The Jets’ steady march into the AFC East cellar has been compounded by a question that could haunt them forever: Did they royally screw up by not drafting Deshaun Watson?
Gang Green’s feel-good start has taken a turn for the worse, unraveling with three consecutive crushing losses that has them perilously close to free fall. The glass-half-full folks are still clinging to hope, but realists know the deal: This isn’t a playoff team.
That cavernous franchise-quarterback hole that has dominated the conversation for the better part of their existence remains. The Texans’ rookie signal caller, meanwhile, is off to an historic start.
Know this: The Jets shouldn’t be second-guessed for taking safety Jamal Adams with the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft. He was the consensus no-brainer for general manager Mike Maccagnan. The organization is exceedingly pleased with Adams, who has the makings of a game-changer for the next decade.
The Jets, frankly, never considered Watson with the No. 6 pick. I didn’t question that at the time, so I won’t question that now. It was a strategically sound move to take Adams.
The potentially franchise-altering blunder, however, centered on what happened — or didn’t happen — next.
The Jets never made a play to trade back into the first round to get Watson, who leads the NFL with 19 touchdown passes (and 21 total touchdowns), even though some people wanted to do precisely that to potentially fix their quarterback problem.
The Texans moved up from No. 25 to No. 12 for Watson. Houston gave the Cleveland Browns the No. 25 pick and a 2018 first-rounder to grab the former Clemson signal caller.
Deshaun Watson has been electrifying to start his NFL career in Houston.
(Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
What kind of package could the Jets have offered? My understanding is that there were folks on One Jets Drive willing to trade a 2018 first-round pick and Muhammad Wilkerson to move back into the first round to get Watson. They were amenable to trading other (lesser) picks and/or players if need be to close the deal.
The Jets had discussed Wilkerson in potential deals to acquire draft picks or move up in the prior two drafts, according to sources. Wilkerson, who signed a blockbuster contract extension that included $ 36.75 million in full guarantees before the 2016 season, was coming off a horrendous campaign. So, it’s unclear whether the Browns or even the Saints, who had the No. 11 pick, would have traded out of the first round for a future first-rounder, Wilkerson and other picks/players.
The Browns had the salary cap space to absorb Wilkerson’s hefty contract, but the Jets never made an offer to try to land Watson because of their desire to give Christian Hackenberg a chance to be the answer to their most confounding problem.
It appears that decision backfired.
Imagine the Jets with Adams, Watson and Sheldon Richardson (presuming that he would not have been traded with Wilkerson gone).
It’s enough to make Jets diehards want to scream in disgust.
After all, Watson is thriving. Hackenberg is sitting.
The Jets drafted Jamal Adams with their first-round pick this year.
Watson’s 402-yard, four-touchdown performance in the Texans’ wild 41-38 loss in Seattle on Sunday was the latest reminder that he might be the game’s next great quarterback.
“My God, Houston’s so lucky,” Richard Sherman told MMQB.com. “By next year, he’s going to be a top-five quarterback in this league, and that includes the two big dogs (Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers). He makes you dig to the deepest part of your competitive juices to beat him.”
Watson, who’s fifth in the NFL in passer rating (103.0), became the first player in the Super Bowl era with at least 400 passing yards, 50 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a game, according to NFL research. He’s the first rookie in league history with at least three passing touchdowns in four consecutive games.
Watson surpassed Kurt Warner’s record for most touchdown passes in his first seven games. The rookie is the primary reason why the Texans are 3-4 instead of winless. He’s a season saver. He might just be a franchise savior, too.
Despite a college career capped by a stirring national championship win over one of the best college defenses in the past decade, there were fair concerns about Watson’s pro prospects. The Jets weren’t the only ones that weren’t truly sold.
Even now, Watson doesn’t look fluid. Sunday’s game was sprinkled with head-scratching decisions and questionable throws, including a pick-six. He’s had his fair share of challenges quickly going through his progressions. In many respects, he’s still a one-read quarterback. His footwork in the pocket is sloppy. Heck, he threw off one leg several times against the Seahawks.
But here’s the one undeniable truth through the first seven games of his career: He produces.
(Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
The Watson-led Texans have been the highest scoring offense in the past five weeks (39 ppg). Houston never scored more than 27 points in any game last season.
If not for some highly questionable play-calling that inexplicably took the ball out of Watson’s hands down the stretch Sunday, the Texans would have walked out of Seattle winners.
Watson’s electrifying start to his career is much more painful for Jets fans to endure given that their unraveling team is no closer to finding their franchise quarterback. Hackenberg has been inactive for 22 of a possible 24 games. He hasn’t thrown his first regular-season pass yet.
Todd Bowles didn’t exactly sound like a man in a rush to move away from veteran Josh McCown in favor of Bryce Petty or Hackenberg in the wake of the Jets’ 25-20 loss to the Falcons on Sunday, either.
“I looked at all of my young quarterbacks in the summer,” Bowles said. “Josh is my quarterback.”
Imagine Watson in green and white for the next decade. On second thought, don’t. It’ll hurt way too much.