By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork/WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — If your home computer started to shake just before 10 a.m. on Sunday it was because there was an earthquake on the Internet, a major tremor in the force. If it got up and walked away just before 2 a.m. on Monday it was because it just couldn’t take the madness anymore.
NFL free agency is currently dominating the sports landscape like never before. The last five-plus days have been unprecedented. Players have gone here, there and everywhere. There have been hearts broken and spirits elevated in cities across the country. The return of football basically made the baseball trade deadline look like a Flag Day celebration.
In the world of the Jets, where hardly a day goes by without some kind of fantastical absurdity taking place, there was and still is a whole range of emotions taking people on a roller coaster ride from the depths of despair to a city in the clouds and then back down to hell. Just when everything has seemed right in the world, the rug has been pulled out only to be replaced by a trampoline.
Throughout all of this a few truths have come to light. Jets fans on both sides of the aisle are, by and large, ridiculous. Their passion is incredible. It rivals fans of European soccer sides. It’s often so palpable one has to wonder how these fine souls ever get anything but rooting for their team accomplished. I realize fans of all teams are this way, but to see the Jets fan in action on the Internet is something else entirely.
I have to admit I spent roughly 17 hours on Twitter on Sunday, monitoring the comings and goings. And although not that much actually went down, what did likely altered the Jets’ fortunes for the 2011 season — for the better.
After snagging the premiere wide receiver on the market late last week, the Jets turned their attention from Santonio Holmes and went the Guns of Navarone after the premiere defensive player available on the planet. And although General Manager Mike Tannenbaum ultimately failed in his pursuit of Nnamdi Asomugha he did the right thing — he went all out to make the Jets better.
But no more than two seconds after the Eagles swooped in and seemingly stole a Super Bowl berth from the Jets, countless of the so-called green and white “faithful” went into a form of hysteria. Suddenly, despite several offseasons of superlative front office work, the world seemed to turn on Tannenbaum. Many fans conveniently forgot about the moves to get Brett Favre, Bart Scott, Braylon Edwards, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Cromartie, among others. They didn’t matter anymore and what’s worse, Tannenbaum’s track record didn’t matter anymore.
What followed was a slew of second guessing and armchair quarterbacking. The big fear, losing cornerback Cromartie, was justified, but the manner in which the fans threw Tannenbaum under the bus — before he actually lost Cromartie that is — was pure stupidity. Many Jets fans just assumed he was gone because, apparently, Tannenbaum “dissed” him. Meanwhile, they overlooked the fact that Cromartie embarrassed the Jets publicly a few days earlier. Then, predictably, after word leaked early Monday morning that Cro had re-upped for another four years everyone started hailing the great Tannenbaum once again.
Is it me or does nearly everyone go schizo when they should just sit back and take a deep breath?
Maybe it’s because this team hasn’t won a championship in going on 43 years. Maybe it’s because the vast majority of Jets fans, online anyway, were not alive back when this franchise was truly miserable and really don’t know what true suffering is. Whatever the reason, many Jets fans walk around with this sense of entitlement and what’s worse they forget that the NFL is without question a business, a cold-hearted corporation that absolutely under no circumstances allows for the paying public to fall in love with average to good talent.
You simply cannot look at Edwards or Brad Smith as being anything more than what they really are — good players who performed their roles with the Jets admirably, but in reality are not viewed as these franchise-type forces that are irreplaceable.
Now I get the continuity argument. The Jets have, for the most part, built a family in a short period of time and have flourished. But it’s the same tried and true scenario every season. Fans screamed about Leon Washington when he wasn’t brought back. What happened? Smith stepped in and Leon became an after thought. What about Alan Faneca? Same deal. Matt Slauson inherited his role and the Jets’ offensive line was still among the best in the NFL. Then, of course, there was Thomas Jones, a player that did everything in his power to impress everyone associated with the green and white. But when push came to shove Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan weren’t about to give a 30-something running back a big contract when they could give an eventual Hall of Fame running back in Tomlinson what amounted to a dirt cheap contract.
And it goes on and on.
Now there’s the Braylon vs. Plaxico Burress battle.
On Sunday morning Burress tweeted that he was heading for the East Coast. We all quickly found out what that cryptic message meant. The Jets had taken a page from the Eagles’ book and stolen a sought-after player from the presumed frontrunners.
Now, admittedly, the move is a roll of the dice by Tannenbaum, but it’s hardly like flipping a coin. All the arguments against are well known. Burress has missed the last two seasons. He will soon be 34. There’s no guarantee he’ll ever be the same player he was when he was catching touchdowns for the Giants and so on and so forth.
But I have to wonder why Edwards wasn’t scooped up or at least why he hasn’t received serious interest from many teams once free agency started (he is currently in talk with the Cardinals). I mean, why aren’t teams falling over themselves lining up to grab this guy? Is it his legal problems? Perhaps, though I believe NFL GMs don’t put nearly as much importance on that as they have in the past. Is it because Edwards has an asking price that rivals the economy of some small countries? Maybe, but there has to be someone out there who would give him between $6 million and $8 million per season, right? I mean that’s what a good number of Jets fans would do.
It doesn’t work that way.
Edwards had a so-so first season with the Jets, but last season really came into his own within this team’s dynamic. Long thought of as a guy who drops big passes at gigantic moments, Edwards was a vacuum last season. He also developed into one of the best blocking wide receivers in the NFL. He is, without question, still a fan favorite and will be remembered down the road for many more positive than negative contributions during his short time with the Jets.
But he’s not elite, or at his best he’s not as good as Burress still can be. The Jets saw an opportunity to put Holmes and Burress together, players who have a chemistry with one another. They put a game-breaker and a touchdown maker right next to now third-year quarterback Mark Sanchez, two things he desperately needs if he’s to become the next coming of the next coming. Edwards is not what Burress has proven to be, but Edwards, if he had his way, wants to be paid like he is.
I personally believe Burress will be an absolute beast for the Jets. After an adjustment period that should last all of four preseason games, he will become a menace in the red zone and will inflate Sanchez’s numbers while drawing the type of attention that will free up Dustin Keller and Jerricho Cotchery to the extent where the Jets will have four viable targets for the young quarterback to drool over. Then you throw in an already very good running game and solid pass-catching targets out of the backfield and you have an offense that will rival an already stout defense in production.
On top of that, the Jets are not done adding pieces and refurbishing parts. They will either promote or acquire a safety they trust to piggyback the middle with healthy Jim Leonhard. They plan to sign linebacker David Harris long term. They likely will either bring back Shaun Ellis or find a representative replacement to help mentor their many young pass rushers.
You have to forget the fact that training camp has already started. There are 31 other teams in the same predicament, all working feverishly to fill holes. This Jets roster will remain a work in progress for some time, but so will everyone else’s. Tannenbaum has made tremendous strides to put together a team that should be better on paper than last season’s squad.
Just give him more than your timetable to do his thing. Oh ye of little faith needs to find some.
Because this GM is a tremendous GM. If you think otherwise you need to get a grip. Seriously.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini
What else would you like to see the Jets do this offseason? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.