NEW YORK — Joe Douglas is like the rest of the New York Jets and their fans: He never envisioned such a dreadful start.
But here they are, the NFL's only winless team. And, they're a loss away — on Monday night against New England, of all teams — from being the first in franchise history to open 0-9.
That has spawned anger, disappointment and embarrassment, and the general manager knows he ultimately needs to fix it.
“We’re all frustrated with where we are right now, but everyone in this building has to own it,” Douglas said Tuesday. "This record belongs to all of us. And it’s incumbent on each of us to figure out how we can improve it.
“And I certainly take my fair share of the responsibility.”
Douglas shouldered much of the blame while addressing reporters for nearly 26 minutes in a wide-ranging video conference call. It was the first time he spoke to the media since the summer, when he was excited about the team's potential after his first full off-season as the Jets' GM included several moves he believed would help New York be competitive this season — and beyond.
“When I last spoke to you guys in training camp, I was not being disingenuous about my optimism where this team was going,” he said. “Unfortunately, this hasn’t played out as we all thought it would.”
Many fans have already checked out on this season, with their focus on securing the No. 1 pick next April. They have also taken to social media and sports talk radio to insist that coach Adam Gase be fired.
“I have to do a better job for all these coaches and players,” Douglas said. “And the hope is that we can fix these problems together and be here together for a while.”
When asked if that means he sees the embattled Gase as part of the solution, Douglas responded simply: “Yes.”
That might rub many fans the wrong way, but Douglas doesn't have the ultimate say on the coach. That's on CEO and chairman Christopher Johnson, to whom both Douglas and Gase report directly.
Douglas made it clear in his “state of the franchise” address he's not happy with where things are, but believes there's reason for optimism. After the recent trades of linebackers Avery Williamson and Jordan Willis, and nose tackle Steve McLendon, the Jets have nine picks in each of the next two drafts, and eight of them will be in the first three rounds.
“We still have eight games left, so there’s a lot of time for us to see improvement with everyone, not just the rookies, but ultimately to build the team, the culture that we need and want,” Douglas said. “The focus of this organization is going to remain on player development."
All eyes entering the season were on quarterback Sam Darnold and whether he would take the expected next step in his progression. So far, he has regressed while also dealing with a sprained right shoulder as well as injuries and inconsistency among the skill players and offensive line around him. Suspect play-calling has also resulted in New York ranking last in several offensive categories.
That has many speculating that the Jets will surely take Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence if they have the No. 1 pick — and part ways with Darnold after just three seasons.
“Sam’s an ultra-talented quarterback and I just really can’t say enough about his grit and his toughness,” Douglas said. “Ultimately, I’ve got to do a better job of putting talent around Sam and we have to develop some kind of continuity with within the offence moving forward. The silver lining is that there’s eight games left and we have guys coming back healthy."
Douglas hedged at first when asked about Darnold's future with the Jets beyond this year, but was more decisive when asked if he could commit to him definitively.
“I have no problem saying that he is our best quarterback and our quarterback for the future,” he said.
Douglas bemoaned injuries to wide receivers Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman that have not allowed Darnold to have them all on the field together in any game yet. He also acknowledged he misjudged wide receiver Robby Anderson's market value last off-season , saying the decision to not re-sign him is something he thinks about often.
Douglas will have lots to consider over the next eight games, and then again once the off-season begins in January. The future of a frustrated franchise will be shaped by a GM with a monumental task at hand.
“It starts with the offensive and defensive lines and that’s going to lead to the rest of the team,” Douglas said. "We really have to win the line of scrimmage first. We have to add explosive playmakers. We have to get after the passer or we’re going to have to have guys that cover well. Those are all the things that the successful teams in the National Football League are doing.
“And we have to get better faster. So, you know, that that’s on me. We’re looking at everything we can possibly do to improve all those areas.”
NOTES: The Jets signed LB Bryce Hager and S Bennett Jackson to the active roster from the practice squad. They also released OL Jimmy Murray. Hager had played in New York's past two games after being elevated from the practice squad. ... WR D.J. Montgomery was placed on the practice squad IR with an undisclosed injury. ... DB Elijah Campbell, OLB Sharif Finch and DB Saquan Hampton were signed to the practice squad.
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Dennis Waszak Jr., The Associated Press