After a rollercoaster 2023 season, Jets general manager Joe Douglas' message was clear.
"We need to win," he told reporters Monday afternoon. "My record is not good enough and I know that. Everything we do moving forward is to win. That's all that matters."
Douglas, now entering his fifth season with the Green & White, designed a roster that finished with the same 7-10 record as the 2022 season. Although both teams dealt with a slew of injuries along the offensive line, this team's story is different than last season's. The tale of this season was written four snaps into the opener against Buffalo when future Hall of Fame QB Aaron Rodgers ruptured his Achilles tendon in his first game with his new team.
"When I think back to any championship team I've been a part of whether it's high school, college or professional ball, the storyline how the team is defined is most often how they've overcome adversity," Douglas said. "That's the storyline because every team has adversity. Sitting here as the general manager and for the last two years, having our team defined by not being able to overcome the adversity, that's a tough thing and that's directly on me. I take ownership of that.
"Moving forward, it's about learning from some of the decisions that didn't work out. Not repeating those decisions, putting the absolute best plan in place that you can. There are a lot of good players on this team and it's really not as far away as it looks right now. I think we are in position to succeed moving forward. It's going to take reflection, obviously not repeating mistakes to reach our goals, but they are within reach."
The Green & White have a talented young core thanks in large part to Douglas' draft in 2022 that brought CB Sauce Gardner, WR Garrett Wilson, LB Jermaine Johnson and RB Breece Hall to Florham Park. Players will come and go over the next few months and Douglas will have difficult choices to make like all of his counterparts. One of the more high-profile decisions will be whether to re-sign DE Bryce Huff, who was a part of Douglas' first undrafted-free-agent class in 2020. He led the team with a career-high 10 sacks.
"Bryce is a great player-development success story," Douglas said. "For an undrafted free agent to come in and finish his contract year with 10 sacks, that's a special thing and he's well-deserving of his all his success. This is part of the business. Bryce isn't the only free agent we want back. We're getting with our group, talking about the gameplan through the offseason and the best way to proceed. Whether it's Bryce, Ashtyn [Davis], Mekhi [Becton] or any of the free agents, it's important to have that discussion and determine what the best role for them is and how we want to pursue those guys. Couldn't be more proud of Bryce and what he's accomplished."
Huff has been a bright spot and while Douglas' process has led to successful player acquisitions through each avenue, such as D.J. Reed (free agency), LB Quincy Williams (waiver claim), two-time Pro Bowl CB Sauce Gardner (No. 4 overall pick in 2022) and Huff (undrafted free agency) to name a few. But the NFL is a results-driven business and every GM, including Douglas, misses.
In the short term, Douglas will meet with his staff and the coaching staff to create a gameplan for the next few months that, chronologically, includes the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, free agency and the draft – where the Green & White hold the No. 10 overall pick.
"I feel like our decision-making process as a whole, I don't think there needs to be any foundational changes in terms of terms of that because I feel like some of the same processes that led to some of our mistakes have also led to some pretty big hits," Douglas said. "It's going back and tweaking the process, the meeting process and the decision process. Determining exactly where we went wrong and determine what were the reasons that we made successful decisions."