1. Sam's (Fan) Club: Listening to general manager Joe Douglas, it doesn't sound like he will be swayed by how Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields plays Monday night in the College Football Playoff championship. Douglas believes the bulk of the scouting is done; he sees this as the "final-piece-to-the-puzzle" stage. That, of course, won't stop fans and media from dissecting every pass and speculating whether Fields is worthy of the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
As the debate rages, one voice worth a listen is that of ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, who has known Douglas for 25 years. Speaking on the "First Draft" podcast, McShay sounds pretty convinced Douglas won't draft a quarterback and will run it back with Sam Darnold in 2021.
"I know they like Sam. I think they would view Trevor as a potential upgrade, but I think they view Sam as good enough to build around. That's what they have to do. ... They can build an entire organization in the next two years of the draft [with four first-round picks], and I think that's exactly what Joe Douglas is going to do.""I know Joe Douglas. I obviously played with him in college. We have a good relationship," McShay said. "I know he grew up in the Ozzie Newsome organization with the Ravens. If it's not going to be Trevor Lawrence, it's going to be move down, if possible. If not, let's protect [Darnold] and get guys around the player we think can be our franchise.
If Douglas wants to trade down, the team to watch is the Atlanta Falcons (No. 4), who could be looking to draft a quarterback to replace the aging Matt Ryan. To swap places with the Falcons, the Jets would get Atlanta's second- and third-round picks, based on the trade-value chart. The haul could get bigger because many teams will disregard the chart when a quarterback is involved in the trade.
It would be a franchise-altering trade for the Jets, assuming they're right about Darnold, who finished as the NFL's lowest-rated passer. There's a huge component McShay doesn't mention: Darnold's contract. He has one year remaining, plus a fifth-year option (2022) that would cost about $25 million. The financial uncertainty beyond 2021 can't be discounted.
Me? I'm not sold on Fields, and I really want to see how he fares against Alabama.
2. Coaching update: The Jets are up to nine known candidates for their head-coaching vacancy. It's a pretty good mix. Let's break it down:
Defensive-minded: Matt Eberflus, Indianapolis Colts; Aaron Glenn, New Orleans Saints; Marvin Lewis, Arizona State; Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Rams; and Robert Saleh (San Francisco 49ers)
Offensive-minded: Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs; Brian Daboll, Buffalo Bills; Arthur Smith, Tennessee Titans and Joe Brady, Carolina Panthers
Previous head-coaching experience: Lewis, formerly Cincinnati Bengals
Personally, I'd put Saleh, Bieniemy and Daboll on a level above the rest, but they're in high demand. Bieniemy and Saleh are drawing interest from five of the six teams in the head-coaching market and, let's be honest, the Jets' job isn't as attractive as some others. The Jets and the Los Angeles Chargers reportedly are the only teams interested in Daboll, but know this: He went to high school with Chargers GM Tom Telesco. Plus, the Chargers have emerging star Justin Herbert at quarterback.
Those three coaches could be off the board for the Jets, who could end up with one of the others on their list -- or perhaps a college coach whose name hasn't surfaced.
3. Douglas & Lewis? Lewis is an interesting candidate. He shares a Baltimore Ravens connection with Douglas, albeit a brief overlap in the early 2000s. Some in league circles see them as a good fit because Douglas, as a relatively inexperienced GM, would benefit from working alongside such as a seasoned coach. In Cincinnati, where he made the playoffs in seven of 16 seasons, Lewis showed he could win with less, meaning an organization that didn't spend big money on free agents. The downside is his age (62). Does he really want to sign up for a long rebuild? Still, Lewis is a name to watch.
4. Frankly speaking: Few players, if any, have as much perspective as running back Frank Gore, who has played on five teams over 16 years. When he looks at the Jets, Gore sees a young team that needs veteran leaders, aka proven winners, to show the way.
"I think they should have one in every room," he said.
Gore preached patience, pointing to the 49ers of the late 2000s as an example of a team that developed slowly. He didn't experience a winning season until his seventh year (2011), when the 49ers went 13-3 in Jim Harbaugh's first season. That started a three-year run in the postseason, the culmination of good drafting and coaching. Gore said the Jets' rookie class is a good start, but they still need more players.
"It will take time," he said. "It don't take no one year."
5. Culture club: None of the players made available to the media at the end of the season were publicly critical of former coach Adam Gase, but it's obvious they felt something was missing. They talked about how the team needs to establish a culture and create an identity, and some of them shared that sentiment with Douglas in exit interviews.