FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The smart folks at ESPN Stats & Information can research a statistic for every conceivable scenario, but not everything about football can be quantified with numbers. They can't rate a team's chemistry (at least I don't think they can). It's the ultimate X factor, part of what makes sports fun.
So, no, I don't have any hard evidence on the subject; you'll have to take my word for it when I say the New York Jets have better team chemistry than last season. This is a more together group than the fractured group from 2016 that tapped out at the first sign of adversity. The seminal moment was the Brandon Marshall-Sheldon Richardson confrontation in Week 3, which created a toxic environment for the remainder of the season.
Give credit to general manager Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles for cleaning up the mess. Applying the addition-by-subtraction philosophy to many of their offseason moves, they cleansed the locker room of the "me" guys and set-in-their-ways veterans. Some decisions were based on economics, but the vast majority were football/attitude moves.
Four weeks into the season, there's not one player you wish they had back. It's a long year and things can change, but you can't second-guess them for any of the pink slips.
Marshall and Eric Decker are averaging less than 10 yards per catch for the New York Giants and Tennessee Titans, respectively. Richardson still is looking for his first sack with the Seattle Seahawks. David Harris was inactive last Sunday and has played only seven defensive snaps for the New England Patriots.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith are backups for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Giants, respectively. Nick Folk already has missed two field goals and two extra points for the Bucs. Calvin Pryor is on the Jacksonville Jaguars' injured reserve, one step away from being bounced out of the league. Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis, two future Ring of Honor members, remain unemployed.
Bowles didn't want to rip the departed, saying Monday, "[Our two wins] aren't a product of subtractions. You move on when a veteran leaves you. You just have to develop as a team. The two wins are a product of them just working hard and coming together. It has nothing to do with the guys that left."
Well, it has something to do with them, but it's also about their replacements. In most cases, the Jets plugged in a younger player. Young players are hungry, more receptive to coaching. They don't know what they don't know, so they can be molded into what the head coach wants. The only position where the Jets went heavy on age over youth is quarterback. Josh McCown, 38, has emerged as the team leader -- the camp counselor, so to speak.
"The chemistry is high, as far as on the positive side," McCown said. "I felt that since I've been here, and we've done nothing to take away from that. It's probably one of the better places for me that I've been in 15 years."
Bowles believes the team started coming together in the offseason. Many around the team believe they've been galvanized by the outside criticism. It wasn't the intended byproduct, but the roster overhaul bonded the newcomers and those that survived the purge.
"Football, as in other sports, you can't really listen to outside noise," Bowles said. "You have to understand what you have and you have to build it from within, and just let everybody else talk and just play your game."
It's hard to predict how many games the surprising Jets (2-2) will win, but I know this: They won't lose because of rotten chemistry.