Contrary to what some people may think, we actually like and get along with a handful of New York Jets beat writers. One of those writers is Dom Cosentino of NJ.com and formerly of Deadspin. We recently sat down with him to discuss the Jets early decisions this offseason and the general reaction to it. Part 1 is going to be published here and part 2 will be published over at NJ.com. Check it out below and make sure to follow Dom on Twitter…
How would you evaluate the moves the Jets have made so far? Namely, signing Eric Decker, replacing Austin Howard with Breno Giacomini and bringing back Nick Folk, Calvin Pace, Willie Colon and Leger Douzable?
Dom – Every one of these moves filled some sort of need. I mean, my goodness, for all the teeth-gnashing about not getting a corner, could you imagine the reaction if the Jets had only gotten a second- or third-tier wide receiver? Joe, you’ve rightly hammered home this point that there ought to be no distinction between a No. 1 and No. 2 wideout. But let’s take it a step further: No one expects a guy like Decker to be Calvin Johnson—because only Calvin Johnson is Calvin Johnson, and Decker is really just the first piece in the construction of a stable foundation of pass-catchers for GenoMichaelSmithVick. I don’t need to tell regular readers of this site this, but I’m going to say it anyway: This is an incredibly deep draft for receivers. There is still an ample opportunity for the Jets to get more of what they need next month—and not necessarily in the first round.
Replacing Austin Howard with Breno Giacomini, by all indications, is a wash. Howard played well last year, but no one ever mistook the guy for Anthony Munoz. And Giacomini has some nastiness to him, which is never a bad thing.
Re: Folk, Pace, Colon, Douzable. These were not moves that would cause the NFL Network to cut away from some documentary about the Immaculate Reception so Ian Rapoport could breathlessly tell us they happened. Schefter’s not getting name-checked on the ESPN scroll to announce these re-signings. Florio’s not … well, OK, Florio probably gave each one a headline, but that’s just because he’s Florio. You get my drift. Every one of these guys is important to the Jets. And never overlook what it says to others on the roster when a team is willing to keep a group of solid players like this.
Joe – My favorite part of your response was “Decker is really just the first piece in the construction of a stable foundation of pass-catchers for GenoMichaelSmithVick”
For the life of me, I do not understand why people cannot wrap their head around this. Everybody rushes to call Decker “not a true #1 WR” or a “high-end #2″ but what does that even mean? What are these magical benchmark numbers to wear the crown of being a “#1 WR”? The bottom line is that Decker is a top 20-25 receiver in the NFL and immediately becomes the best receiver on the Jets roster, which helps the quarterback and the rest of the offense. For all of John Idzik’s “conservativeness” he landed the top available free agent receiver and quarterback by getting Mike Vick. (Also, GenoMichaelSmithVIck is a terrific name and somebody should make this into a jersey).
My guess is that nobody is going recognize a drop off between Austin Howard and Breno Giacomini, which makes it nice that he costs roughly half the price. Consistency is always a positive but the Jets are returning 4 of their 5 starters thanks to bringing Willie Colon back. The return of Douzable was a pleasant surprise. He was quietly a key part of their defensive line rotation last season. Pace and Folk returning was somewhat expected and they are doing so at a fair price, so I cannot see any reason to complain about it.
Is there a particular player or position you feel the team missed out on in March?
Dom – You know, I just can’t think of a position where they might have a need. It’s not like they cut a capable veteran, didn’t re-sign him, and didn’t land anyone with any notable name-recognition at the same position to replace him. The New York Jets are just fine at cornerback, really.
In all seriousness, Antonio Cromartie played most of last season on one wheel, so replacing him with Dimitri Patterson may not be as catastrophic as people think. Remember: While last year’s defense wasn’t the vintage 2009 or ’10 variety, it also wasn’t a black hole of suck. If the front seven can continue to improve, the Jets might be able to overcome any shortcomings in the secondary. Honestly, this was exactly the formula the Steelers used to win a couple of Super Bowls in the last 10 years. When they were great, it was because of their D. But did anyone in those years ever accuse Ike Taylor or Deshea Townsend of being a shutdown corner? Like with the receivers, corner is a piece to the puzzle. I’d prefer to wait to see what Idzik’s going to do with his 12 draft picks this spring before killing him for not finding a corner. Then I’m going to prefer to wait to see what the roster does in the first few weeks of the season. And then … ?
Joe – There seems to be the most panic about cornernback. On paper, there are question marks. Can Dee Milliner stay healthy and be the player he was for the final month in 2013? Can Darrin Walls handle a bigger role week to week? Can Dimitri Patterson stay on the field, since when he does, he has been very effective? My best guess is the team will add another piece to the mix here, either with an early draft pick, via trade or with a waiver wire claim in the summer. The season is still five months away.
One thing to remember if another “major” move is not made at corner. The Jets play at the position last season was awful…like maybe the worst in the league awful. Dee Milliner isn’t going to return to that level of “completely lost and overwhelmed rookie” and Walls or Patterson literally cannot play worse than Cromartie did last year. Seriously, go watch the tape from the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and first Miami game and tell me how much the Jets won’t be able to live without 2013 Cromartie.
If for some reason the depth chart stays the same, my guess is Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman will make Milliner their top match-up corner to track opposing team’s top receiver. Milliner handled this role admirably against Josh Gordon and Mike Wallace to end the 2013 season. Walls has more potential than many give him credit for and Patterson can be a competent starter if healthy.
Also the entire REX RYAN CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT CORNERBACKS narrative needs to be toned back a bit. If Rex is the defensive genius that many talk him up to be, he can adjust his scheme to be less cornerback centric. He has led defenses that lacked top end corner play in the past and had success.
Have you been surprised by the fan’s reactions over the past 4-6 weeks on the Jets approach to free agency?
Dom – Fans are fans. Doesn’t matter what city, what team, or how much failure or success they’ve endured or enjoyed. They all want to see their team go undefeated and win it all. Anything less is a reason to complain. Always will be. Ever met a Patriots fan? My condolences if you have, but, really: You would know that as soon as baseball season’s over, they’re absolutely miserable human beings. How many Giants fans do you know who are capable of looking past the last two seasons to understand how good they’ve had it? Seriously, do any of you know a satisfied football fan? I’m sure, as I’m typing this, some jackwagon in Seattle is sitting on hold to bitch to talk radio about something or other related to the Seahawks.
So, to answer your question broadly, no amount of fan aggravation surprises me, ever.
Now, to apply what I’m rambling on and on about to the Jets and this offseason: It’s remarkable what pro sports have become in the last 10 to 15 years. I dunno, maybe it’s because of the increased prevalence of fantasy sports, but the offseason has really taken on this remarkable life of its own. Used to be you could get excited about the Mets letting you down for six months before you had to think about any of this stuff. Now, everyone wants to play GM, and everyone can spot a weakness and think it’s a matter of just identifying a guy and getting him and enjoying the spoils of getting a nice little April write-up from Peter King or Doug Farrar or Pete Prisco.
But how many offseason titles have the Redskins won over the years? And how much did any of that translate into anything in the fall? Look at the franchises that have had success in recent seasons that lasted beyond a year or two: Giants, Patriots, Ravens, 49ers, Packers, Steelers before their salary-cap situation got drunk and old and forgot how to call for a cab. I might be forgetting a team or two, but the point’s still the same: Every one of those teams built something with depth, and not necessarily with stars at every position. John Idzik might very well turn out to be absolutely clueless. But maybe wait and see if the moves he’s making fail to translate on the field—where all of this is supposed to happen, remember?—before putting his name and his face on your dartboards.
Joe – I still can’t get over when Seattle fans BOOED their team for losing at home to Arizona last season, after they had won 15 straight games there. But I digress…
The quickness that some went from loving John Idzik to wanting him fired was borderline comical. (And a side note, the frequency with which his name is misspelled is getting comical: Itzik, Idzcik, Idik). People are all for building through the draft until it actually happens and their team takes a conservative approach in free agency to pay all the young players they will be acquiring. The Jets want to build a sustainable contender around Muhammad WIlkerson, Damon Harrison, Jeremy Kerley, Antonio Allen, Quinton Coples, their 2013 draft class and their 2014 draft class. The focus is building this core of young talent and supplementing it with a handful of free agents in necessary spots, like Eric Decker since Stephen Hill has flamed out and Mike Vick since neither Mark Sanchez or Matt Simms are capable backups. Let’s give the man a chance to get through at least his SECOND draft before calling for his head.
Mike Tannenbaum built a Super Bowl contender in 2010. The Jets didn’t complete the task. Blame it on Rex Ryan for not having his team ready to play in the AFC Championship Game or blame it on whatever you want. The team loaded up for their shot and missed. This act of building for a one season run led to a couple of years of disastrous decision making and two bad seasons that ended with Tannenbaum appropriately losing his job and the Jets put in a difficult financial situation. You can’t build a sustainable winner by having SEVEN total draft picks over the course of two seasons in 2009 and 2010 (only one of those seven players is still on the team currently by the way).
Let’s allow Idzik time to operate. Ironically, everybody talks about the Jets building in the Seattle model. Do people remember Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s record their first two seasons there? 7-9. 7-9. Did Seattle fire Schneider? Did they fire Carroll?