General Manager Joe Douglas, 4.6

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Opening Statement…

Thank you for being here. I know this was in my statement yesterday, but I want to start off by thanking Sam (Darnold) again for everything he did in his time here with the Jets, his hard work, his dedication, his professionalism. As we said when the season ended, we were going to be in evaluation mode. Based on those evaluations, we’re comfortable with the direction we’re going. Just a timeline of how we got to this point, obviously, having the number two pick in the draft, I think it’s safe to say that if our pick was a little later, we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now. We’d fully be comfortable moving forward with Sam. I think there were a lot of discussions that led to this decision, a lot of different rabbit holes that we went down, a lot of productive talks with Coach (Robert Saleh), with Mike (LaFleur), with Woody (Johnson) and Christopher (Johnson) that led to this decision. And ultimately, we felt like this was a decision that was best for all parties. I could tell you guys, as well, that there was even a discussion about us taking a quarterback at pick number two and having Sam here for the season. And ultimately, we felt that that wouldn’t be the best situation for Sam, the rookie quarterback, Coach Saleh and his staff, and the locker room. We felt like this was the best decision for the entire organization moving forward, in hitting the reset button. I’m not going to get into how many teams we spoke with but ultimately, at the end of the day, we felt really good with the value and the compensation we were able to get from Carolina. So, as we’re sitting here now, we have a lot of opportunity in front of us, 21 picks in the next two drafts, including 10 in the first 3 rounds. But with that opportunity, we know we have to make the most of it and hit on these picks.


Rich Cimini, ESPN: Hey Joe, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it sounds like you’re pretty locked in on a quarterback at number two. Is that fair? And to follow on that, would you consider moving down if someone came to you with an attractive trade offer?

Yeah, I think that’s a fair assessment to say, Rich. I think based on the decision we made yesterday, you can kind of see the direction we’re heading. When it comes to pick two, obviously never say never. Like I’ve said to you guys in the past, I’ll always answer the phone if it’s ringing.


Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Joe, I was wondering, you obviously have taken pretty strong control of this team. I mean, you played a big role in hiring the head coach. You now are going to have your hand-picked quarterback under center. You’re going to have your players you’ve signed, your players you’ve drafted. Do you feel any additional pressure to get this right because your fingerprints are all over this team now?

I think you feel pressure every day you walk into the building. You want to do this job to the best of your ability. You want to take the information that you have at hand and make the best possible decisions that you can make. But we do that together. We do that as a unit. And working day in and day out with Coach Saleh and his staff, working day in day out with Christopher and Woody, there’s been great conversations over the last few weeks and months leading up to this point.


Ralph Vacchiano, Joe, you said that you’re locked in on a quarterback. I know you’re not going to tell us which quarterback, but have you decided on which quarterback that is or are you still evaluating who you’re going to take?

Yeah, I think as we sit here now, and I’ll get with you guys again (before the) draft. We’ll have another availability leading up to the draft. But look, we still have our process that needs to be worked through. Next week, we’re getting together with our scouts and the coaches. We’re going through draft meetings. We’re going through every player. So, there’s certainly some meat left on the bone when it comes to our draft process.


Kim Jones, NFL Network: Hey Joe, what did you learn from what did not work for Sam and around Sam but has to work with your next young quarterback?

Yeah, Kim, I think when you’re coming off a 2-14 season, there’s not a lot of things that did work. I think moving forward, we didn’t really talk about in the opening statement, just the initial few weeks of free agency. There’s a lot of people fired up in this building about, not only the talent that we brought into the building and in the locker room, but the caliber of character that we signed and brought into this locker room. So, we talk about those acquisitions and then, like I mentioned earlier, these assets that we have through the draft. And so, it’s incumbent on us to get these decisions right, whether it’s turning the card in, turning the pick in or trading for a proven commodity. We have to surround our next quarterback with as much talent as possible.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Joe, piggybacking off of that, do you feel like you guys, as an organization failed in that regard with Sam? And I know you weren’t here for the entire time of Sam’s stead, but do you feel, as an organization, you guys failed in that regard?

Yeah. I mean, just to piggyback off the last answer coming off of 2-14 season, there’s not a lot of successes. And look, I mean, there’s a lot of things go into why this didn’t work out and ultimately, we have to look forward, and like I said, keep bringing in high quality players, high quality people and drafting and/or trading for high caliber people and players moving forward.


Bruce Beck, WNBC: Joe, is this trade a statement that the unknown, the draft, even though we might have an idea of who that is, is better than the known, Sam Darnold, and is it better for the future of the Jets, in your mind?

I wouldn’t say that. I think we feel really good about this draft class. Obviously, there is an unknown factor when you’re talking about rookies and young players, but ultimately the amount of work that our coaching staff has put into this draft class and now the work that our scouts have put into a draft class, we feel good about the type of person we are going to be able to bring in. I would say that we’re looking forward to getting these meetings next week and just talking about all these players, hammering out any differences we might have. There’s going to be a lot of open, productive conversations, and getting the right guys for us.


Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Joe, when did you fill Sam on your ideas or your plans? I mean, did you let him know when the trade went down? Did you give him a heads up, “Hey, we’re looking to trade you?” Did you give him an idea of teams you were talking to? And what were your conversations like with him over the last few days?

Yeah, had a great conversation with Sam yesterday. Like I tell you guys all the time, I’m not going to get into the specifics, but Sam’s a first-class human being. And a pro’s pro. And I really respect Sam. And I’m rooting for Sam and I know he’s going to be successful.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Joe, I had a philosophy question for you, as a scout. How do you factor the caliber of opponents that a player faced in college when you’re scouting a college player?

I think you just grade the tape that you have. I think there’s a lot of arguments that can be made about strength of schedule. Ultimately, that’s not the player’s decision. I’ve been around players from every level of football that have been successful. Unfortunately, we only had one All-Star game. One of the coolest things for me every year is to see small school players line up against big school players at either the East-West game or the Senior Bowl or the NFLPA All-Star game and see them compete day in and day out against (each other). A Wisconsin-Whitewater player competing against a player from the University of Alabama. Those are great opportunities, and you love to see how guys react. So unfortunately, there was only one All-Star game just to see that this year, but you try to measure, what you try to do is evaluate a lot of the intangibles in players from those smaller schools in those kinds of situations, their competitive makeup, their will to win, their desire, their heart. Those are the things you try to really focus in on, which is why this isn’t an exact science.


Rich Cimini, ESPN: In your conversations with Carolina, did the number two pick ever come up?

Yeah, I would say, Rich, there were conversations with a lot of teams leading up to yesterday, but I will say that there was never any meaningful discussions about pick number two.


Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Joe, you obviously have done a pretty decent job of acquiring draft picks with the 21 over the next few years including a ton of them within the first four rounds. With this number of selections and this number of premium selections, how quickly do you believe you can turn this team from 2-14, one of the worst in the league, to one that you believe can be a contender?

I mean, look, we’re going to get in the draft room next week as a group of the scouts and the coaches and roll up our sleeves and come to a consensus on the right type of person that we’re looking for. And so ultimately, with the premium picks, your first, second, third-round picks, those are the picture you’re looking to become starters on your team. So, those ultimately end up being the picks that you spend the most time talking about. But also, the mid and late-round picks, there’s so much value in those two as we’ve seen through the years how many fantastic players have come from fifth, sixth, seventh rounds. Like I said earlier, we do have a lot of assets as we sit here now but we have to make the most of this opportunity.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Was there ever a thought to holding on to Sam and using the number two pick for more weapons or something you could do with the line, whatever it may be? Did that ever come into play?

Yeah, we went through just about every scenario you could possibly discuss. That was certainly one of the scenarios we discussed. We felt ultimately, at the end of the day, this was an opportunity. We feel really good about the draft class as a whole and the quarterback class specifically that this was an opportunity to hit the reset button financially, so to speak.


Rich Cimini, ESPN: Joe, I have a two-part question real quick. Presumably, you’re going to add an experienced quarterback at some point. Do you have people in mind? Would that come through trade or free agency or what are your plans for that?

So, when it comes to the quarterback room, I’d tell you, Rich, that we’re really excited about James Morgan and Mike White. And I know you guys didn’t get a chance to really see them. Obviously, they didn’t get an opportunity with no preseason games this year, but really excited about those two guys. And I would just say, as in any room on our team, if there is an opportunity to add to it, make it a little bit better, we’re going to pursue that opportunity. So, there’s constant discussion in our pro scouting department with our coaching staff on not just the quarterback room possibly adding to it but every other position as well.


Bruce Beck, WNBC: Hey, Joe. Sam Darnold was the number one pick in 2018. Jamal Adams was the number one pick in 2017. Leonard Williams was the number one pick in 2015. Players are selected by the Jets and then traded. So, what do you say to the fans in terms of not keeping guys that you select and often groom and I understand quite well that a lot of this is not part of your regime.

Yeah. Bruce, and to everybody, I would say when I walked in this building in June of 2019, I never thought we’d be sitting here and talking about what you just said, trading Leonard, trading Jamal. I know Darron Lee was traded before I even took this job, now, Sam. Ultimately, we want, and I’ve said it before, we want to be a great team that drafts, develops and retains their players, not draft, develop and trade. Like I said earlier, you try to take the information you have at hand and try to make the best decision that you can moving forward. And ultimately, these decisions were made. We were able to acquire assets to help us moving forward. We’ve only had the opportunity to turn the card in on one of those assets when we took Ashtyn Davis last year in the third round. So, like I said earlier, we have to make the most of these opportunities with these assets.


Kim Jones, NFL Network: Hey Joe, if I may. And I want to be clear that I don’t think you should give a darn what I think, but as we talk about the human side of all of this, Sam never complained. Sam had Adam Gase’s back throughout a brutal season. Sam’s a really good guy. And I just wonder in your heart, does it bother you or does it affect you at all that you had to trade away to do what’s best for the franchise a really good young player who likely hasn’t met his peak in football and as a person, is about as solid as it gets?

Yeah, Kim, Sam’s a stud. Sam’s one of my most favorite people on the team, just from a personality, work ethic, toughness standpoint. And when you make decisions like this, obviously there’s a human element to it and you hate losing good people. But ultimately, like I said, I do feel Sam’s best football is in front of him and feel good about his landing spot too, no different than you felt good about Avery Williamson’s landing spot and Steven McLendon’s landing spot. These were good situations for them. Ultimately, we want to be the team that becomes a good landing spot, okay. We want to be that team. And so that’s what we’re working towards.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Along those same lines, the decision at quarterback has been dissected and discussed by all of us in the media for the last three or four months and really hammered through. For you, the guy who ultimately, this is your decision in concert with other people in the organization, how difficult was this? And just how much wrestling did you do with this over the past four months?

Like I said, a lot of good productive discussions led up to this decision. And there’s back and forth and ultimately, everyone was on the same page about how this can help our team moving forward. But certainly not an easy decision.


Rich Cimini, ESPN: What did you think of Steve Young’s comments on the radio? Apparently, he did some detective work and spoke to some members of the coaching staff and he said the Jets are, “committed to Zach Wilson”.

Steve’s plugged into BYU pretty well. I know it was good being out there at the Pro Day and just had an opportunity to speak to (Wilson’s) representatives, say hello to a couple of members of his family quickly. And BYU put on a great Pro Day for the entire NFL. A first-class organization. And it was a good day out there. Like I said, we’re excited about this class and we’re excited about this quarterback class. So, we still have a lot of our process left in these three plus weeks leading up to the draft and a lot of productive conversations in the future coming up.


(follow-up) And you’re recruiting his family like (Young) said?

No, like I said, I had a brief conversation with (Wilson’s) agent and his father at the Pro Day, it was a good conversation. It was good to say hello to them.


Jennifer Williams, Fox 5: Joe, quick question for you. You’ve touched on this. Fans have said, why not give Sam another year in this new system under Coach Saleh? And you touched on this, but ultimately, what was it about a fresh start or resetting the financial button?

Yeah, I think ultimately, like I said earlier, if we were picking later, if we were picking 12, 13, 14, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I think the unique nature of where we are in the draft picking number two overall and ultimately, we just decided that taking a quarterback at number two and keeping Sam would not be the best decision for the entire organization, the two quarterbacks, the coach and the coaching staff and the locker room. So, after a lot of discussion, that was the decision that was made.


(follow-up) Oh so Joe, it sounds like you’re leaning towards taking a quarterback with that number two overall pick?

I would say that’s a fair assessment.