Joe Douglas might as well have spent his first season as Jets general manager on the injured list considering he was forced to operate with one hand tied behind his back for so much of it.
Douglas was hired after the Jets were finished with free agency and after the 2019 draft — both conducted by his predecessor, Mike Maccagnan, who was curiously fired a month after the draft.
So, for the most part, the 2019 roster already was constructed and about all Douglas could do was observe for the season, make a few minor moves and plot out his attack of the depleted roster for the 2020 offseason.
It was like a high-end restaurant hiring a chef and telling him he’d have to wait about eight months before he could buy the ingredients to cook his signature dishes.
With the Jets six days away from their season opener in Buffalo, Douglas now has had an entire offseason to create the menu he hopes will be a prize winner. He’s had free agency and he’s had his first draft as a GM. Now we start to see what his vision is for this team that hasn’t been to the postseason in a decade.
“I’m not going to be happy until we win a Super Bowl,’’ Douglas said Monday.
That sounded great. Ripped straight from a Management 101 Zoom call conducted by Michael Scott from “The Office.’’ Stay positive at all times, even of you think you might be screwed.
The reality is this: Douglas’ Jets are still a long way away from Super Bowl contention. A mere playoff berth this season would stun NFL observers.
Their 2019 team MVP, safety Jamal Adams, is playing in Seattle after forcing a trade with his mouth and his petulance.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley, who was going to be the best player on defense after missing most of 2019 with injuries, opted out of the 2020 season with COVID-19 concerns.
And receiver Robby Anderson, who was hardly a star but was the best the Jets had in 2019, left for the Panthers via free agency.
Douglas appears to have made some sound improvements this offseason, most notably following through on his promise to reconstruct the offensive line, which was a mess last season and has been for years.
But there’s so much work still to be done.
To be fair: Douglas never was going to be able to clean the mess up in one offseason.
But after promising Sam Darnold’s mother, Chris, that he was going to protect her son with a better offensive line, it looks as if Douglas has shorted his quarterback on playmaking receivers. Unless rookie Denzel Mims can somehow overcome a training camp missed with a hamstring injury and acclimate to the pro game overnight, this is poised to be a pedestrian group at best.
Douglas, a blue-collar worker bee who’s as flashy as oatmeal in the morning, knows there are few who believe his 2020 team has a chance to do anything other than spend the season battling the Dolphins to stay out of the AFC East cellar.
“We see the things that are said, we see the things that are written and it angers a lot of people,’’ Douglas said.
That’s about as salty as you’ll get from Douglas.
According to overthecap.com, the Jets, with about $30 million to spend, have the third most salary-cap space in the league, which would lead their faithful to wonder why more was not spent on help at receiver, cornerback or the pass rush to make this year’s team better.
Douglas sounded transparent when he said he was being particularly cautious because of the “uncertainty’’ about the 2021 cap as a result of the untold millions the league is losing because of COVID-19. He, too, was adamant that he is under no spending “restrictions’’ from ownership.
“We have a game plan of what we’re trying to accomplish,’’ Douglas said. “If the right player is there, we are going to be aggressive. I’m sure it might seem like we’re not doing that right now, but we do have a vision.’’
Several spirited attempts were made over the Zoom call to coax Douglas into predicting what might lie ahead in 2020, what would deem this season a success for a team that went 7-9 last season after winning six of its final eight games.
Those attempts were unsuccessful.
“I know there are a lot of hungry guys that want to prove a lot of people wrong, frankly,’’ Douglas said. “They’ve got a lot to prove.’’
So, too, does Douglas. This offseason at least he’s been able to operate with both hands.