By Jason Keidel
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The Jets were never big on optics.
With one stroke, they slashed salary, which is a good thing. But they also cut a surefire Hall of Famer, Darrelle Revis, and two borderline Canton candidates, Brandon Marshall and Nick Mangold. Mangold, of course, was whacked while in Disney, on vacation with his family. Perhaps that’s trivial or incidental or irrelevant. But Gang Green just always make things look gangrenous.
While Marshall was way more transient, a rental, though a sound one, Revis and Mangold were iconic, monolithic Jets. Revis, of course, was the quintessential mercenary, literally following contracts with a bloodhound’s scent for cash. When he retires, he will undoubtedly have his bust bronzed. Mangold may well follow.
Superficially, the Jets are doing what football teams must — to quote Mangold, “Get younger and cheaper.” The NFL doesn’t have a sentimental cell in its body, or its history. If this were anyone but the Jets it would likely be seen as a routine week of monetary housekeeping. But it is the Jets.
And it makes you wonder who’s next. Maybe not next week or next month. But the Jets are clearly, materially diminished without that most holy gridiron trinity. Marshall asked to be released so that he can finally win a darn playoff game, much less win a Super Bowl. Revis had to go because he was slapped with a stack of felonies, on top of his decaying skill set. Mangold? His sin was age, wage and a bum foot. His $9 million cap hit did him in as much as any injury.
The Jets don’t have any more future Hall of Famers to drop into the dustbin of team history. But perhaps beyond personnel, they may be sacrificing the fella who runs the club on the field.
Since the Jets will almost surely be slated for a five- to six-win season, how will this impact Todd Bowles?
Depends on your take, of course. These moves could grease the skids for Bowles’ exit. If the Jets were 5-11 last year, with a team that was supposed to contend, Vegas surely will have them dwelling among the lower rungs of relevance.
Others think this is a perverted pass. The Jets have exponentially less talent, still no quarterback and a rather murky future. Vince Lombardi couldn’t win with this amalgam of kids, vets, misfits and mercenaries. In a sport that is increasingly tethered to the quarterback, the Jets are no closer to finding the next Joe Namath than they were 30 years ago.
The Jets seemed to have a plan, ride Ryan Fitzpatrick’s newfound arm until one of their backups — an eyesore assortment of Geno Smith, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg — would be ready for Broadway.
My, how fortunes turn in the NFL — which invariably lives up to its haunting acronym, Not For Long. Two short years ago, Bowles bowled over the natives. In his maiden voyage as skipper of Gang Green, he stormed to a 10-6 record, just a foul fourth quarter from 11-5 and a playoff berth.
The Jets essentially inverted their record last year (5-11), and looked even worse. Fitzpatrick fooled many of us into thinking he had a late-career epiphany and could mimic a franchise quarterback, even if for just a year or two. Shame on us for falling through the trap door of that illusion. Even now, Fitzpatrick still taunts the Jets with a $5 million dead cap hit in 2017.
Through all the moves, the Jets are about $34 million under the salary cap, which is almost exactly the NFL average (No. 14). Oddly enough, the two worst teams in the league, the Cleveland Browns ($105 million) and San Francisco 49ers ($92 million), are in the best position to procure and pursue talent. There’s no contractual wrangling that could get the Jets anywhere near that kind of sprawling cap space. Good thing Bowles’ modest, $4 million salary doesn’t count against the cap, or he could have been part of this Godfather-style personnel purge, too.
Does Bowles still have enough goodwill to endure another subpar season? Is there any residual faerie dust from that 10-6 campaign? Can any of us reasonably expect Bowles to turn this woeful Jets roster into a playoff contender? Frankly, as things stand today, an 8-8 record could qualify Bowles as coach of the year.
The Jets may not be as bad as the Browns or Redskins when it comes to turnover — Cleveland and Washington have a turnstile at the head coach’s office — but it’s hard to imagine Bowles coaching through his four-year deal, which expires at the end of the 2018 season. Fair? No. Things are rarely fair with the Jets. Or good. Or logical. Or prosperous.
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