FPI says the New York Jets are worst team in the NFL

BySeth Walder ESPN logo
Thursday, August 24, 2017

Look back to last preseason and try to remember what you thought of the [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nfl/team/_/name/cle/cleveland-browns" ]Cleveland Browns[/url]. Maybe we didn't know quite what an atrocity their season would become, but it was pretty clear that they were an overall terrible football team. Well, you can expect the [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nfl/team/_/name/nyj/new-york-jets" ]New York Jets[/url] to be worse than that this season.[br /][br /]In its latest update, [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/13539793/espn-nfl-football-power-index-debuts" ]ESPN's Football Power Index[/url] has not only proclaimed Gang Green to be the worst team in the NFL right now, but it thinks they are worse than it thought the 1-15 Browns were to start last season. That's some pretty miserable company.[br /][Ads /][br /]FPI believes the Jets are 7.9 points worse per game than the average NFL team, whereas the Browns were minus-7.4 last preseason, and it thinks all three parts of the Jets are a liability. The gruesome details: 5.2 points worse than average on offense, 2.1 points worse on defense and 0.6 points worse on special teams.[br /][br /]Preseason FPI is only in its third season of existence, but in case there was any doubt, yes, the Jets hold the record for the worst FPI rating entering the season in that short span.[br /][br /]So, what makes this Jets team a particularly extreme brand of awful? A three-tiered combination of offseason moves, a poor track record and a horrific choice of quarterbacks.[br /][br /]The Jets followed up their 10-win 2015 campaign by imploding for just five wins last year. By ESPN's measure of unit efficiency, the Jets had the 25th-best offense, 21st-best defense and 31st-best special-teams unit. Bad, sure, but not dreadful.[br /][br /]In the offseason, the team committed to the plan it possibly should have opted for two years prior, a full-scale rebuild, and to their credit, they really went for it. Over-the-hill cornerback Darrelle Revis was cut, but the team also purged itself of veterans that still might have been useful in 2017, such as[url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/9705/brandon-marshall" ]Brandon Marshall[/url], [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/13271/eric-decker" ]Eric Decker[/url], [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/10491/david-harris" ]David Harris[/url] and Nick Mangold. These moves are reflected in FPI, through the team's season win total in Las Vegas (4.5) and, to a lesser extent, in the team's number of returning starters on offense and defense (12 combined).[br /][Ads /][br /]Then, there's the quarterback position. After [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/8664/ryan-fitzpatrick" ]Ryan Fitzpatrick[/url] flamed out of New Jersey, the Jets spent $6 million to bring in veteran [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/3609/josh-mccown" ]Josh McCown[/url] to join up with work-in-progresses [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/3057986/christian-hackenberg" ]Christian Hackenberg[/url] and [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/college-football/player/_/id/3909362/bryce-petty" ]Bryce Petty[/url].[br /][br /]Here's a quick way to gauge the strength of this trio: FPI assumes Hackenberg will play at a replacement level, and yet it also thinks he's the best option to play. Ouch.[br /][br /]It's worth noting that the reason Hackenberg is assumed to contribute to his offense at a replacement level is because that's how FPI handles all quarterbacks who have yet to take an NFL snap. That might have given, say, Colts fans something to quibble about when [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/14874/andrew-luck" ]Andrew Luck[/url] was a rookie. Jets fans about Hackenberg? Not so much. What FPI doesn't know is that Hackenberg was a second-round pick who was widely considered a reach. Or that Football Outsiders' QBASE projection system for college quarterbacks considered him one of the worst top-100 picks in years when he was drafted in 2016. Or that the former Penn State quarterback has built up a knack for keeping reporters on their toes by (unintentionally) misfiring passes in their direction.[br /][br /]So it's no wonder that, whether it's Hackenberg or McCown starting games for the Jets, there is very little hope for that offense. Incredibly, it only expects them to be fourth-worst in the league (ahead of the Cleveland Browns, [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nfl/team/_/name/sf/san-francisco-49ers" ]San Francisco 49ers[/url] and [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nfl/team/_/name/lar/los-angeles-rams" ]Los Angeles Rams[/url]).[br /][br /]The result of such a weak FPI rating is a very poor projection for the Jets season, though that's what many of their fans want. With this season practically lost before it has started, many members of the fan base (and maybe the front office?) are hoping the team can lose as many games as possible in order to put them in position to draft a quarterback such as USC's [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/college-football/player/_/id/3912547/sam-darnold" ]Sam Darnold[/url], UCLA's [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/college-football/player/_/id/3886377/josh-rosen" ]Josh Rosen[/url] or Wyoming's [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/college-football/player/_/id/3918298/josh-allen" ]Josh Allen[/url] early in next year's first round.[br /][Ads /][br /]FPI projects the Jets to win 4.6 games this season -- worst in the league. It anticipates an average draft position of 4.7 next year, best in the NFL, along with a 24.3 percent chance to secure the top overall pick. So, they've got a better shot than anyone at landing those top quarterbacks, assuming they are still the top quarterbacks after this season.[br /][br /]As for this season, even a team as lowly as the Jets still can make the playoffs. In fact, FPI gives them a 1.2 percent chance to do so -- again, worst in the NFL.[br /][br /]Out of the 10,000 season simulations used to create the 2017 projections, the Jets made the Super Bowl exactly one time. They lost.[br /][br /]For more from ESPN Analytics, visit the [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/analytics/" ]ESPN Analytics Index[/url].[/i]