While Jets GM Joe Douglas was encouraged by the growth his young team showed on the field in the 2021 season and is excited about the offseason ahead, he first looked inward when discussing what needed improvement at the team's season-ending news conference on Monday.
"For me I have to do a better job," he said. "This is going to be my third offseason and I've got to do a better job and make better decisions moving forward. I have to help [head] coach Saleh put this team in position to win more games."
With Robert Saleh seated to his left, Douglas talked about providing a better roster for the coaching staff after the club finished 4-13 in 2021 after a 2-14 campaign in 2002.
"We need to be better than 4 wins," Douglas said. "We need to be better than 6 wins in two years. There's no question about that. The impetus is on us to bring in the right type of person, the right type of people, and closing out games in the fourth quarter."
For the second consecutive season, the Jets failed to win a game inside the AFC East. They also played the entire campaign without DE Carl Lawson (Achilles tendon tear) and T Mekhi Becton (knee) and had 14 players finish the seasonyear on injured reserve, including S Marcus Maye.
"We have to better, specifically in the division," Douglas said. "We have to win divisional games. We have a lot of work to do moving forward, we need to get better across the board. I can tell you that our focus this offseason is going to be improving the team, notice that I said improving the team and not just acquire talent.
"Not only improving the team but keeping the team healthy. I think this is the second year we had the most cap dollars on injured reserve, and it's hard to win games when you're constantly banged up. So, those are going to be primary focuses in this offseason."
Douglas, who led the Jets' coaching search that brought Saleh to the Jets last January, praised Saleh and his staff for their ability to connect with players and foster the development of one of the league's youngest rosters.
"I can tell you there's a lot of excitement with our players, and that has to do primarily with the man to my left [Saleh], and the job he and his staff have done this year," Douglas said. "Just talking about Coach and his staff, when we set out to find the right person to lead this franchise, some of the biggest things we were looking for was someone who could teach, who could inspire, and who can lead. We have that in Coach Saleh and his staff and we're fortunate to call him a teammate and can't praise him and his staff enough for the player development job they took on this year. A monumental player development task with as many first- and second-year players that we had. He and his staff didn't dip their toe in the water, they cannon-balled in. I appreciate the way they attacked that and you can see the growth from our young team as the season progressed."
Douglas and Saleh are in lockstep as they enter Year 2 together and their relationship continues to evolve.
"I think what's very clear even though people may not see it, the way Joe and I see football is identical," Saleh said. "We believe it starts in the trenches, we believe in the same character, we believe in the type of player, we believe and see things very similarly. His ability to challenge me from a coaching standpoint, my ability to challenge him with regards to being a GM, the conversations we can have without anyone taking it personal is healthy. I think because of it, there's a lot of trust between Joe's staff and the coaching staff. Because of that, I think we can make very sound decisions that are in the best interest of the team moving forward. I think it's awesome and we're set up to have a really cool offseason. I'm really looking forward to not only bringing in new guys, but the challenge of continuing to develop the guys who are here. Both as coaches, players, scheme, all of it. It's something that we have to embrace and I think it's something we do embrace."
The Jets have financial flexibility to retain players and be active on the market, but Douglas believes the best organizations build through the draft and develop in-house. The Jets own nine draft picks, including two in the top 10 and four selections in the top 38. That kind of capital could pave the way for trades down the line.
"I think you're constantly evolving," Douglas said. "There are some core philosophies that don't change, but you have to be open to seeing how things are done and maybe adopting certain principles. Where we are now with the assets we have, we have great flexibility to be aggressive in a lot of different avenues. Those are going to be vital conversations that Coach and I have along with Christopher [Johnson] and Woody [Johnson]. We're excited about this offseason, we're excited about attacking free agency, the draft and the Combine."
Less than 24 hours after the Jets lost their regular-season finale at Buffalo and watched the Bills celebrate a second consecutive division championship, Douglas talked of flipping the team's landscape next winter.
"The goal is to be playing very meaningful games as the season progresses next year," he said.
Jets GM Joe Douglas was pleased with the way Zach Wilson finished the season over the team's final seven games while accounting for 9 TDs with only 3 turnovers. "The strides that you saw Zach make after coming back from the injury, and on top of that, not always being in position to be playing with all his starters at all the skill spots at wide receiver, tight end, running back, but to improve, to keep the team in contention late in these games. On top of it, taking care of the football. I think those were all impressive things in the back half of the season, so I feel very confident about him moving forward."
After undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee in late September, T Mekhi Becton was expected to miss 4-to-8 weeks. But he never got back on the field and was limited to action in only the regular-season opener at Carolina. "Obviously we want Mekhi back on the field," Douglas said. "Mekhi wants to be back on the field. I think for him, attacking this offseason, coming back in the best possible shape he can be in, and I expect big things from him next year. We all want Mekhi back."
While 2020 fifth-round pick Bryce Hall had an outstanding second season and 2020 third-round pick Ashtyn Davis got some valuable reps at safety, the 2020 Jets draft class remains a work in progress. "I would say at this checkpoint it's probably not where it needs to be as a group," Douglas said. "But there's no one giving up on these players. Look, every player develops differently, at different rates. I'm sure if you asked some of these players, they would say they were disappointed in their season. But at the end of the day no one's giving up on these players, Coach certainly isn't giving up on those guys, you know we fully expect them to come back in the offseason ready to roll."
Asked ifabout whether the Jets have had discussions with DT Quinnen Williams about a long-term deal, Douglas said those conversations haven't begun but he wants his talented DT here for the long haul. "Obviously Quinnen is a valuable member of this team and a valuable member of this front," Douglas said. "He does a lot of positive things and finished the year with 6 sacks and there's a lot of things that he does that disrupts the game. He is a player that we all value and appreciate and want to keep here for a long time."