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How Jets can regain their mojo with lessons from the Giants


At a guess, watching the Giants celebrate joyously at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday probably did not help salve the wounds of Jets fans.

Really, Wild Card Sunday as a whole — in which heavy underdogs in the Dolphins and Ravens each took Buffalo and Cincinnati, respectively, to the limit — had to feel like a slap in the face. Because it could have been the Jets. It should have been the Jets. It’s been two weeks since they were eliminated from the playoffs in Seattle before the final week of the season, and still it stings.

At the start of the season, when both area teams were expected to be terrible, the Jets were the ones with the better outlook. They are younger, with more oomph at their skill positions, with a much better defense and a second-year head coach instead of a rookie. It is the Jets, though, who have to learn from what the Giants have done this season with a 9-7-1 regular-season record and an upset 31-24 first-round playoff win over the Vikings.

Here are three big lessons for coach Robert Saleh.

Lesson No. 1: Stick by your quarterback

Head coach Robert Saleh of the New York Jets speaks with Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets during the fourth quarter. The New England Patriots defeat the New York Jets 10-3.
Robert Saleh and Zach Wilson are at a crossroads in their relationship only two seasons after their arrival to the Jets.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

It seems like a foregone conclusion that the Jets will move to replace Zach Wilson this offseason, and it’s not at all hard to see why. Wilson lost the job, twice. He showed no accountability after a fateful loss in New England. He threw more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (6). Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s head has already rolled — or if you believe the Jets’ spin, voluntarily walked off its shoulders to pursue other opportunities — as a result.

Let’s remember, though: it also felt like a foregone conclusion that Daniel Jones would be gone after the season when the team declined his fifth-year option. On Sunday, owner John Mara acknowledged to The Post’s Steve Serby that he realized Jones would be the QB of the future “a while ago.”

Jones is not Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, that much is obvious. But he played a brilliant game Sunday, throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 78 — the exclamation mark on this renaissance of a season. Why has that happened? Because Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka have leaned into using the skillset Jones has instead of trying to give him something he does not.

What that skillset is for Wilson — and whether he’s capable of such a renaissance — is an open question. Unlike Jones, Wilson seems to have a problem with attitude and accountability, which may matter just as much as whether he can eventually sling it, and which a new offensive coordinator is not going to fix.

Still, how many people would have said Jones was capable of doing this a year ago?

Get the Jets a Kafka-esque coordinator, and we may see if Wilson can recover in the same way.

Lesson No. 2: Don’t hire your friends

New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll and New York Giants defensive coordinator Don Martindale during the second quarter of the National Football League game between the New York Jets and the New York Giants on August 28, 2022 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Wink Martindale and Brian Daboll have forged an effective partnership in their first year working together.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This goes hand-in-hand with the last lesson. Robert Saleh’s offensive coordinator hire could make or break his Jets future along with what he does at QB.

It is standard practice in the NFL to hire people you know and have worked with. There is an intrinsic trust there. There is also a nepotism problem, and it can be hard to sort out which hire falls into which bucket at times. LaFleur and Saleh were on the same coaching staff in San Francisco before Saleh brought LaFleur to New York.

Daboll and Kafka did know each other, but barely: Kafka was a backup quarterback and Daboll was the tight ends coach for six months in New England in 2013. Daboll had no history with Wink Martindale, his defensive coordinator. Ditto for special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey and a number of position coaches.

That’s not to say there’s no value in hiring someone you know. But going outside your box — not the box, but your personal box — can be just as good, particularly when your guy has already tried and failed.

Lesson No. 3: Take risks and you’ll get rewarded

Who knows how the Giants’ season plays out if Daboll does the conventional thing and kicks the extra point in Nashville all the way back in Week 1. Maybe they still win that game. Maybe they’re still in the playoffs. Maybe not.

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) dives to the end zone for a two-point conversion during the second half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Nashville.
Saquon Barkley’s game-winning two-point conversion in the Giants’ Week 1 win over the Titans helped establish an aggressive identity the franchise rode into a playoff berth few expected them to earn.

What we do know is that Daboll’s decision to go for two, and the Giants subsequently winning that game, set the tone for the rest of their season. Two things here can both be true: There is a luck element to the Giants’ record in close games, as the analytics folks would argue. But the way Daboll has coached is no small part of that.

He’s played with house money, unafraid to roll the dice and be aggressive, unafraid to put faith in Jones or Saquon Barkley to make a play. Just look at Sunday, when Jones’ run up the middle on fourth-and-1 with the game on the line, allowing the Giants to bleed an extra 30 seconds off the clock, forced Kevin O’Connell to burn all three timeouts and pin the Vikings back at their own 12 when the conventional wisdom would have said to punt right then.

The Jets have weapons on offense, regardless of their quarterback situation. Garrett Wilson is one of the best young receivers in the league. Breece Hall will be back next season. Put the ball in their hands when the game is on the line. They will make something happen.

Today’s back page

New York Post

Read more:

🏈 SERBY: Eli Manning is enjoying Daniel Jones’ Giants ascension

🏀 BRAZILLER: Unpredictable college basketball start leaves March Madness wide open

🏈 Unheralded Giants making huge impact with critical plays in playoff run

🏀 Tom Thibodeau critical of refs after Knicks’ loss: ‘Hard to tell what a foul was’

Crack in the rotation

With Frankie Montas out for at least the first month of the season as he deals with shoulder information, per The Post’s Dan Martin and Jon Heyman, who will the Yankees turn to in his stead?

The two likely options would be Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt, to complement a rotation whose top four is set in stone if healthy with Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino and Carlos Rodon. With two off-days in April, it’s possible the Yankees could try to line things up and use those four to skip the fifth spot in the rotation at least once, but they won’t want to tax the other starters early in the season either, particularly Severino, who has an injury history of his own.

New York Yankees starting pitcher Domingo German (55) pitches in the first inning when the New York Yankees played the New York Mets Monday, Aug. 22, 2022, at Yankee Stadium in Bronx.
With a career-best 3.61 ERA in 14 starts last season, Domingo German appears to be one of the better options the Yankees have to soak up the innings an injured Frankie Montas will miss over the first month of the season.
Robert Sabo

Based on his history, which includes 14 starts last season with a 3.61 ERA, German is the easier choice to get a crack at the rotation. He’s been a reliable spot starter for some time now, and is coming off a career-best ERA, though his strikeout numbers were lower.

Schmidt, by comparison, started just three games in 2022 out of 29 appearances. He never went more than 4 ⅓ innings in those three starts, though it’s possible the Yankees may just decide to use him as an opener to get through the order once and then have the bullpen pitch the rest of the game.

What happens to Lamar?

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson reacts after the game against the Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium on Nov. 20, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland.
The contract standoff between Lamar Jackson and the Ravens should become even more intense now that Baltimore’s season has ended and their star QB appears headed toward free agency.
Getty Images

Some of the conversation around Lamar Jackson not traveling to Cincinnati on Sunday seems overblown, since the Ravens didn’t travel injured players all season. Still, Jackson has not signed an extension and it looks quite possible he’ll hit free agency after a sprained knee ended his season six weeks early.

If the Ravens decide to trade Jackson, there would be no shortage of suitors for the former MVP — maybe he would even be the solution for the Jets. There is also the franchise tag as an option, though Jackson has more power than you might expect if he finds such a scenario undesirable. He could force his way out of Baltimore if tagged, or make it known that he plans to eventually leave without an extension being signed at market value. According to reports from September, Jackson turned down a six-year deal that would have paid $133 million fully guaranteed, wanting to bet on himself to earn a fully guaranteed deal similar to Deshaun Watson’s $230 million.

Whether he will get that from Baltimore after the season seemingly ended on bad terms looks like an open question.

Did you see that?

Too often we forget that the joy of sports is the journey and not the destination. All but one team each season loses in the end, but there are plenty of moments each season that remind us why we fell in love with a sport in the first place.

RJ Barrett provided one of those moments Monday afternoon at Madison Square Garden when he raced the length of the court for a commanding dunk with 0.6 seconds left to temporarily save the Knicks and send them to overtime against the Raptors.

RJ Barrett dunks late in the fourth quester against the Raptors.
Via Twitter/@MikeVorkunov

Yes, the Knicks ended up losing 123-121, but nothing the Raptors, or anyone, did in the game made you sit up in your seat, grab your head and exclaim, “Wow!” like Barrett’s unexpected posterizing of Scottie Barnes.

— Paul Forrester


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