After the Jets decision to cut David Harris and announcement that they will either trade or release Eric Decker the entire NFL world collectively screamed, “TANK! THE JETS ARE TANKING!” As I stated yesterday, it’s really impossible to successfully argue that the Jets aren’t tanking but since Mike Maccagnan has to try his only play is to bog us down in semantics.
After initially sending out Todd Bowles to field questions, most of which he couldn’t answer, on the release of Harris, Maccagnan realized he was going to have to address reporters himself after the Decker news got out. Maccagnan was asked if the Jets are tanking the 2017 season to which he replied, “That’s not something we’re focused on. We’re focused on making decisions about this team going forward.”
So does that mean no tanking? “That’s not our focus,” Maccagnan said.
But let’s be real, “we’re focused on making decisions about this team going forward,” means focusing on how to best set them up for 2018, 2019 and beyond. And to be clear, that’s exactly the right move. The problem with these decisions isn’t that they were made, it’s the when and the how they were made combined with the decision to sign a soon to be 38-year-old journeyman quarterback for $6.5 million that is making this obvious tank job look like a hapless mess with no actual direction.
A reporter asked Maccagnan directly, “if the point of releasing older players is to let younger guys play, why sign Josh McCown instead of handing the starting job over to Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg?”
“I would say having Josh be a veteran presence in there, I think he’s good for those two young players. That will play itself out over time, and Todd will make that determination of who’s going to start and who’s going to play,” Maccagnan said. “Like I said, there’s a lot of football left to be played before we get to that determination of who’s actually going to start.”
Which, okay. That would make sense except for the fact that the same thing would apply to Harris and Decker. The Jets are young and inexperienced at both linebacker and receiver, having those two players, who have had much more success in their careers than McCown, would certainly help the young players at those positions too. Veteran leadership doesn’t only help young quarterbacks. Also this quote would make sense if McCown is only here to be a mentor and a backup, but right now he’s getting the first-team reps – which naturally takes away reps from Hackenberg and Petty making it harder for them to prepare for the season – and it’s obvious to everyone that even though McCown isn’t a very good quarterback, he’s easily the best on the roster right now. So when it comes time to name a starter, will they go with the best player, the one who gives them “the best chance to win,” or will they follow the youth movement?
Now that Harris and Decker are/will be gone, the Jets only have four players on the roster over the age of 30, they are starting two rookie safeties, will now start an inside linebacker that they didn’t want last year, run out a receiver unit with one player with three years of experience and no one else with more than one and will have to start McCown, Hackenberg or Petty at quarterback. How does that not equal tanking? Semantics, that’s how.
To Maccagnan and Bowles “tanking” means intentionally throwing games, Bowles will coach each game to win and the players will be trying to win so therefore they aren’t “tanking.” But to people who can see through the obvious semantic smokescreen we can recognize that those things are true, yet the Jets as an organization are “tanking” the season by saving money and constructing a roster that will not have a chance to be competitive enough to win more than a couple of games this year. The semantics are dizzying, but it’s really easy to cut through and see it for what it is, an obvious tank job.
They’ll never admit they are “tanking” because Bowles and his players will try to win each and every game, but the roster is set up in such a way that they won’t be able to win very many games at all. So, while they won’t intentionally throw individual games, they are very much intentionally throwing the season and to be honest, that’s a good thing. That’s exactly what this organization needs, it’s what it should’ve done years ago, but because of the way they are going about it it feels like they are lost and have no actual plan. They also won’t admit they are “tanking” because they still want you to buy tickets to the games and sell you on the lie that they are “fielding the best roster possible to compete,” but the Jets have tried to rebuild on the fly for far too long. Now they need to burn it down and be absolutely terrible for a little while until they can build the team backup.
Keeping Decker, Harris and starting McCown could’ve possibly netted the Jets four-six wins this season, just enough to do nothing except miss out on a top draft pick and have less money to spend in free agency next year (remember even though Harris and Decker would’ve been gone before 2018 they can now roll over the cap space they saved on them this year into next year). So, now don’t bother wasting anyone’s time with McCown, start Petty or Hackenberg, go full “tank” mode and see what you have in them. Try to win each and every game, but when they fail far more often than they succeed then you can look to draft a quarterback next year and have a chance at eventually becoming a competitive football team again.
“Tank” or “that’s not our focus,” it’s all semantics. The Jets can try and sell you that lie, but you don’t have to believe it and in fact you can be happy that they finally decided embrace the “tank.”
Chris Nimbley is the editor-in-chief of JetsInsider.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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