If you can’t win a Super Bowl, there’s always the offseason!
That’s right, football fans, Gang Green is at it again, winning the offseason. And I’m learning to live off consolation prizes.
You know, my basketball Knicks have a coach who wins the postgame press conference nightly, even while chiding the press for not recognizing all he’s doing right the way the smart people that matter (Fiz’s friends around the league) do.
And down in Port St. Lucie, our brash, former-agent baseball leader is over-promising left and right about his new (and improved?) 2019 Mets. And hey, you know what? Yup, I’m totally buying into it.
But those were just the warm up bands for the New York Football J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!
We just signed the best free agent available, folks.
Le’Veon Bell is coming to Florham Park, legs fresh from a year on the couch protesting the poor contract offerings of his former team. And so what if there weren’t really any other serious suitors or offers out there for Bell’s services (no, I’m not letting that fact rain on my offseason championship parade, dammit), we got him!
That makes two consecutive offseasons where us Jets fans were distracted from the prior season’s last place finish by euphoric offseason news. And now last offseason’s hero, Sam the Man Darnold, meets this year’s model, the stud running back that immediately makes his QB better. Who cares if the D-Line and linebacking corps lack a legitimate pass rusher, or that there’s little reason to think our secondary can cover any slightly above-average receiver, we got Bell!
So let’s add it up. We signed a coach who makes disturbing faces at his welcome presser; kept the GM who’s results in free agency and the draft (ex last year’s savior Darnold) have been disastrous; traded for a road grading guard who was hurt for a significant portion of last season; and oh yeah, the reigning Super Bowl champs are still in our division.
Today, none of that matters, because — one more time — we just signed Le’Veon Bell! Our snake-belly-low expectations have been managed to such extremes since Sexy Rexy last led us to an AFC Championship game (with the Sanchize behind center, no less — Rex Ryan should be enshrined in Canton when we look back on that accomplishment today), that it just… doesn’t… take… that… much.
All together now, J-E…
What a week for New York football!
You know it is a sports crazed metropolis when two teams coming off absolutely putrid 2018 campaigns can completely kidnap the back pages of the tabloids with franchise-shaking moves coming only hours apart.
Will OBJ’s departure for Cleveland spell addition through subtraction for Big Blue? I honestly don’t have a clue, but I do applaud Dave Gettleman for the power move of sending the star packing because he doesn’t fit the culture the GM desires long-term for one of the league’s most storied franchises.
I was suckered a year ago into believing that the Gints would contend after drafting Saquon Barkley, and couldn’t have been more wrong. And Big Blue was actually worse when Beckham was healthy, than they were after OBJ went down with the latest of his season-ending injuries. So good riddance? Like I said, I’m just not sure.
Because despite all his immature distractions and look-at-me shenanigans, Beckham was a difference-maker. But this team was going to be bad with or without OBJ in 2019, so I’m afraid it will be another year of taking solace in the magnificence of Barkley for Giants fans, while hoping that Gettleman’s long-term vision plays out.
Too soon to tell if trading Odell speeds things up? Yeah, probably, but unlike most observers, I actually liked what the Giants got back from the Browns, and think Peppers will be a meaningful piece in their secondary and for the rebuild.
The bottom line, from someone who likes the Giants, is I’ll enjoy watching Big Blue slightly less without Beckham every Sunday, but despite that, I’ll find the team far more likable now that he’s gone.
But what of Cleveland???
I have to admit I’m actually kind of excited by what could be happening for those long-suffering Dawg Pound fans. If skill positions matter (and they do), it would seem that with Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb and OBJ (not to mention Beckham’s former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry and “reformed” thug Kareem Hunt), the Browns seem prepped to light up the scoreboard for years to come, and with a flair and panache we are unaccustomed to getting from the team with the bland, orange helmets.
That’s not to say that I won’t find myself overtly rooting against the Browns by midseason, once the novelty of Cleveland actually contending wears off and the obnoxious sides of Mayfield and Beckham become so overexposed by a combination of social media and ESPN that I simply can’t take it anymore. But for now?
For now I hope they put the wood to the Steelers twice a year for the next six or seven years, while waging a cool, offense versus defense battle at the top of the AFC North with the Baltimore Ravens (who used to be the Browns, right?). Sign me up — this could be really exciting.
Okay, what about Poor Eli?
(SportsAttic Note: Did we all somehow miss it when Eli legally changed his first name to “Poor?” Kind of like when Bruce Wayne legally added the moniker “Millionaire” as his first name on the old Batman series?)
Seriously, though, how could Eli feel right now? Not great, right? None of us will ever know for sure, because the guy never changes his expression, but it can’t feel good. I mean, can it?
Let’s take inventory, beginning with a pretty solid baseline for any QB — a guy in your backfield named Saquon Barkley. But Barkley’s greatness notwithstanding, the line is still potentially porous (yes, it was better in the second half of last year than the first, but that was a painfully low bar of comparison), he just waved goodbye to his biggest playmaking, home run threat (adding Golden Tate was a ridiculous attempt to numb the pain of OBJ’s departure in the locker room and the stands), and everybody knows Manning is not part of the long-term plan.
I would counsel Eli to just retire already. But he’s not going to do that, and not just because of the truckload of money the Giants owe him. The dude is an intense competitor, and one of those guys that will keep going out there as long as they let him. Line or no line, OBJ or no OBJ. And let’s face it, there’s no internal competition for the starting job. Right now, he’s the man, and there’s no reason to believe they can compete.
Yeah, yeah, the story line is out there about how the Giants will keep him around and Eli can mentor the Haskins kid from Ohio State, the way Kurt Warner did for Eli back in the leather helmet days. That’s crap. Spare the franchise icon and release or trade him (and by the way, I’m going on record right now saying Haskins is a bust waiting to happen — JaMarcus Russell anyone?).
With Jacksonville and old pal Tom Coughlin off the radar now that they’ve added Nick Foles (anyone else seeing Blake Bortles behind center in 2019 for Big Blue?), how about moving Poor Eli to the Raiders? He can back up Derek Carr and provide leadership and a steady hand when Carr suffers his inevitable injury this year. Antonio Brown will need someone that can get it down the field in Carr’s absence, and Eli can still sling it, so why not?
If this is the Raiders’ last season in Oakland, shouldn’t they do all they can to ensure that the fans have a quality product on the field as they prep their move to Sin City? And I can’t help myself — the idea of Poor Eli and AB in the same huddle both fascinates and scares me a bit. So go for it, Chuckie. Eli calls it a career in the silver and black, providing insurance for the brittle Carr and leading the scout team during the week.
And who knows, if Carr stays standing, maybe Gruden and GM Mike Mayock can move Eli to a playoff contender in need of a QB before the trade deadline? That way Eli gets one final shot at leading a playoff team and an exclamation point on his borderline Hall of Fame career. Stranger things have happened, right?
Anything’s got to be better than what we see taking form in front of Poor Eli’s eyes for 2019 as I sit here typing this. Let him go, Gettleman. He deserves better.