The New York Jets have provided a road map to the best circus in town, where laughter is guaranteed even if winning isn’t.
Nearly 10 months after general manager Joe Douglas revealed that “the plan is to create the best culture in sports,” the wayward franchise has been lampooned by everyone from diehard fans to “Saturday Night Live.”
NFL players, coaches and executives giggle behind their backs. Gang Green has morphed into something much worse than just a bad team.
They’re a punchline.
Dubious leadership has created a fissure exasperated by a snake oil salesman on the sideline. The GM has taken no accountability. And a placeholder owner has been perpetually mocked for bestowing brilliance upon a charlatan.
Winning organizations are filled with doers. The 0-5 Jets, who face the Dolphins on the road Sunday, are talkers.
They like to talk about doing this or creating that. They toss out grandiose (and delusional) phrases like “coaching football to where it’s going” with the desperate hope that fans will follow like sheep.
Never mind that they rarely produce.
While others efficiently and quickly rebuild, the Jets are about to miss the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season. While others hire smart, creative coaches, the Jets have backed themselves into a corner with the worst one.
While others entrust their franchise to multitaskers who think on their feet in a fast-moving, unforgiving environment, the Jets have a plodding neophyte whose nearly every move has underwhelmed to this point.
To the Jets’ credit, it takes hard work to be this bad.
Best culture in sports?
The Jets won’t even have the best culture inside Hard Rock Stadium this weekend.
That belongs to the Miami Dolphins, who traded Adam Gase for Brian Flores last year with the promise of ridding themselves of a malodorous air.
Flores embodies leadership. Flores provides real hope for better days for a proud franchise. Flores is everything that his predecessor isn’t.
“It’s important to be authentic,” Flores said this week. “I don’t have all the answers. I tell the players that. But I’m constantly working to find the right answer. It’s about being genuine. At the end of the day, I’ll have peace with my actions and the things I say regardless of how things go.”
“Leadership is about service,” Flores continued. “How do I serve the players? How do I serve my coaching staff? Those are things that I’m constantly trying to think about as I’m going through the day. It’s not always about yelling and screaming. Obviously, I’m demanding also. Players will tell you that. I think this role is about service. How do I get other people to play, coach, operate at their optimum level? That’s constantly on my mind.”
The Jets should want all those qualities in their next head coach if they truly want to improve the culture. Flores, frankly, has so many qualities that Douglas should prioritize when searching for Gase’s replacement.
It’ll be incumbent upon Douglas, whose litany of missteps in his first 16 months on the job has contributed to Gang Green’s laughingstock status, to practice what he has preached when recommending a new head coach to Woody Johnson.
Douglas reiterated his “best culture in sports” platform in April by maintaining that it “all revolves around bringing in the right people.” The Jets did not respond to requests to make Douglas available for this story.
Le’Veon Bell was the latest well-liked and talented player run off by this regime, but the Jets are still attempting to sell a fairytale that they’re headed in the right direction.
“We’re working on creating a culture that we’ve tried to build here in the last year,” said Gase, who consistently disparaged Bell behind the scenes since his arrival. “I think our locker room is pretty good right now.”
The elephant in the room: Gase’s locker room approval rating is circling the drain.
Regardless, Douglas has plenty of work ahead to reverse course after Gase is gone.
“It’s going to take people with the right level of commitment, character and competence,” Douglas said after last season about his desire for a culture shift. “Every person, every player that we bring into this building… they’re going to be assessed on their fit within our culture. They’re ability to help us achieve our ultimate goal, which is to win a Super Bowl year in and year out.”
Words mean nothing without action.
Douglas must take a long look in the mirror if his plan has any chance of coming to fruition. Gase ultimately will get the ax, but that doesn’t excuse the GM for many dubious decisions since taking over.
Douglas will have a chance — his only chance — soon enough to hire a head coach and create a winning culture to shut down the circus.
(Manish Mehta is a sports columnist and reporter for the New York Daily News.)
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