The NFL is a cold business sometimes and that was on display today as the Jets decided to release veteran wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, in favor of signing Derrick Mason. Our writers discuss the move and their memories of Cotchery with the Jets, who gave them his entire seven year career.
(The photo above is Cotchery’s last reception as a New York Jet, a touchdown in the AFC Championship Game)
All heart. all soul. What a sad day. Many are asking us why is the release WR Jerricho Cotchery imminent. J-Co is a staple of consistency, toughness and symbolic of the notion of the phrase “Play Like A Jet.” The answer is simple. It’s business. A cruel business. Football is the greatest sport but the business aspect of it is the worst.
Cotchery had back surgery in February. We’ll assume that his health is playing a primary part in this decision. Derrick Mason is now a Jet, replacing one vet for for another.
To remember Cotch here in New York, you only have to look back to one play. One day. One moment that embodied the quiet class and leadership from a guy who has done nothing but what he’s been asked to do here.
It happened at the Dog Pound last season, when Cotchery pulled his groin BEFORE making a key drive saving third and nine catch in OT at Cleveland. The first down never amounted to the game winning drive. That took place later for the Jets, but it was the “team first” effort, the willingness to sacrifice the body in order to help the team, that stuck with players and fans after the game. It was a play repeatedly shown on ESPN and all of the sports news sites.
Damien Woody called it one of the best plays he’d ever seen. We call it the symbol of what Jerricho Cotchery was here. A player who provided the Jets heart, soul, and selfless spirit.
You will be sorely missed J-Co. Get healthy and get back onto the field. You will be a great addition to any club that hires you.
Derrick Mason has been a productive player for years. His presence has dropped since he landed in Baltimore but what WR ever thrives there? He’s 37. The Jets would be taking a chance if they felt he could provide extensive production at this point in his career, one that includes 900 plus receptions.
The Jets can take what they can get out of his experience, especially on third down. All the while hoping that a speedier option like a Jeremy Kerley turns into a slot weapon a some point in 2011.
To no one’s surprise, the Jets continue to roll the dice, looking to catch lightning in a bottle on offense, but this move will certainly be met with some negative reaction. A lot of people looked at Cotchery as a comparable receiver to Mason, although Mason has quietly put up eight 1,000 yard seasons in his career. Still, something about this move just doesn’t seem right. Cotchery is 8 years younger than Mason, and you’d think that the Jets would want to keep as many pieces around Sanchez in tact as possible as they shift to a more pass-oriented offense. It’s a shame the Jets couldn’t find another way to save $900k, instead of losing a heart-and-soul guy like Cotchery.
It’s tough to pick one favorite Cotchery play, but one comes to mind immediately: In 2006 vs. the Patriots, the Jets were mounting a furious comeback after falling behind 17-0 at halftime, and Cotchery made one of the most hard-nosed, heads-up plays I’d ever seen. He caught a pass from Chad Pennington and was knocked off of his feet by Chad Scott, but somehow fell directly on top of Eugene Wilson and never hit the ground. What looked like a tackle and the end of the play to the other 21 players on the field plus the 80,000 in attendance was turned into a touchdown by Cotchery, who athletically got to his feet and coasted home for six. The comeback fell short of course, but this play typified #89. As Herm Edwards used to say about Cotchery and his penchant for timely heroics, “there goes 89 again, makin’ a play.” J-Co will be missed.
This is just a head scratching move as far as I’m concerned. Santonio Holmes is a given, but who knows what you’re going to get from Plaxico Burress? He’ll be 34 in a few days and has already picked up an injury in training camp. Not to mention he’s spent the past 24 months in the slammer. Derrick Mason has been productive the past few years but his reception and yardage totals have gone down each of the past three seasons. At 37 years old, how are we to expect that trend will reverse? I know they won’t be expecting a ton out of Mason, but what if Burress is not healthy, or not close to his old self? Cotchery would have been a perfectly reliable number two if Burress goes down. You’d much rather have Cotchery in that situation than Mason.
Cotchery’s catch against the Browns last season when he came up lame in mid-route and still made a diving catch summed him up as a player. It was a gritty, selfless, and clutch play. Cotchery embodied those three traits, and he’ll be seriously missed.
Jerricho Cotchery was never truly appreciated during his time with the New York Jets. Whenever he was given the chance, he found ways to make plays, specifically at the most important of times. I will always remember Cotchery consistently moving the chains on third downs, running impeccable routes, and carrying himself with a degree of humbleness and class only matched by Curtis Martin since I have watched this team.
Favorite play? Too many to pick. I will remember him as a Patriot killer. In 2006, staying on his feet when everybody thought he was down and turning it into a 70 something yard touchdown at the Meadowlands. Later in the season, when the Jets upset New England in their building, he pulled in a ridiculous over the shoulder touchdown to ice the game and then in their playoff meeting scoring a 77 yard touchdown to give the Jets a first half lead. What about in 2008, when he acrobatically pulled in a bomb from Brett Favre with the ball pinned against his shoulder and helmet? In 2009, he turned the momentum in the Jets week two upset of New England with a huge catch to start the second half and of course last year, he scored a TD against them in week two and swung the momentum in their playoff game with a 58 yard 4th quarter reception.
Derrick Mason is 900K cheaper and has had a much more productive career than Cotchery, and I do think he can be a valuable addition. However, let’s not turn a blind eye to him being 8 years older than Cotchery and the Jets continually switching up the wide receivers around quarterback Mark Sanchez. Do you think Plaxico Burress or Derrick Mason will be here in a year or two? I am not so sure. Sanchez has continually been asked to work with a receiving group filled with moving parts.
In the end, I have faith in Mike Tannenabum and like his desire to constantly improve. However, that doesn’t mean I have to approve of he handles veterans of this organization who are leaders in the locker room and examples of how you want your players to act. This was a cold move, but let’s hope it proves to be a smart one.