By Jason Keidel
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As we put the postmortems on the Jets’ appalling loss to the Bengals — a game they had won six ways to, yes, Sunday — it raises an awkward question for football fans, and acutely uncomfortable for Gang Green devotees.
Is Darrelle Revis really Darrelle Revis anymore?
Of course not.
But, more poignantly, is Revis a top-flight corner anymore? Does he belong in the group photo with Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman? Should Revis be blindly assigned the opposing team’s best wide receiver?
All players have bad days, games and weeks. A few years ago, Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson made Revis look like he was running on a beach. Just a bad day from a great player.
But those days are alarmingly more frequent now. And it’s not just a single pass, a botched coverage or poor field conditions. It seems Revis Island, once the most exclusive real estate in football, has a few more tenants.
You can blame coverages and communication all you want, but there’s no excusing or denying the death blow A.J. Green put on Revis on Sunday. It would take several washes to wipe Green’s cleat marks from the back of Revis’ jersey.
Green put up PlayStation numbers — 12 catches, 180 yards and a touchdown caught while a galloping Revis fell well short of the stellar wideout. By most accounts, that particular play was a team failure. Revis was supposed to get help and did not. But it doesn’t negate the day Green had or the solemn message it sends.
Five years ago — heck, two years ago — there would have been no chance that Green would have dusted Revis for an entire game. The catch Green made down the left sideline, in which he seemed to cradle it with one arm while Revis was draped over him, was just simply a perfect play. No one could have defended it any better. Revis knew this, which is why he simply shook his head in abject disbelief when he saw Green leap up with the pigskin still in his hands.
But otherwise, Green was simply better than Revis. Green beat him on out routes, long routes, post routes, fly routes and Google Map routes.
There’s no joy in seeing this or writing this. Revis isn’t just a great player or first-ballot Hall of Famer. He’s incredibly candid, thoughtful, intelligent and articulate. Revis didn’t get where he is simply by dint of his dominant athletic ability. He is a man who thinks before he acts, speaks and plays.
If you’ve ever read S.L. Price’s piece on Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, for Sports Illustrated — perhaps the best sports feature ever written — you’d know that Revis came from rather humble and perilous beginnings. Just making it to the NFL is a small miracle, much less making millions and leaving a legacy as arguably the best player in Jets history. If you can dodge bullets, gangs and crack dens and step around the carnage of galling poverty, the NFL must feel like Club Med.
During WFAN’s various jaunts to Jets training camp, Revis mused over his future in football. He told Mike Francesa that he has pondered a move to safety, as great corners — like Rod Woodson and Charles Woodson — have done when they reach the wrong side of 30.
Revis turned 31 in July. He’s also endured major knee surgery, which can only add years to an NFL player’s life, particularly someone who plays cornerback. Particularly someone who played it as well as Revis. It’s never fun watching our heroes in repose.
Surely Revis can play safety. But can he still play cornerback safely?
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel