By Ernie Palladino
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The latest news surrounding David Harris all but encapsulated the difference between the Jets and the Patriots.
With coach Bill Belichick casting about his authority as great leaders will, New England has over the past 17 years created a model of success by acquiring Patriots-type players. Be they drafted or, in Harris’ case, free agent acquisitions, the description for the most part remains the same — tough, coachable, intelligent, resourceful, with more than a touch of leadership ability.
So it was no surprise the perennial AFC East champions jumped at Harris once the Jets unceremoniously launched the 10-year veteran linebacker June 6 to save the $6.5 million they would have owed him this season. The Pats have done this time and again with other teams’ castoffs, most recently with running back LeGarrette Blount, to win Super Bowls.
They find talent that not only fits into the strategic system, but the overall culture. Pats-type players. All-business guys who still have a little bit left in the tank for a year or two. Like Harris, or Jets future Hall of Fame cornerback Darrelle Revis, who wound up in New England for 2014 following a 2013 stopover in Tampa Bay as he came back from a torn ACL. That single year with Belichick yielded a much-cherished Super Bowl ring.
The Jets’ latest dealings with Harris show exactly why the chasm between the two teams could reach Grand Canyon proportions this year.
The Jets have no “type.”
Haven’t had one in years, basically because it seems the hierarchy has no idea of what such a thing would look like.
Naming two Jets who qualify as a “Jets-type” player since the Mike Maccagnan-Todd Bowles combination took over in 2015 is impossible. One can even go back to the short-but-infamous John Idzik-Rex Ryan partnership and not find two.
Geno Smith? Only IK Enemkpali wanted to follow him, and then just to punch him in the jaw.
Dee Milliner and Calvin Pryor? Busted first-round picks.
And, please, let us not talk about Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. Wilkerson showed his true colors with an underwhelming season last year, and Richardson has become a major behavioral headache.
Leonard Williams is showing promise, but with only two seasons under his belt it’s hard to cast him firmly as a “Jets-type.”
Harris — durable, tough, totally professional at 33 — came closest to defining what the Jets should be looking for. He was a long-term warrior who worried more about the team’s lot than his own.
Of course the Jets would cut a guy like that to save a few bucks. Types cost money. And they do tend to gravitate toward winners, which is why Harris reportedly chose the Pats over five other suitors.
Perhaps the Jets are attempting to find one in first-round safety Jamal Adams. The scouting report says he has outstanding leadership qualities, along with superior skills. But he’s a rookie, and right now he can only be regarded as a talented player who probably won’t change his organization’s dysfunctional culture overnight.
It takes vision from above to do that.
The Pats have vision. The Jets have a conglomeration of bodies that act more often like strangers than a solid unit. Front office instability and the cheapness of Woody Johnson have created that mess.
They have failed in every way possible to put together a cohesive team.
It was Idzik, after all, who got rid of Revis rather than pay him top dollar. For all of the cornerback’s abrasiveness when it came to money matters, he was clearly a leader in the secondary. The Jets never had to worry about his side when healthy.
Instead of keeping Revis around for his comeback season after a torn ACL, Idzik traded him to Tampa Bay for a first-round pick that turned into the troubled Richardson, who may be headed out after this season. Belichick signed Revis a year later in 2014, and the cornerback got his ring.
The New England roster is full of Pats-type players: smart safety Devin McCourty, young stud cornerback Malcolm Butler, gritty linebacker Rob Ninkovich, sure-handed wide receivers Julian Edelman and up-and-comer Malcolm Mitchell. And once they fall out of Belichick’s mold, whether for money, age, or ego, they’re gone.
The Jets had one of those “types.” But David Harris is gone.
He’s a Patriot now, and he will undoubtedly torture his old team twice a year.
Somehow, Belichick figured he’d fit right in up there.
Maybe Harris was more Pat than Jet in the first place.
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