to one of the most talented. It remains to be seen if they can make a deep run this year, but the talent is there. The 49ers, a team Robert Saleh knows well, went five straight seasons without a win before heading to the Super Bowl in 2019, and they have one of the best rosters in football.

Then there are the newcomers this year. The Dolphins are undefeated and are currently among the top five teams in the NFL. They knocked out the Bills (another team that not long ago was a doormat), and the questions about Tua Tagovailoa died down.

The Jaguars were the No. 1 team in 2021 when the Jets were No. 2. Trevor Lawrence, who the Jags took, looks like the real deal this year, and Doug Pederson makes Jacksonville look like it. The Jaguars are still far from being one of the best teams in football, but you can see reason to believe in them.

There are 16 teams that have had the top five picks in the last five drafts (2018-22). The Jets are one of them.

I’d say five of those franchises definitely hit the mark: the Browns, Bengals, 49ers, Dolphins, and Buccaneers. If you look at it, every team picked draft picks and made smart moves in free agency or trades and then found a quarterback. I would say quarterback was the final or near-final missing piece for a lot of them instead of being a draft pick that a team is built around.

Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Jacksonville Jaguars attempts a pass during the first half against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Inglewood, California.
A season after suffering a 3-14 rookie campaign, Trevor Lawrence transformed the Jaguars into one of the most surprising teams in the league.
Getty Images

The Buccaneers are obviously in a slightly different category with the unexpected arrival of Tom Brady. There is hardly any plan for the greatest quarterback of all time becoming available late in his career. But Jimmy Garoppolo was part of an influx of talent to San Francisco. The team also landed Trent Williams, Deebo Samuel, Fred Warner, Nick Bosa and George Kittle to add firepower to their roster. Who knows if Deshaun Watson will live up to his billing, but the Browns traded him and gave him a ridiculous contract after being frustrated by Baker Mayfield for not winning enough with the talent they have. Joe Burrow is great, but so is Ja’Marr Chase. The Dolphins turned aggressive and added Tyreek Hill to join Jaylen Waddle and a skilled defense to help Tagovailoa.

The lesson is that it’s not just the quarterback. You need talent all over the list.

The Jets don’t know Wilson yet, and their talent is mostly young and unproven. That’s why the Jets will again ask for patience to let potential stars such as Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, Elijah Moore and Michael Carter develop.

There is a second group of teams in this group of 16 that it looks like could round the corner, but which there are questions about. The Jaguars, Cardinals, Broncos, Raiders and Lions are in his squad.

The Cardinals and Raiders went to the playoffs last season, but they’re 1-5 combined this season and have plenty of issues. The Broncos brought in Russell Wilson and are 2-1, but they didn’t seem to do it well and there are big questions about coach Nathaniel Hackett.

The Lions have been playing hard but are 1-2, and may still be a year or two away. Detroit’s two losses are seven points combined. Unlike the Jets, they were in their losses until the end.

A team of 16 can be sent off as an outlier with a bad season. The Colts, who had the No. 3 pick in 2018, traded him to…the Jets, who used the pick to select Sam Darnold.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, top, jumps on Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson (7) while landing a first down at the 2-yard line in the first quarter of a NFL football game in Minneapolis, Sunday September 9, 25. 2022.
Fueled by Amon-Ra St. Brown’s acrobatics and 253 receiving yards, the Lions lost both games by a total of just seven points.

Finally, there are the teams that fall into the same category as the Jets: the Commanders, the Giants, the Texans and the Falcons. All feel like they are at the start of a rebuild or their tires are spinning.

Some may see coaching as a key part of the equation, and yes, it can be. Kyle Shanahan has clearly changed things in San Francisco. Pederson seems to have had a major effect in Jacksonville.

Yet some of these talented teams have shown that it is possible to overcome poor coaching. Talented coaches, however, cannot overcome mediocre players – see Belichick, Bill.

So until Zach Wilson proves himself or the talent base expands, Jets fans will continue to watch other teams fly past them on the Contenders Highway. It still feels like the Jets are stuck in traffic caused by more construction.

Not close enough

Jets head coach Robert Saleh looks at the scoreboard in the second quarter.  Cincinnati Jets and Bengals in East Rutherford, NJ.
Of the 15 losses Robert Saleh has overseen during his time with the Jets, 10 of them are in the double digits.
bill kostrun

Sunday’s 27-12 loss to the Bengals was the 43rd times the Jets have lost by double digits since 2016. That’s staggering — and a huge reason why the fan base is so uneasy. I think Jets fans would be okay with the losses right now…if the team was at least competitive. But they’re tired of seeing the Jets look uncompetitive.

Sunday’s game wasn’t a blast, but did you ever think the Jets could win the game after losing 14-6? The game ended in the second quarter…again.

Robert Saleh needs to find a way to ensure that his team at least stays close in matches while they find their footing.

Saleh has lost 15 games as Jets head coach, 10 of them by double figures and four of them by 21 points or more.

No one expects the Jets to win every game. But when a game ends before half-time, that’s a problem.

The statistics are so

Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets is rushed by LaMarr Woodley #56 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game December 19, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Mark Sanchez holds the distinction of being the only Jets quarterback to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh, which he did in 2010.
Getty Images

The Jets are 1-10 all-time in Pittsburgh against the Steelers. Here is a list of all their games out there:

November 8, 1970: L, 21-17
QB winner: Terry Hanratty; Losing QB: Al Woodall
October 21, 1973: L, 26-14
QB winner: Terry Bradshaw; Losing QB: Bill Demory
September 20, 1981: L, 38-10
QB winner: Terry Bradshaw; Losing QB: Richard Todd
September 13, 1992: L, 27-10
QB winner: Neil O’Donnell; Losing QB: Browning Nagle
December 9, 2001: L, 18-7
QB winner: Kordell Stewart; Losing QB: Vinny Testaverde
December 12, 2004: L, 17-6
QB winner: Ben Roethlisberger; Losing QB: Chad Pennington
January 15, 2005*: L, 20-17
QB winner: Ben Roethlisberger; Losing QB: Chad Pennington
Dec 19 2010: W, 22-17
QB winner: Mark Sanchez; Losing QB: Ben Roethlisberger
January 23, 2011*: L, 24-19
QB winner: Ben Roethlisberger; Losing QB: Mark Sanchez
September 16, 2012: L, 27-10
QB winner: Ben Roethlisberger; Losing QB: Mark Sanchez
October 9, 2016: L, 31-13
QB winner: Ben Roethlisberger; Losing QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick

* Elimination game

New York Post

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