2021 End of Season Press Conference, 1.10
[please click photo for link to the video]
JOE DOUGLAS: I would be remised to not talk about Don Maynard, recently heard about his passing. Everyone here at the Jets organization wants to send out their deepest condolences to the Maynard family. Jets legend and an NFL legend. His accomplishments will live forever here. Again, condolences to the Maynard family.
Obviously, a difficult season, not where we want to be. Four wins, a tough season, but today is a good day. Why that was, this really started a week of after-action, starting with our exit interviews with the players. There was some great meetings, and I can tell you there’s a lot of excitement with our players and that has a lot to do primarily with the man sitting to my left (Robert Saleh) and the job that him and his staff have done this year. 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 that we were looking for was someone who could teach, who can inspire and who can lead, and we have that in Coach Saleh and his staff. We’re fortunate to call him a teammate and really 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. Him and staff, they didn’t tip their toe in the water, they cannonballed in. I appreciate the way that they attacked that, and you could see the growth from our young team as the season progressed. Again, four wins, it’s not good enough. Six wins in two years, it’s not good enough. We have to be better, specifically in the division. We have to win divisional games. We have a lot of work to do moving forward and we need to get better across the board. I can tell you that our focus this offseason is going to be improving the team and know that I said improving the team, not just acquire talent, but improving the team. And then also, keeping the team healthy. I think this is the second year we’ve had the most cap dollars on injured reserve, and so it’s hard to consistently win games when you’re banged up. Those are going to be primary focuses this offseason. Where we’re positioned now, four picks in the top 38, I believe. We’ve got nine picks in the first five rounds. So, excited about this task in front of us, excited to lock arms with Coach Saleh and his staff, get the best players that we can for this organization moving forward. Again, the after-action started today with the exit interviews with the players. We’ll get together with Coach and his staff on Wednesday and Thursday, have our end of season meetings, go over the entire roster, and that’s really going to kick off the offseason.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Joe, based off kind of what you said about the players that you’re going to get back off the injured reserve, the players that you can acquire both in the draft and free agency, potentially via trade, do you think this is a team that should be competing for the playoffs next year?
JD: I think we go into every game expecting to win and so I think it’s going to be important for us to keep adopting that mentality. The goal is to be playing very meaningful games as the season progresses next year. Again, we go into every game expecting to win.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: If you are not playing in December next year, with playoff consequential games, is that considered a failure of this program to this point and the number of years that you’ve had here to start to build? Obviously, this is Robert’s first year and Zach’s (Wilson) as well. Even though it seems like a big jump from four wins to competing for a playoff spot next December, given the resources we’ve just talked about and the cap space, is it a failure if you’re not in the mix come December?
JD: I think the world we live in, everyone wants instant gratification, and they expect some of these young guys to come out and be all pros. Look, we’re going to do the best job we can to develop these players, these young players and, like I said, we’re going to go into every game expecting to win those games. For me, I have to do a better job, I have to do a better job. This is going to be my third offseason, and so I’ve got to do a better job, make better decisions moving forward and help Coach Saleh put this team in position to win more games.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: I know you mentioned instant gratification, but it is your third offseason. You’ve had one full offseason with the draft and free agency, a second full, this will now be your third, so in a way there has been time to build this team out. So, shouldn’t there be that significant jump this year?
JD: Look, there needs to be improvement, I think everybody knows that. We need to be better than four wins, we need to be better than six wins in two years, there’s no question about that. So, the impetus is on us, bring in the right type of people and winning games, closing games out in the fourth quarter.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Joe, with regard to Zach, if you just look at the stats, he’s at the bottom or near the bottom in every major statistical category. Do you still have 100% confidence that he is the guy to get your organization where you want to go? And if so, why? Like where is the evidence?
JD: I saw a ton of growth from Zach this year. I think it’s difficult to be a rookie playing quarterback in this league, and I know Coach has talked about is all season. But I think the strides you saw Zach make after coming back from the injury, and on top of that, not always being in position to be playing with the 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 a little undermanned. And, on top of it, taking care of the football. I think those are all very impressive things in the back half of the season. So, feel very confident about his development moving forward.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Joe, what’s your expectation from Mekhi Becton? We haven’t seen him, obviously, it was supposed to be four-to-eight weeks. Again, that’ll be back to help you guys next year?
JD: Obviously, we want Mekhi back on the field and Mekhi wants to be back on the field. I think for him attacking this offseason and coming back in the best possible shape he can be in. I expect big things from him next year. We all want Mekhi back.
Brian Costello, New York Post: How did a two-month injury become four months, Joe, with Mekhi? Like I think you guys thought it was an eight-week injury when it happened, but it became four months from when he was injured?
JD: I think Coach touched on it, Mekhi is a bigger man and so it took him longer to heal than we originally expected. So, it wasn’t really anyone’s fault and it wasn’t Mekhi’s fault, it wasn’t the doctor’s fault, the process became longer than we originally thought.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: I don’t think anyone will deny the production that you guys got from your 2021 draft class whether it was the Michael Carters, Elijah (Moore) when he was out there, Zach’s production, (Brandin) Echols, but the 2020 class has been a little underwhelming to this point. How would you assess their performance and why do you think that for a number of those players it just hasn’t worked to this point?
JD: Yeah, I would say about the entire draft class, we’re in year two of their pro careers and I would say at this checkpoint in their race, probably not where it needs to be as a group. But, at this point, there is no one giving up on these players. Look, every player develops differently, at different rates. I’m sure if you ask some of these guys, they would say they’re disappointed in their season, but at the end of the day, no one is giving up on the players. Coach certainly is not giving up on those guys, we fully expect them to come back in the offseason ready to roll and ready to improve.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Joe, you mentioned the guys on IR and injuries were an issue again this year. You guys created the Athletic Performance Department in March, I think two years ago you were here saying you were going to focus on injuries. Why haven’t you guys been able to solve that riddle? It seems like injuries derail your season every year.
JD: It’s been a frustrating thing, Coz. I think where we have seen progress with the new performance staff, we had far less hamstring injuries and I think because of the hamstring strength that staff developed, we saw far less ACL injuries. So, I think we’re diving in studying where we can be better is looking into the Achilles injuries, there was a rash of Achilles with (Jamien) Sherwood and Carl (Lawson) and Marcus (Maye). Just seeing the different areas, different injuries that we can improve, but there certainly was improvement in certain areas. But overall, like you said, we’ve lost far too many guys to injury. We have to be better.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: How open would you be to entertaining the idea of bringing in a veteran quarterback to be Zach’s backup? I’m not saying that you like a guy who’s started a couple games, like a veteran vet who has had starting experience.
Robert Saleh: I think our quarterback room and the way it’s set up now with Joe Flacco and Mike White, I know that they’re going into contract years and all that stuff, but the setup that we had this year has been ideal. Bringing in Joe, I know the outside world doesn’t see it, but Joe D (Douglas) bringing in Flacco for that sixth-round pick, I don’t think anyone realizes how big of a deal that was in terms of just, even for me, I didn’t expect it to be the impact that I wasn’t expecting in terms of just the assist, in terms of developing the quarterback and the room in general. Obviously, with the room that’s set up, it would be perfect if we can get them all back, but again, these are all discussions that we’ll have here in the future.
(follow up) Would you like to have Joe back then?
RS: Oh yeah, I’ll be vocal on that one, absolutely.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Joe, when you were first hired here, we were all trying to get to know, calling on your background, calling people who have worked with you, just about everyone talks about how much you love your draft picks and how, as a scout, they’re your babies. How, in year three, are you now open to the idea of potentially trading some of that draft capital for proven players if the right player becomes available on either side of the ball?
JD: That’s a good question, Connor, because I think with the position we put ourselves in, we have great flexibility. We have great flexibility to really use these assets in different ways and I think you’ve seen teams do that in the past couple of years where they’ve used assets, draft assets for improving players. So, those are all things that Coach and I are going to talk about and again, it starts with the end of season meeting with the coaches, but these are definitely things that we’re going to talk about moving forward and we’re fortunate to be in this position, to have this kind of flexibility. So, I think we’re always going to be aggressive if the right opportunity presents itself and so, the good thing is that I think moving forward, we can be in just about any discussion when it comes to player trades.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: What’s going to be Marcus Maye’s future, do you guys want him back, extending him, franchising him?
JD: Yeah, so, obviously Marcus is a valuable member of this team and so, again, we’re going to get in the room with the coaching staff, hash out the end of season meetings and then go from there. But I can tell you, any decision that we make, in regards to Marcus or any other player on expiring contracts, the decisions are going to be made in the best interest of the team now and moving forward.
Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Both of you guys, with the dynamic between the two of you, a year ago, you were just kind of getting to know each other, now going into this off-season, where you’ve had a full season together, what’s that dynamic like in terms of trying to build for the future, build for next season, because Robert, you have specific needs. You know, to get better, this is what I need. Is there that dynamic now, where you guys can really hammer it out as far as the needs for this team on the field?
RS: I think you always come in, my relationship with Joe, obviously picked off when we first got here and through the interview process, but I think what’s very clear, even though a lot of people may not see it, I think the way Joe and I see football is identical. We believe that it starts in the trenches, we believe in the same character, we believe in the type of player, we believe and see things very, very similar. 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, I think is healthy, very, very healthy. I think because of it, there’s a lot of trust between Joe’s staff and the coaching staff and because of that, I think we can make very sound decisions that are in the best interest of this organization and the team moving forward. I think it’s awesome and I think we’re set up to have a really cool offseason and really, really looking forward to not only bringing in new guys, but the challenge of developing the guys who are here, continue to develop the guys who are here. So, both as coaches, players, scheme, all of it and it’s something we’ve got to embrace, and I think it’s something we do embrace.
JD: Just to piggyback on that, Coach touched on the ability not to take things personal, I think that’s one of the cool things about our relationship is that we can set our ego aside and focus on what’s best for the team and challenge each other and have open and honest conversations about different ideas and different things that we can do. So, I think that’s a great thing, because I certainly don’t have all the answers and Coach, it’s great to bounce ideas and thoughts off of him and get great feedback.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: As you assess what were the deficiencies position-wise this year, as you guys go over things, what are the spots that you guys have to attack this offseason, in your opinion? Obviously, not to gives names, but just in terms of position, deficiencies you’ve seen this year.
JD: Without going into specifics, obviously we weren’t good enough. We weren’t where we needed to be and I think the other thing is we’re always going to value the line of scrimmage here and so, I think we made strides in a lot of areas and we got better. But for us to go where we need to go, we’re going to have to be the best in a lot of different positions, a lot of different areas.
(follow up): Personnel wise, what held you guys back?
JD: I’m not going to sit up here and disparage any player or any position group. I thought our coaches and our players, they fought their asses off this year, and they battled. So again, we know we have to get better as a team. We know we have to get better as a whole, and part of this week is getting in the trenches with Coach and his staff and hashing those things out.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Just to dip back specifically into the 2020 class, one of the players that was a major talking point amongst the fan base and a major talking point amongst us was Denzel (Mims). I know he finished the final four games without a catch, in two years now he hasn’t caught a touchdown. I mean, why do you think it just hasn’t worked to this point? The salmon incident and COVID incident aside, why hasn’t he kind of progressed as I think you and most people in the building would’ve hoped?
JD: I mean, there’s been a lot of adversity that Denzel’s faced since he got here with back-to-back hamstring injuries, sickness in OTAs, COVID during the season and again, l everyone wants the best for Denzel and everybody wants to see Denzel succeed. I think moving forward, like I said with Mekhi, him coming back this offseason in the best possible shape he can be and the right mentality and attack the offseason, I think that’s going to be beneficial to him and the entire team.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: Joe, you’ve talked in the past about wanting to build aggressively, but smart I’m guessing and that’s not changing this off-season, but as you go into this stage where you’re trying to be taking the next step as a team, how do you kind of change your philosophy moving forward and how do you apply what you’ve learned from maybe past offseasons to what you want to accomplish this offseason?
JD: I think` you’re constantly evolving, and there’s some core philosophies that don’t change but you have to be open to seeing how things are done and maybe adopting certain principles and so, kind of like the question that Connor asked, where we are now with the assets we are now, we have great flexibility to be aggressive in a lot of different avenues. So, again, those are going to be vital conversations that Coach and I have, along with Christopher (Johnson) and Woody (Johnson) and so, we’re excited about this offseason, we’re excited about attacking free agency, about attacking the draft, about attacking the combine.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Joe, with the exception of Carl Lawson, last year’s offseason, you didn’t spend a lot of premium assets on defense. The first four picks were all offense. Free agency, Lawson was the big one. Is it fair to say going into this year, that you need to address the defense more than you did last year?
I think we want to have a balanced team moving forward. You can’t be a team that scores 40 points but can’t stop anybody. You don’t want to be a team that can hold teams to three points but can’t score points. So, I think we want to have a balanced team that can win in all three phases moving forward. So, again, Coach and I, we’re going to get together, we’re going to discuss the players that fit us best, that fits our culture best and things that we’re trying to build together and make the right choices on the right people.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Joe, just about your philosophy, you’ve always been a draft guy, obviously. Now that you’re in your third offseason here and six wins in two years, the fans are expecting much more next year. Might you be inclined to be a little bit more aggressive in terms of the veteran market, free agent wise, because of the fact that you’ve got a lot of cap space and you haven’t dove into a ton last year. With what you just mentioned with the way you maybe kind of evolved with philosophy, even though you’re staying with your core still, is that something you might look to deal with it more because of maybe more urgency?
JD: Obviously, we’re a young team, and I think we have a lot of quality veterans on this roster that have helped this team. Again, I feel like the draft is always the core of consistently good football teams. The consistency good football teams through the years, they have a core draft of players and then they supplement through free agency. But again, we’re sitting here, and we have a lot of flexibility moving forward. So, we know that we have to be better than four wins and so, that’s the main thing, is improving the win-loss record.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Are you open to giving Quinnen (Williams) a new deal before the start of the next season?
JD: Not going to get into specifics obviously, but we haven’t really started those conversations with Quinnen and his agent, Nicole (Lynn). Obviously, Quinnen is a valuable member of this team and a valuable member of this front and he does a lot of positive things and I believe he finished the season with (six) sacks, if I’m not mistaken, and there’s a lot of things that he does to disrupt the game. He is a player that we all value and appreciate and want to keep here for a long time.