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Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Jackson could spoil Geno-Vick chemistry

By Rich Cimini

DeSean Jackson

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Imagine this scenario:

It's Week 3, and Geno Smith is struggling at quarterback. The New York Jets' revamped passing attack isn't clicking, and the inevitable clamor for Michael Vick is getting louder. Moody wide receiver DeSean Jackson isn't happy because he's not getting enough balls, and he goes public with his preference for Vick, a close friend from their years with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Match, meet Kerosene.

KA-BOOM!

As they mull the possibility of pursuing Jackson, whom the Eagles reportedly are willing to trade, the Jets need to take a hard look at the big picture, studying the potential impact on team chemistry. He comes with a "buyer beware" label because he can be a pain in the rear end. The Jets already have a potentially volatile quarterback situation, and the last thing they need is a devisive influence threatening to blow up a locker room that finally is healed after the dysfunction of 2011.

Michael Vick
New Jets quarterback Michael Vick has a history with DeSean Jackson.
The Jets should stay away from Jackson. Far away.

When the Jets signed Vick last week, the popular theory was that his presence would lead to a reunion with Jackson -- especially if he's released, allowing him to sign with any team. In a different time, in a different place, yeah, you'd want a Vick-Jackson tandem. But the Jets aren't ready to abandon Smith; actually, they'd love for him to be their opening day starter, elevating his game as Vick -- the seasoned mentor -- watches with pride.

It's a delicate dynamic, one that won't succeed unless all parties are all-in. Vick says he's willing to help Smith's development, but let's not be naive: He wants to start. He made that clear Tuesday, telling SportsNet New York: "I feel like I'm a legitimate starting quarterback in this league." It's a complicated arrangement, but complicated can work. It won't work if the No. 1 receiver forms an alliance with Vick -- a potential danger floated by more than one league insider Tuesday at the NFL meetings.

Yes, the Jets have interest in Jackson, as owner Woody Johnson told the world, but the interest might not be as great as everyone thinks. General manager John Idzik is trying to create a positive, winning culture, and Jackson doesn't seem like his kind of player. Idzik wouldn't respond directly to questions about Jackson, but speaking in general terms, he acknowledged there's inherent risk when acquiring a player with character issues.

"It's not easy," he said. "We're in the human business. You lean on people who have had exposure to those guys."

In this case, that would be offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who coached Jackson for four years in Philadelphia. Mornhinweg knows all about Jackson -- how he acts in the classroom, how he accepts criticism, how he responds to teammates. Even if Mornhinweg gives his blessing, it still would be a gamble.

Marty Mornhinweg
Marty Mornhinweg coached DeSean Jackson for four years in Philadelphia.
The Jets just rid themselves of a diva, Santonio Holmes, who gave Mark Sanchez plenty of agita over the years. Desperate for a receiver in 2010, they surrendered a fifth-round pick for Holmes. It was a short-term steal, but they got suckered, giving Holmes a five-year, $45 million contract in 2011. Idzik wasn't around for that decision, or the locker-room turmoil that ensued, but he's heard the stories.

Do the Jets really want to go there again?

Jackson is a terrific talent, but he has a reputation for being a petulant, me-first player. He argued with a coach on the sideline last season. He was benched for a game in 2011 for missing a meeting. He staged a training-camp holdout in 2011. He complained about his contract after last season, knowing he still had three years and $30 million remaining on his deal. Sounds like Darrelle Revis.

So now the Eagles are looking to move him. Ask yourself this: Why would Chip Kelly want to unload a 27-year-old receiver coming off a 1,300-yard season? Could it be a personality clash with Kelly? Maybe, but Jackson also had problems under Andy Reid.

Desperation causes smart teams to do dumb things. The Jets aren't as desperate after signing Eric Decker, but they're still in the very needy category. Jackson would thrill, but he'd eventually become a headache.

Vick doesn't think so, saying Jackson would benefit from a change of scenery.

"I think sometimes it takes a change in your life to understand really what needs to happen, and the course that needs to be set," he told SNY. "Maybe it's time for a change for DeSean to help him understand the maturation process of his young NFL life and his personal life."

Maybe Vick could mentor Jackson, just like he's hoping to aid Smith. But what happens in a year, when his contract expires and he's gone? The Jets would have Jackson, but not his better half.

The smart play would be to address the wide receiver need through the draft. Scouts are calling this the best receiver draft in history, and the Jets own 12 picks. Idzik wants to build through the draft. Every GM says that, but there aren't many that have the willpower to resist the temptation of a quick fix with an ugly downside.