Same old Jets? No, it’s a lot uglier than that
Save the “Same Old Jets” nonsense that will be so easy to trot out today, now that the Le’Veon Bell Experience has been canceled at Florham Park, now that LOLe’Veon’s Jets tenure ends after 580 days, 17 games, 863 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Please, please, please: let us leave the talk about poxes and jinxes and hexes at the door, where it belongs.
By making one awful decision after another, the way the Jets have made one awful decision after another since 2010 or so, the last time there was a glimmer of competence apparent anywhere in the operation. Bell? You could see this train wreck coming long before it hit the Jersey state line.
Bell chose to sit out the 2018 season rather than sign a $70 million deal with the Steelers — a team, it should be noted, that has taken up residence in the NFL’s elite bracket for around half a century, and that’s no accident, either. Bell also refused to play for the $14.5 million franchise tag. And even as he sat idle, the first time his name was associated with the Jets, it wasn’t exactly a Hallmark greeting.
Someone suggested he’d sign with them for $60 million. Bell’s Twitter response: An eye-roll emoji, paired with “that ain’t enough to come run with the Jets.” That was February 2018. Not long after, Bell was shown on TMZ being asked what it would take to make him a Jet. “Take it to the bank at $100 million,” he said.
When this shotgun marriage actually happened, on March 13, 2019, it was for four years, $52.5 million, $35 million of it guaranteed, $15 million of which will count against the cap in this lost year and another $4 million next.
Almost immediately, word began to circulate that Adam Gase wasn’t a fan of the deal, that he’d wanted then-GM Mike Maccagnan to spend on the offensive line. Gase denied that. But from the start the two had a frosty relationship, and that continued to the very end, with the Jets’ beleaguered head coach wishing aloud at his Monday press conference that Bell would speak to him before taking his laments to social media.
But by then, every suspicion about this fiasco of a deal had been realized. Sitting out the year clearly made Bell rusty; go ahead and try to compile a list of your top three favorite moments of Bell as a Jet. Bell wanted to be fed the ball more, but that was counterproductive, partly because last year’s Jets O-line was every bit as porous as Gase had feared, partly because Bell’s instincts — and let’s be fair, his talents — had eroded.
There was other silliness. There was the trip to the bowling alley last year when he’d allegedly missed a game with the flu. There were hard feelings when Bell disagreed with Gase’s diagnosis of a hamstring issue this summer — before Bell promptly missed three games with — all together now — a hamstring issue.
Bell’s mere presence has been a fiasco for a litany of prominent Jets. Maccagnan was fired a few months after making the deal. Gase has somehow survived so far but has a permanent seat on the griddle because of an offense that has been calamitous for two seasons, with Bell a prime reason. Christopher Johnson, of course, approved the signing and then about five minutes later whacked the man who convinced him to do it. And new GM Joe Douglas couldn’t even get a bag of balls, tees and shoulder pads in exchange for Bell, so he was forced to cut his losses.
Douglas is the one key Jet figure unsullied by this mess, but he now has, as the two most prominent transactions on his two-year resume, exiling Jamal Adams to Seattle and scrap-heaping Bell. The Adams deal yielded a raft of draft picks, and each one will be scrutinized to dust. And Bell? It probably didn’t kill Douglas ridding himself of someone else’s mistake, but he is the one who now must answer for — and correct— that miscue.
Same Old Jets? Only if you’re talking about the cloud of mismanagement that has haunted this team, with rare spasms of exception, since man first walked on the moon. There is nothing mystical about any of this. The Jets have mostly been a fiasco since Altamont.
Just add the tenure of Le’Veon Bell — exactly 19 months, to the day — to a pile that now scrapes the sky, a rancid pile of industrial football waste that strangles the franchise more than any hex, jinx, pox or curse ever could.
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