It has been 48 years and two weeks since the Jets shook up the world and changed the NFL with their victory in Super Bowl III, and they have since taken their fans on a long, depressing and at times torturous run. It's been so painful at times that it's easy to forget the Jets went to back-to-back AFC championship games just six years ago.
Of course, since then they've brought the pain: Six straight seasons without a playoff berth, only one season with a winning record, and it was all capped off by a miserable 5-11 season that felt worse since the Jets had so much optimism after going 10-6 in 2015.
The arrow is pointing down. They are in the midst of a rebuild, even if they don't want to use the word. And their coach is on the hot seat. Their GM might be there too.
Oh, and they still don't have a franchise quarterback. So is there any reason for the Jets to even dream about Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis? And if not, how much longer will their Super drought go?
What they have
Well, not much really. Things sure looked a lot better in 2015, or even at the start of last season. They do have valuable and important pieces -- Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are two good receivers, and Bilal Powell and Matt Forte are a formidable combination at running back, for example. But if you assume -- correctly -- the Jets aren't a year away from contention, you have to consider that many of their best pieces won't be part of their long-term future.
What do they have that will be? The best pieces are along the defensive line, where Leonard Williams is currently at the Pro Bowl, which likely will be his first of many. And Muhammad Wilkerson is under contract through 2020 (with some earlier ways to get out of that).
Beyond that, the Jets have some potentially good young players like linebacker Darron Lee, recently re-signed guard Brian Winters, restricted free agent center Wes Johnson, cornerback Juston Burris, and receivers Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson. And they also have chips to use -- like the sixth overall pick in the draft, a player with potential trade value in Sheldon Richardson, and a chance to create a bunch of cap room by cutting expensive veterans who aren't part of their future.
What they're missing
Start with the most important ingredient: A quarterback. And not just any average, place-holding, journeyman quarterback. They need a franchise quarterback -- the kind they've been searching for for decades. Just look at the final four teams in the NFL playoffs or any of the quarterbacks in Super Bowls the last 10 years.
Teams almost never reach the Super Bowl without an elite quarterback or a quarterback who is playing at an elite level.
So the Jets need to answer the question: Who is their guy? Is it Christian Hackenberg? Is it a player they take with the No. 6 pick? Is there a free agent or someone available in trade worth of that title? Until they have a good answer for that, don't bother planning a Super Bowl trip.
Beyond that … well, they need a lot. There's no getting around that.
They are searching for an offensive coordinator and hopefully he will understand the value of a good tight end. When he does, the Jets need one of those since they basically turned it into a non-entity in two years under the now-retired Chan Gailey. They will also need to find or develop a No. 1 receiver to replace Decker and Marshall, and probably a running back in the future to pair with Powell.
They have a good core on the interior of their line with Winters, Johnson and James Carpenter, who has two years left on his deal, but they need two tackles to anchor their line for the next several years.
And then on defense they need to fix their entire secondary. There are some promising younger players there, such as Burris and Darryl Roberts. But players like Darrelle Revis, Calvin Pryor, maybe Buster Skrine -- they just won't be around when the Jets are contenders again.
GM Mike Maccagnan believes he has a good core of young talent on the roster -- particularly on defense -- and that more is coming from the 2017 draft. It was hard to tell during the miserable 5-11 season, so the Jets better hope he is right.
Here's the good news: Next year's Super Bowl is in Minneapolis and most people aren't a fan of Super Bowls in cold-weather cities. So, Jets fans, you don't have to worry about that! You can probably stop making plans for Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, too.
Super Bowl LIV in 2020 is in Miami, so target that. But really, it's impossible to project that far out without knowing who will develop into good NFL players, who'll get hurt, what else will be happening around the league. There's no way to even tell if Todd Bowles will be the coach then. And we still have no idea about the Jets' long-term quarterback.
I don't think anyone can start the Super Bowl clock on this franchise until they clearly have that franchise quarterback -- a player with obvious skills and enough youth to ensure he'll be part of the long-term future. And the longer they wait to find that guy, the longer it's going to take to reach contender status. An average quarterback in the NFL just won't do it nowadays, unless you've got an all-time defense backing him up. And even then, it's not easy.
So the Jets need to focus on getting the quarterback. Then they can worry about the rest. But at the moment, with no quarterback, they look very far away from Super Bowl status. It really might take a miracle to get them there in the next three years.