As Jets fans cope with the frustration of missing out on one of the most exciting postseasons in recent history, it’s understandable that they search for a place to affix blame for a season of disappointment. Predictably and deservedly, many fingers have pointed squarely in the direction of General Manager, Terry Bradway.
After reading some scathing reviews of Bradway’s performance to date, some fans may be tempted to appear at the General Manager’s doorstep with torch and pitchfork in hand. But before we deliver Bradway’s head on a platter, let’s ask ourselves this question. How hard is it to write an article slamming a GM coming off a 6-10 season? Answer: not very. In fact, if one so desired, it’s actually quite simple to shred many of this season’s playoff GMs as well. For those with short memories, Bradway was one of them as recently as last year.
It’s true that any man with a laptop sporting a pair of shiny 20/20 hindsight goggles can have a nice go at an NFL GM, especially one who has suffered a losing season. But a significantly more challenging undertaking is providing a fair critique without neglecting both sides of the argument.
For example, some critics have great fun stripping Bradway of all credit for two playoff appearances by asserting that he reaped the benefits of the “foundation” provided by the Parcells/Groh/Kotite regimes. Oh really? Then how is it that the “foundation” assembled by these collective regimes failed to make the playoffs in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2000, despite playing three of those years under the tutelage of a Hall of Fame coach? Are we to believe that it was mere coincidence that upon being significantly retooled by a new General Manager, the Jets immediately found the postseason in 2001 and – could it be – again in 2002?
That’s a stumper. A true mystery. I’ll give you time to ponder this curious anomaly, but not without a few words of caution. If you’re going to excuse the failed 1999 season due to Testaverde’s injury, then shouldn’t Bradway receive the same benefit for enduring Pennington’s injury in 2003? And if you’re going to excuse the Jets failure in 2000 by noting that the prior regime’s star-studded draft class hadn’t yet matured, then doesn’t Bradway deserve the same treatment with respect to his own selections? In the final analysis, the inability to reconcile the “foundation theory” with the general failure of prior regimes leaves me with this lingering thought. Before I accuse Bradway of riding another’s coattails, I’d damn well make sure that the person originally wearing the coat was able to find his own success. That's just me.
Also, those who contribute to the lambasting of Bradway habitually and conveniently overlook the following unfortunate reality. Members of the prior regimes gorged themselves on a smorgasbord of tasty, well done free agents; and when they finished their feast, they left Bradway sitting alone at the table with some stale leftovers and a big fat bill. Fortunately, he was able to convince GM Charley Casserly to chip in $14 million in return for three starters in the Texans’ expansion draft. But as for the rest of the ballooning, unjustified, albatross salaries that hamstring the Jets cap to this very day, Bradway wasn’t as lucky. Despite all this, one has the nerve to complain that the only brand name free agents on the roster are those brought in by the very same people who precluded Bradway from acquiring any on his own? That’s like me swiping your wallet and then laughing at you for being broke. It’s bad form.
Listen, like many NFL GMs, Bradway has made critical mistakes – mistakes for which he deserves just criticism. After two respectable seasons, Bradway had a bad 12 months, plain and simple. I too lament some of his questionable draft day decisions, failed free agent acquisitions, and off-season miscalculations that contributed to a disappointing 2003 season. But just because a man has opened himself up to criticism doesn’t mean it’s necessary to evaluate his performance by employing double standards or half-truths.
It’s okay to acknowledge that Bradway selected an excellent wide receiver in Moss, without immediately tearing that player down for taking a reasonable time to develop. It’s acceptable to recognize the rarity in reaching back-to-back playoffs with a team that had seen the postseason just once in nine prior attempts, without robbing the current GM all credit for his contribution. It’s all right to concede that Bradway inherited one of the league’s worst salary cap ledgers, without unjustifiably suggesting that he is equally to blame. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. Hold Bradway accountable and give him the criticism he deserves – but do it fairly.