Jets’ big decision with Trevor Lawrence dream nearly dead

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The Jets stunned the Rams 23-20 on Sunday in Los Angeles to notch their first victory of the season. Here are some thoughts and observations from the game:

1. Jets fans are miserable this morning as their dreams of Trevor Lawrence took a severe, perhaps fatal, blow on Sunday. I get it. This win is not good for the long-term future of the Jets, but it also does not necessarily mean all hope is lost. You have to use some perspective here, which in our Twitter, talk-radio world, is hard to find.

Let’s start here: everyone says Lawrence is a “generational quarterback.” I think this is a misnomer. Lawrence is a great college quarterback and looks like he’ll be outstanding in the NFL. That makes him a low-risk draft choice, along the lines of John Elway, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck – the three names he gets linked to the most in the “generational” category. But there are plenty of quarterbacks who did not get this label who have become great NFL quarterbacks. 

Is Patrick Mahomes not a “generational” quarterback? Dan Marino got drafted after Elway and went to the Hall of Fame. Manning was tremendous, but Tom Brady won more championships and he was a sixth-round pick.

So, yes the Jets’ road to relevance would be smoother with Lawrence. That is not debatable. But it also does not mean they can’t get there with another quarterback. Justin Fields might be great, too. Look at recent quarterback drafts. The best rookie quarterback this season has been Justin Herbert, who was taken by the Chargers at No. 6, after Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. Josh Allen (7th overall) and Lamar Jackson (32nd) have outperformed Baker Mayfield (1st) and Sam Darnold (3rd) from the 2018 Draft clases. In 2017, Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were taken 10th and 12th, respectively, and after Mitch Trubisky. The best quarterback taken in 2016 was not Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. It was Dak Prescott, taken in the fourth round.

Draft evaluation by the media is fun. Mock drafts are fun. But it is not science. Just because everyone assumes Lawrence is going to be much better than any other quarterback in this draft does not make it so and it does not mean other quarterbacks won’t have success, perhaps even more than Lawrence. 

2. If the Jets do wind up picking second, GM Joe Douglas now has a choice to make. Is Darnold worth keeping over drafting Fields or one of the other quarterbacks? When it was a question of Lawrence or Darnold, the answer was easy. This is a little trickier. Darnold’s performance Sunday has no bearing on this. We’ve seen Darnold play like that before. We know what Darnold is at this point. My feeling on Darnold: You can win with him but you’re not going to win because of him.

An argument can be made that Douglas should use that No. 2 pick as trade bait to move down and acquire more picks to build the team up around Darnold. I still lean toward drafting a quarterback. One game has not changed my opinion that Darnold and the Jets both need a fresh start.

There is also a financial component to this. Darnold will be entering the final year of his rookie deal in 2021 (assuming they don’t pick up his 2022 option by May). The Jets are going to have to pay him soon. If you draft a quarterback, you are restarting the clock on when you have to give the quarterback the big payday. 

Douglas and his staff must figure out if there is a quarterback in this draft other than Lawrence that they think will be a good NFL quarterback. If they do, drafting him should be an easy call. 

3. There have been two Jets universes for a while now and the two collided on Sunday. 

There is the universe inside the team – specifically the players and coaches. They have been working to get a win all season. They don’t give a damn about the draft. Most of them won’t even be here in 2021.

Then, there are the fans. The fans that were tolerating (even enjoying?) this miserable season because they knew it would lead to Lawrence. Now, that dream appears dead. 

There is a lot of back and forth about whether fans who root against their team are good or not. I don’t like to tell fans how to root. I understand why any fan would be hoping for the No. 1 pick instead of going 1-15 or 2-14. I also understand why that concept would seem strange to players and coaches who spend a 

Both of these universes can co-exist. For most of the season, the fans have been happy, and the team has not been. The roles were reversed on Sunday. 

4. One takeaway from Sunday’s game that should make Jets fans encouraged about the future is that the Jets got outstanding play from two young players who have established themselves as building blocks for this team. Mekhi Becton and Quinnen Williams both dominated the line of scrimmage. Becton is a force and looks well on his way to being an All-Pro left tackle. He can move people off the line and he also gets to the second level and flattens people. Williams was disruptive, notched his seventh sack of the season, and the Jets run defense looked completely different after he suffered a concussion. 

Revealing stat

The Jets are the second team in NFL history to have been 0-13 or worse and beaten a team with nine or more wins, per NFL Research. The only other time came in 1962 when the 0-13 Raiders beat the 9-3-1 Patriots in the final game of the season. 

Surprising snap count

Arthur Maulet played all 59 defensive snaps at safety, replacing Matthias Farley in the starting lineup. Maulet is a cornerback by trade but has been playing safety in recent weeks after the Jets had several injuries there. Maulet getting the starting job was a surprise.  

Game ball

The Jets offensive line gets this one. They did an outstanding job against a tough Rams front. The Rams had just two sacks and two quarterback hits in the game. The line got a push on the final drive to keep the ball and the clock moving. The Jets’ line has taken a lot of shots this year, but they showed up Sunday. 

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