By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — When the New York Jets rained on the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl parade by prying Darrelle Revis off the championship roster, it was cause for great celebration.
“Jets 24, Pats 0,” blared the headline on the New York Daily News.
“One Man Is An Island,” declared the cover of Sports Illustrated.
It was a full-on party. But now, the floors at Florham Park smell like stale Keystone Light, the tape holding the celebratory banner has given way, and the balloons have all been popped.
The party’s over.
As a result, after a 15-17 record over the past two seasons, the Jets seem awfully non-committal when it comes to keeping the former superstar cornerback on their roster going forward.
“I like Darrelle, but it’s up to the coaches and general manager to decide whether … how he fits and all that,” Jets owner Woody Johnson said in a wishy-washy statement on Thursday.
OK, then. How about it, general manager Mike Maccagnan?
“Those are things we’ll look at this offseason and make a determination moving forward,” Maccagnan said. “Going forward, I’m not going to weigh in on Darrelle and that situation right now.”
Mind you, this isn’t some run-of-the-mill, middle-of-the-roster player that Johnson and Maccagnan are talking about. This is a player whose return to the Jets was supposed to make a significant impact in the AFC East and was supposed to provide the Jets with the piece they needed to once again gain relevancy in the NFL.
Instead, the Jets have been likened to an old, soiled diaper.
How quickly things can change.
Of course, the lukewarm response to keeping Revis is no surprise, given how steep his play dropped this past year. While his struggles vs. DeAndre Hopkins in 2015 were evident, he was still an above-average corner in his first year back with the Jets. But this year, Revis fell off a cliff, and he even admitted it himself.
“My body’s breaking down,” he said in October, when the Jets were 2-5. “I can still play. It’s just, I’m breaking down. I’m 31. How many corners are 31 right now in the league? The league’s getting younger.”
Several weeks later, a source told the New York Daily News’ Manish Mehta that Revis “doesn’t want to play anymore.”
It wasn’t exactly hard to see coming. For one, expecting Revis to continue his All-Pro level of play into his 30s was never a smart bet by the Jets. And, any smart businessperson would deem it unwise to pay a player roughly $100 million to have a player from ages 22-27 and then ages 30-32, while the Buccaneers and Patriots paid a fair price for the prime years of his career.
But there was also a warning sign that Revis’ play was about to drop off, and actor Will Smith may be to blame.
In December of 2015, with the Jets in the thick of the playoff hunt, Revis went to the theater and saw the film, “Concussion.” It affected him quite a bit.
“It makes you think about other things, but at the same time, I think I’ve still got a lot of football to play. But you never know with these things. This is something serious,” Revis told Newsday. “These things are happening later on in life. I’m fine now, but they say 28 percent of players are going to get CTE. That’s a big number.”
Considering Revis missed two games last season and also two games in the 2012 season due to concussions, it’s not difficult to connect some dots from Revis’ comments last December to his apparent disinterest in throwing his body into speeding ball carriers throughout the 2016 season.
With that much money in the bank, with that history of concussions, and with that increased awareness of potential long-term effects, why risk making it worse — especially for a Jets team that was clearly going nowhere in 2016?
In any event, the Jets now have a choice to make after finishing in last place. Do they want to dedicate more than $15 million of their cap space in 2017 to an aging corner in steep decline, or do they want to unceremoniously cut ties with one of the most talented players in franchise history? Revis has made it clear from the second he became a pro (and even very recently) that he’s not ever willing to give even one dollar back to management if he can help it, so there’s really no middle ground.
As Maccagnan said of Revis on Thursday, “We liked him when we signed him.” That’s certainly true — a team giving $39 million guaranteed to somebody and also absorbing a $100,000 fine for tampering with the player is typically a good indication of affection — but it doesn’t help the Jets’ situation right now.
Johnson, too, spoke glowingly of the past.
“He’s one of the best players to ever put on a Jets uniform, that’s for sure. Or any uniform. He had such an unbelievable talent,” Johnson said, using the key word of “had” before adding, “My hat’s off to Darrelle. Great career.”
Johnson may have passed the buck on Thursday by delegating to the coaches and GM, but when it comes time to make a decision, it will be the owner’s call to script how the end of the future Hall of Famer will play out in New Jersey. Johnson can laud Revis’ career accomplishments all he wants, but in the matter of looking ahead, there’s almost no smooth avenue for the owner to choose that can lead to a pleasant final chapter.