There is no win-or-else mandate from Jets ownership, nor is there any indication they have buyers' remorse on their still-new head coach. But there's no doubt about this, now that new GM Joe Douglas has finished his first run through free agency and the NFL Draft:
The pressure is now on Adam Gase.
Unless his quarterback comes down with mono again, or the Jets' incredibly bad injury luck continues, there can't be any excuses as Gase heads into his second season. He has the players he needs to make a run at the playoffs, particularly in an a division that should be more wide open with Tom Brady gone. Douglas has built the offensive line in front of quarterback Sam Darnold, and given Gase weapons to use in his offense.
Now it's up to him to prove he can make it all work.
There are a lot of reasons why Gase never had a chance to do that last season. For one, he didn't exactly inherit a great roster. For another, he clearly didn't get the voice he wanted in the draft and free agency, which is a big reason why former Jets GM Mike Maccagnan is gone. Douglas was hired in part because of his relationship with Gase, and the belief they could work together with a shared vision.
So all these new players - the free agents and the draft picks - they are not just Douglas selections. Gase has his fingerprints all over them, too.
And now look what he's got. There is basically an entire new offensive line, with an array of free agents, an anchor in first-round pick Mekhi Becton, and plenty of depth. Darnold should be well-protected - or at least far safer than he was last season. And even running back Le'Veon Bell, though he's still not a Gase favorite, should find a lot more room to run.
And Gase got weapons, too. Yes, he lost Robby Anderson, but they signed a virtual clone in Breshad Perriman. Then in the draft, they got one of the steals of the second round in big receiver Denzel Mims, and a change-of-pace running back in Lamical Perine in Round 4. With all that and Jamison Crowder back and Darnold hopefully not battling mono for the first half of the season, there's no way that Gase's offense shouldn't work.
"I feel like we added a lot of quality football players, quality people," Douglas said after the draft was over. "We're better after this weekend than we were before the draft started."
Yes they are, especially on offense. After all, wasn't offense the No. 1 reason why Gase was hired? Because the Jets believed he was the right coach to guide Darnold through his early years. Because he was the offensive genius who could partner with a young, star quarterback and put on a show. There was no evidence of that a year ago when the Jets had the worst offense in football.
That wasn't all Gase's fault. Losing Darnold for a month was a disaster that Gase couldn't possibly have prepared to endure. Then injuries took receiver Quincy Enunwa, tight end Chris Herndon, and over time most of his offensive line. He had to endure a shell of a team run by an unprepared quarterback. And when Darnold returned, the team wasn't much better and it was a while before Darnold was fully healthy and the same.
Let's assume that doesn't happen again. A healthy Darnold now has a dangerous threesome at receiver with Crowder, Perriman and Mims - three players he surely had a hand in bringing in. He's got Herndon and Ryan Griffin at tight end. And Bell, who can still be dangerous in the backfield, whether he's Gase's ideal running back or not.
There has to be improvement - vast improvement. And if there's no drop-off from Gregg Williams' overachieving defense, there has to be many more wins. The Jets went on a 6-2 run in the second half last season to salvage a 7-9 record out of their miserable start. That run can't just be a late-season aberration by a team with nothing to play for.
Gase got the GM he wanted. He's gotten the players he wanted and needed. So there's really no reason that second-half can't turn out to be the start of something big.