Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Jake Locker And Darrelle Revis Headline NFL March

NFL free agency has hit for 2015 and the big story is the signing of cornerback Darrelle Revis to the New York Jets for five years, $70 million, $39 million of is guaranteed, and $48 million of it coming in 2015-17.  The signing comes after his deal with the New England Patriots was not renewed and one can expect local criticism of the Patriots for not matching the Jets' offer.

Such criticism comes seemingly whenever the Patriots make a controversial roster move, and it of course flies in the face of the team's history under Bill Belichick.   No player is made the highest paid at any position, even with the five year $40-plus million deal for safety Devin McCourty.   The Patriots' roster and salary cap philosophy has not only stood the test of time, it has gotten stronger as time has gone on.  

The two biggest blunders in sports analysis are blunders the New York Jets make at seemingly every turn - falling in love with a Name and falling in love with Volume Stats.   Darrelle Revis is the ultimate Name player and team owner Woody Johnson made getting him back the priority for the Jets and his new general manager.   Johnson's interference in football operations has become a story in recent years with the Jets; under his ownership from the start of the 1999 season, Johnson's Jets have won 125 games - roughly an 8-8 season each year for sixteen seasons; only four times has Johnson seen his club reach ten wins and only six times did his club win a playoff game - with no playoff appearances in the last four seasons.  

The signing of Revis is yet another example of the Jets' wrongheaded approach to football - they care too much about Names, and about "winning in March."   Darrelle Revis won a Superbowl with the Patriots - no other team has won anything with him.   


One is also hard-pressed to remember the last time a team won anything because it signed a well-regarded cornerback.   The only analogy one can come up with is Deion Sanders; after winning just thirty games in five seasons with the Falcons, Sanders was signed by the 49ers and won Superbowl XXIX, then was seized by the Cowboys in a famed bidding war that earned angry words from Niners team owner Eddie DeBartolo.  

Studying the time of Deion in Dallas is instructive in how a team can overvalue a cornerback.   Sanders did not report to the Cowboys until halfway through the 1995 season; by the time he arrived the Cowboys were 8-1; they went 4-3 with Sanders, then stormed through the playoffs, with Sanders authoring a memorable performance against the Eagles.   But after winning Superbowl XXX the Cowboys went 34-30 in the 1996-99 seasons and Deion was off to an ill-advised season with Dan Snyder and the Redskins.  

It's noteworthy than 2014 was Revis' fourth winning season and first since 2010. 


Lost in the free agent frenzy, Titans quarterback Jake Locker announced he was retiring after just four years in the league.   Locker was long criticized for an ostensible lack of accuracy, not reaching 60% completion for his career.   But watching him play, the talent was obvious, and for someone with such a short time in the league Locker authored some strikingly memorable moments.

His first win as a starter was one of the wildest games of this decade, the 44-41 overtime shootout win over the Detroit Lions; the Titans became the first team ever to nail down five touchdowns of at least sixty yards - two of them Locker bombs, one yanked off the back of a Lions defender by Nate Washington.   He had two other memorable wins that year despite missing six games with injury - his first game back, a rout of the Miami Dolphins, and a grind-out Monday Night win over ex-Ravens assistant Rex Ryan, a game where Mark Sanchez, two weeks removed from The Buttfumble game, threw five interceptions, then fumbled the last possession.

2013 opened with enormous promise as Locker authored a history-making comeback win against San Diego, delivering the winning Hail Mary touchdown to rookie Justin Hunter with fifteen seconds left; it was the club's first win over San Diego since their 1992 incarnation as the Houston Oilers.   The next week the Titans welcomed back Rex Ryan, and now rookie Geno Smith was quarterback; Locker unloaded two more touchdowns, but on a second-down play was hammered late by two Jets defenders and suffered a serious hip injury; despite the injury his Titans won 38-13.   He missed several games and then authored a tight fight of a win against the St. Louis Rams, a game chockablock with irony given the history of the Rams and the Titans and the fact ex-Titans coach Jeff Fisher was head coach against his former assistant Mike Munchak.  

Though he would see some action late in the abysmal 2014 season, Locker's final game in effect was the loss to the Cleveland Browns in which the Browns went headhunting and caught Locker several times with dubious hits; the irony was the injury that knocked him out was whacking his throwing hand against a Browns player's helmet.   When Locker went out the Titans had clawed to the lead.

It may not be a great resume but Locker's success in the NFL was enough to warrant wondering what would have been, especially in the 2013 season where the Titans were flying when he went out.


The Seahawks made an eye-opening trade as well, getting ex-Saints tight end/wannabe wide receiver Jimmy Graham.   The reason for the trade seems to have been lost amid all the other commentary - Graham is the kind of goal-to-go target Russell Wilson was hoping to find before Malcolm Butler found the winning INT. 

So it goes with NFL free agency, where the "winners" will be hailed without anyone realizing no one wins the Superbowl by winning in March.

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