General Manager Joe Douglas, 1.9
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Opening Statement: What’s up guys, thanks for being here. Obviously, was hoping to have this conversation much later in January or February, than having it right now. Obviously, it’s been a surreal three and a half, four months. Coming out of the gate the way we did, 6-3, overcoming some of the obstacles early in training camp, the injuries, coming off 6-3, having a huge win at home against Buffalo, that was surreal in a positive way, and then, now on the flip side with how we finished the season with this six-game losing streak, that’s surreal in the negative way. So, obviously a lot of work to be done this offseason, I know when I talked to you guys in the past, one of the things that I said is it’s going to be a good season of we were playing meaningful games in December. Well, when you get to December at 7-4, that target changes. So, we were fully expecting to be playing beyond January and we weren’t able to get that done, and obviously, a lot of things to go over. We’re going to begin our offseason process now. Starting with, I know I’ve said it before, one of the most important meetings we have is our end of season meeting with the coaching staff. So, we’re going to start that process this week. You know just in regards to Zach (Wilson), I’m going to echo Robert (Saleh) in a lot of what he says and philosophically, we’ve never been a team that’s given up on talent early and we all know the talent that Zach possesses, so we’re going to do what we’ve done with every player and that’s work with Zach, develop Zach, and we’re going to do everything we can to ultimately help Zach reach his full potential here.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Joe, how complicated is it with Zach (Wilson) where you still don’t really know yet? Obviously, you’ve seen the talent, but it hasn’t worked out for two years now? When you’re going into year three next year with Robert’s (Saleh) staff and them, quietly or tacitly playoffs are probably somewhat of a mandate, so how do you balance that by putting all of your, potentially all of your eggs in the Zach basket versus maybe bringing in a veteran? What’s your thought on that?
Yeah, I think again, Mark, it starts with, our offseason starts with these meetings with the coaches. We’re going to really, I think it’s important for us to go back and have really tough, hard conversations about how we got to this point, and I think honestly that started today. The last two weeks have been a little dark for me personally, but actually a little bit of light today just talking to some of our players in the exit interviews, and they’re obviously frustrated, but they’re also very optimistic about a lot of things that are going on here, but just on the quarterback, we’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of getting together, going over everything that got us to this point, and then moving forward, making sure we have the best plan, not only for a certain position room, but for the entire organization.
Connor Hughes, SNY: Do you anticipate Zach being this team’s starting quarterback at the beginning of next year?
One, that determination isn’t by me. That’s really a Robert question. (I) had a great conversation with Zach today, and I know we are all committed to helping him reach his full potential as a player. Look, there’s a lot of things that we can do better to help him, so we’re going to get together and discuss all of those things.
Tom Rock, Newsday: Can you tolerate developing him on the field next year as the quarterback, active during games, or do you need to bring somebody else in?
I think, again, we’re going to look at the landscape of this overall offseason. It’s not just one position room. Yes, we are going to continue to develop Zach. How that quarterback room looks next year, look, we are at the very infant stages of putting this offseason plan together, but we’re going to explore every single avenue we have to upgrade this team, upgrade this roster.
Connor Hughes, SNY: You talked about exploring every potential avenue to upgrade the roster. Does that include potentially trading for a quarterback? Is that something you’re open to or something that you would consider?
I mean, again, that’s a hypothetical I’d say. I think, again, as it pertains to upgrading the roster, we’re going to look at every avenue, every position, every different way we can to upgrade the team.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Joe, you had a belief in Zach in April of ’21, to take him number two overall, you saw things that you believed in. Has this organization not properly developed him, to be sitting where we are right now?
Look, I think there’s things we could’ve done better, sure, but I think the most important thing from our end is that we still believe in Zach. We know the makeup that he brings, the character that he has. Everything he brings from a work ethic, competitive standpoint, and we’re going to do everything in our power to help support him.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Joe, your defense obviously is statistically one of the best in the League this season, but offense didn’t score a touchdown the last three games, over that six-game losing streak, the offense wasn’t really scoring much. How do you kind of process the disparity there? I think it’s pretty clear that the offense was maybe holding back what the defense was doing.
Yeah, look, you can’t argue the facts on not scoring touchdowns the last three games. Certainly, wasn’t a lack of effort, I feel like these guys, they busted their butt every day in practice and the defense, the defense was obviously a championship-caliber defense this year, and so those are things that we’re going to get together as a group and go over specifically where we can get better as a team and as an offense. Specifically, where we can attack and upgrade different position groups.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Joe, I have a two-parter on Zach. Football wise, why didn’t it happen for him this year? Just from a technical standpoint, football wise, why didn’t he develop as you had hoped?
Well, look I think, you guys were here for the start of training camp. I think you guys saw that there was a lot of positives going on with the entire team, and obviously, when an injury happens in the first preseason game, that’s obviously a setback. You miss a lot of valuable reps with two teams coming in here, well excuse me, Atlanta came in here and we went to the Giants, and those were really good opportunities to get reps against different defenses than your own, so look, I think there’s a lot of reasons, I think there’s things we could’ve done better to help Zach, but I think just the consistency of being available, especially at that early part, that critical early part of training camp, but still, he came back and he brought us back from a 10 point deficit at Pittsburgh. We went on a little bit of a run there, but we just couldn’t get the right level of consistency as an entire offense.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Just the second part of it is, when he got benched after the New England game, where were you on that? Were you in favor of that, did you support that one?
Yeah, so, anytime there’s a decision like that, and Robert’s so good about his communication, we bounced different ideas off each other, we had conversations. Ultimately, Robert made the decision to go with Mike (White), and I supported it, I supported his decision.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Joe, part of your evaluation, obviously the guys coming back, Breece (Hall) and AVT (Alijah Vera-Tucker) particularly went down same time, and even Mekhi (Becton) who looked in the locker room like he was in much better shape. What do you think this team looks like with those guys back healthy next year?
Yeah, look, I think when I talked about consistency and stability with the whole offense, I think you can go right there with the offensive line. I think, we come into training camp and it’s going to be George (Fant) and Laken (Tomlinson) and Connor (McGovern) and AVT and Mekhi, and that quickly changed, right? And so, we get Duane (Brown) in here and we lose Duane in a non-padded practice for four weeks, so there’s change there. Max (Mitchell) comes in, does a great job filling in, so I guess my big point is it was hard to find a level of consistency and stability within that group this year and despite all of the change upfront, I really felt like we were in a good place after that first Buffalo game, you guys remember that fourth quarter drive, our last offensive drive. I think it was a six-minute drive, we were running the ball really well, felt like we had really gotten over the hump, and we were playing with a banged up unit with backups. We felt like we’d maybe gotten over that hump, but again there was obviously more changes and less stability, so ultimately, I think we, in an ideal scenario, you got your starting five and all of them are playing together all year. Maybe that’s not realistic, but that’s going to be the goal moving forward, is trying to find five guys that can play together all year.
Brian Costello, New York Post: How do you view Mekhi (Becton) now entering, he hasn’t played in two years? Do you view him as a starter, or can you not go there right now?
This is a big offseason for Mekhi, and I think he understands that. I think, certainly, our offensive line has missed what he can do for the last two seasons. This is a big offseason for him. Obviously, it’s going to be important that he’s able to hit the ground running, be in the best shape that he can be, and that’s going to make for a healthy 2023 for him.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Quinnen (Williams) was in here and he said that he wants a contract extension by the start of OTAs or he’ll hold out. I know it is a priority of yours, but is that something that you want to get done soon?
Obviously, we all saw the year that Quinnen had. Quinnen, you can’t say enough good things about not only the player, what he brings in terms of playing the run, rushing the passer, the type of teammate and caliber person he is. Ultimately, Quinnen is a big part of our success this year. We’re going to get together as a group, we’re going to go over our plan. I feel like we have a great football admin team in Dave Socie, Nick Sabella. We’re going to get together and come up with a very good plan and move forward. We are definitely going to do what’s in the best interest of the team and the organization.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: There’s a lot of speculation ending the year like this, with Robert’s staff and in particular the offensive struggles with Mike (LaFleur). What if any input do you have with Robert on that, and is Woody (Johnson) involved in that?
I would say like previous questions about the post-New England game. Robert and I have a lot of great conversations. Robert has a thought or an idea or if he has a question, we have a great rapport and we’re able to have great conversations about everything. I feel like Robert has a really good feel on this team and his staff. I trust and support any decision that Robert makes. I can tell you that we’ve gotten full support from Woody, starting from since he’s come back, and I think you saw that with the offseason we were able to have last year, going out and being able to get players that could help this team. I know we have Woody’s support.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: (follow up) Just to clarify, are you saying that at the end of the day, you trust Robert’s decision making on that? So, it’s his call, ultimately then?
Connor Hughes, SNY: I think we’re going to get a chance to talk to Woody a little later on this week, but we haven’t to this point. Rich (Cimini) actually had a report a couple days ago that he isn’t exactly thrilled with the way the season ended. What have your conversations with Woody been like because you are someone who has talked to him a little bit more than us?
None of us are thrilled, obviously. We all want to win. We are all highly competitive. No one wants to win more than Woody, more than the Johnson family. These conversations that we have are very productive. Again, he’s been very supportive about giving us what we need to succeed.
Brian Costello, New York Post: How would you assess the job Robert did, Joe?
I think we had a lot of curveballs thrown. Robert does such a good job with his staff and communicating with these players. Look, we’re all devastated to be where we are right now, but I think Robert’s final message to the team was unbelievable today. We’re going to have these opportunities again moving forward, and ultimately, we have to finish. We have to go out there and finish games, finish the season. So, we all need to take the next step individually and together as a group. I love Robert and I love the passion that he brings. We share the same philosophy on what makes good teams good. There’s no other teammate I’d rather be with.
Tom Rock, Newsday: As you look around the League now and the way the game is played, do teams need an elite quarterback or can you make up for those deficiencies elsewhere on the roster?
Yeah, obviously you’ve seen, I think generationally there’s what maybe four or five quarterbacks every generation that are really that top notch player from the (Dan) Marino, Joe Montana, Steve Young to the (Troy) Aikmen, Brett Favre group to Peyton Manning, Tom Brady. Now, it seems like we’re in a whole new generation. As far as my experience in the League, it’s a team sport and the ultimate team sport, and so quarterback is, I stand by, the most important position in all sports, but ultimately, it’s a team sport and you have to have a great group of people around them to support them.
Connor Hughes, SNY: Joe, is it possible, in your opinion, you know, we’ve seen young quarterbacks get drafted and sit and then play eventually, is it possible to have a quarterback like the situation might be presented with Zach where he played right away, now he’s going to sit for a little bit and then he’s going to go back out there with the same team and be a starting quarterback in the NFL?
Look, I think you’ve seen many different ways that quarterbacks, other players have been able to overcome adversity whether they sit early, sit late, there’s all different ways that people can come back. I think ultimately if you have the right kind of mental toughness and perseverance which I know Zach has, there’s a lot of obstacles you can overcome, and I think we’re going to do everything we can to help Zach reach all of his goals.
Andy Vasquez, NJ Advance Media: Given what you just said about the quarterback position, it seems like if you guys had gotten play just overall consistently out of that position, you might still be playing right now, so how disappointing is that given what you said when you were hired as well and how important is it to fix it quickly?
Obviously, I would echo what Robert said at the end of his talk today, consistency is going to be the name of the game and that doesn’t go just quarterback. I mean that goes every position group, but obviously, we’re all hurting about where we are right now, opposed to where we started the season, so again it goes back, it really goes back to getting together, having tough conversations, how we got to this point because only if you really open up those wounds and talk about it can you really start the healing process and start to get better.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Just wanted to clarify something you said on Quinnen, you said you’re going to come up with a plan for Quinnen?
Just to clarify that, not just for Quinnen, it’s going to be an overall plan on kind of where we are, but as it pertains to our salary cap situation, which we feel like we still maintain a ton of flexibility.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: (follow up) I guess what I was asking was because usually when we ask you about a player who’s coming up for a big contract, you usually say we love so and so we want him here for a long time, I don’t want to put words in your mouth?
No, no more Jet for Life comments for me, but obviously, Quinnen, we all love Quinnen. Quinnen’s 25, he’s had a fantastic season, so still think there’s a lot of upside for him, so yeah, we want Quinnen here.