Quit Throwing the Same Old Players in With the Jets

I am happy to introduce a new weekly columnist for TheJetsBlog, Kristine Reese.  Kristine writes about football in many places and you can find much of her work at Aerys Sports, a great site dedicated to women writing about sports.  By way of introduction, a few months ago I started watching Erik Manassy’s Spreecasts and was really impressed with Kristine Reese’s level of knowledge of the Jets.  She follows the team with more dedication and passion than most people I know and she’s a fantastic writer.  We’re happy to bring Kristine aboard and hope you will give her a warm welcome!  Be sure to follow Kristine on Twitter @KristineReese.

At the conclusion of OTA’s Thursday, Rex Ryan revealed he was pleased with the team’s young up and coming receiving corps. However, GM Mike Tannenbaum could be on the lookout for another wide receiver to add to the group.

For months, reports have indicated that the Jets were planning to sign a veteran free agent wide receiver after the draft, and with Holmes being the most experienced wideout on the team, a veteran presence would certainly be beneficial.

Unfortunately, the timing of Ryan’s statement, along with the reports about the teams search for a veteran wideout, re-set in motion a popular narrative involving once-productive, high-profile players and the New York Jets.

This week’s subjects?

Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens.

While on one of my regular morning quests for Jets news and nuggets, I stumbled across a Yahoo! Fan article titled, “Should the Jets Sign Terrell Owens?: Fan’s View.” Upon reading, I spit out my coffee on my laptop. (Thankfully, said coffee did not embed itself into my keyboard and fry my hard drive because, in case you weren’t aware, coffee spit-takes are NOT covered under Apple Care).

I know this article is representative of a fan’s view and it is not, in fact, a “report” on the team’s interest, but you and I both know it doesn’t take much for the internet to go on, especially when it involves the Jets and players with a penchant for the spotlight.

When I shared the article with my Twitter followers, I did so in the hope that the rest of the internet would find this suggestion as implausible as I did. I was wrong. In fact, I was shocked and saddened to discover that a number of people thought this might actually be a good idea.

To be fair, Terrell Owens used to be a very good football player albeit with rampant self-sabotaging behavior. But the six-time Pro Bowler is is now 38-years old, recovering from an ACL repair, and hasn’t seen an NFL game for almost two years. While he is reportedly in very good shape in spite of all that, his “lack of effort both on and off the field” lead to his release from an IFL team he had an ownership stake in.

Everyone deserves a second, third or in this case, sixth chance, but the guy has an entire section of his Wikipedia page devoted to controversies and touchdown celebrations for a reason. Is this really the kind of player you want a Jets team we just watched make front page headlines for six months to take a flyer on? Do you really think pairing him opposite Santonio Holmes is going to get us where we want to be?

The answer is no.

Then you have Chad Ochocinco, who was was released from the Patriots just minutes after Ryan’s presser wrapped. It took 46 seconds for both NFL fans and the media to begin suggesting the the Jets take a look at Ocho, and seven minutes for SNY’s Adam Schein to rationalize the chatter by tweeting that the Jets were not interested.

No doubt the “not interested” line is one we have heard from the Jets before, but you have to believe the team knows that Ochocinco is not going to do anything for them, not even share secrets about Bill Belichick’s offense.

While T.O. and Ochocinco’s off-the-field personas greatly differ – I actually think Chad Johnson Ochocinco is a decent guy – I have used these two players as examples of a predictable and frankly lazy conclusion made by many that the Jets are now the land of misfit toys.

I briefly explored this idea earlier in the spring, when just about every free-agent football player of this ilk looking for a new home was linked to the Jets in print. Names like Randy Moss, Brandon Jacobs and Hines Ward were all described as a “perfect fit” for my favorite team, mostly because someone with a lot of Twitter followers had a cute idea.

Truth is, history has in fact shown that the Jets have a certain propensity to make moves that are perhaps more about making headlines and less about improving their actual football team, and for that reason alone, these suggestions are fair. But, the “circus in town” headline is played out thanks to the Tebow trade (and that is the only time I will mention that name today; you’re welcome), and, to borrow a phrase from our head coach, the pulse of the fan base indicates they are ready for a different outlook on their team.

Perhaps they are not the only ones.

I stated in my article at the time – and have continued to try and point out – that if this team really wants to compete with their fellow stadium inhabitants, then they must try and commit to a different manner of doing things, because the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

I feel the Jets approach in the draft and free agency this season has represented the beginning of a philosphical shift that they know they needed to make, and that is why you will not see Plaxico Burress back this season, nor will you see T.O. or Ochocinco wearing the Green & White.

Fans banged their heads against the wall in free agency because the team didn’t go out and grab a high-profile player at right tackle, safety, wide receiver or outside linebacker. We shook our heads and thought they were stubbornly refusing to address positions of need. I believe we were wrong.

Instead, the team somewhat re-focused their energy, opting to build a new brand of football emphasizing youth, speed and a refreshed attitude; a solid plan for both the present and more importantly, the future. I think I speak for everyone when I say it is a welcome change.

So instead of a receiving corps loaded with recognizable names, we now have a roster full of young talent with upside, a trend that is growing in popularity in today’s NFL. Santonio Holmes, the veteran, will remain in his role as the number one with this years’s second round draft pick Stephen Hil opposite him on the outside. Young Jeremy Kerley earned his role as the number three receiver last year, so that leaves Chaz Schilens, Patrick Turner and Jordan White (and I suppose Scotty McKnight and Eron Riley) to battle for the remaining spots.

While Turner, Schilens and White certainly do not have the body of work that guys like Owens or Ocho have, they do have their health (save for the broken foot), speed and the right attitude, something this team desperately needs. They also can contribute on special teams.

Now, it’s unreasonable for me to except every football fan to be familiar with the Jets depth chart, but just because you’ve never heard of Schilens, Turner, Kerley or Hill does not mean they should not start for this team. Some people had never heard of Victor Cruz before last season and we all know how that turned out.

On the flip side, just because I have heard of Anne Hathaway doesn’t mean she should be Catwoman.

To be clear, I don’t have an issue with adding a veteran receiver for depth. Injuries happen, players don’t progress up to expectations, and things change. Adding an experienced and relatively inexpensive free agent like Roy Williams, Mike Sims-Walker or yes, even Braylon Edwards is wise, and I am in the business of making suggestions to improve this football team.

In fact, Braylon Edwards – who has been linked to the Jets since he was released by the 49ers last season – recently tweeted he has been given the thumbs up to participate in football activities. Provided he is healthy enough to play at the start of the season, adding a player that is already familiar with the team and on the right side of thirty is a much more likely possibility than adding a 38-year old diva or a player better know for his Twitter account than his performance on the field.

I will eat a giant piece of crow if by some chance T.O. or Ocho ends up on this team, but I can assure you I will not defend it. Though I have stood by a lot of decisions by this team that I felt were questionable, the time has come for both the team and the narrative to challenge themselves to be better.

As for T.O.’s possible future to the NFL, Owens announced that he had fired his long-time agent Drew Rosenhaus earlier this week, replacing him with Jordan Woy. In a statement, T.O. revealed, “It was important for me to hire someone who believes in my ability to help an NFL team and believes in me as a person.”

Meanwhile, Ochocinco is still represented by Mr. Rosenhaus.

I wish them both the best of luck. I just wish for it well away from my team.