Sunday, May 18, 2014
Sunday notes: Cheers for Pryor, not Johnny
By Rich Cimini
Thoughts and observations on the New York Jets (better late than never):
1. No, Johnny, no: Johnny Manziel never was a consideration for the Jets with the 18th pick. Never. Their target was safety Calvin Pryor. When the Baltimore Ravens selected lineback C.J. Mosley at 17, the Jets' draft room "erupted," general manager John Idzik said in a radio interview. They were ecstatic because they thought the Ravens might take Pryor. Unlike the Dallas Cowboys, the Jets didn't have a Manziel discussion when they were on the clock. They simply didn't buy into Johnny Football, according to a person familiar with the team's thinking. No doubt, there were non-football reasons as well. Idzik wasn't going to buy a ticket to that circus, no way. The Jets are happy with Pryor. They believe he's smart enough to quarterback the secondary as a rookie. Rex Ryan always talks up his rookies, but he's particularly smitten with Pryor.
If Michael Vick is the better choice at starter, will the Jets really stand behind quarterback Geno Smith?
2. Pettine's Law: Can't help but think that Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine is cracking down on the media access to Manziel because of what he learned from witnessing the Tim Tebow debacle in 2012. Pettine was the Jets' defensive coordinator that year, and he saw first-hand how the Jets let Tebow mania get out of control. It was a "How-not-to-manage-a- phenomenon" clinic. I'm not saying I agree with everything Pettine is doing, but he has seen the other approach and he apparently wants to stay as far away from that as possible.
2a. Johnny's everywhere: My local butcher always likes to talk football -- usually Jets -- when I stop in. On Sunday morning, I expected a question about the Jets' draft or Geno Smith vs. Michael Vick. Instead, he greeted me with this question: "How do you think Johnny Manziel will do in Cleveland?" That tells you everything you need to know about the impact of Johnny Football.
3. A keg of dynamite? Joe Namath is right: Vick is better than Smith -- right now. It's indisputable, which is why the Jets have a potentially volatile quarterback situation. If the same perception exists in late August, and they go ahead and name Smith the starter anyway (they clearly want him to be the guy), it will send a bad message and could create issues in the locker room. In theory, the best player should play, right? You'd like to think the decision-makers will put ego aside -- i.e. Idzik and his investment in Smith -- and start the quarterback that gives them the best chance to win. You have to figure a tie goes to Smith, but what if Vick is a notch better than Smith? Idzik and Ryan dodged The Decision last year because Mark Sanchez got hurt, giving Smith the job by default. This year, they might actually have to pick one.
4. Ryan supports DC: Ryan offered strong public support of defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman. Some might question it from a public-relations standpoint -- Ryan gave legs to the story with his second-day, unsolicited defense of Thurman's character -- but he was sticking up for a friend. Ryan is fiercely loyal to his assistants, especially Thurman. Blind loyalty can be a slippery slope -- Ryan admitted he doesn't know the particulars of the case -- but his strong reaction is one of the reasons why he's so popular among his players. He has the back of those around him.
Other than the accuser's friend, no one has come forward to corroborate their version of the events -- that Thurman slapped a 28-year-old woman in the face at a restaurant bar. Meanwhile, a handful of witnesses have spoken to various media outlets, refuting the allegations. Bottom line: No charges by the Morristown, N.J., police department and no further investigation.
5. Tajh is a quarterback: Ryan made it clear he has no intention of using sixth-round pick Tajh Boyd in any other role except quarterback. "Right now, it's 100 percent quarterback," he said. Ryan didn't rule out the possibility of expanding his role in the future, maximizing his athleticism, but it's not on the frontburner. It's a moot point this season because, even if Boyd makes the 53-man roster, he'll never be active as long as Smith and Vick are healthy. The Jets are following the Geno script with Boyd, converting a shotgun college quarterback into a pro-style passer. They won't clutter his mind by giving him a gimmick role.
5a. Humble QB: Boyd may never play a down for the Jets, but it's hard not to like his attitude. Boyd, who set 57 Clemson and ACC records, said it dawned on him the other day as he was reading his playbook, "You're just a small fish in a big pond." Love it.
6. Seeing double: It's too bad the Jets don't play the New Orleans Saints again this year, because there could be a great photo op. Naturally, you'd have the Ryan brothers, Rex and Rob, the Saints' defensive coordinator. You also could have the Dixon twins, Brandon and Brian. The Jets drafted Brandon, a cornerback in the sixth round, from Northwest Missouri State. The Saints signed Brian as an undrafted free agent. He, too, played corner at Northwest Missouri State. This is the first time in their lives they're not playing in the same secondary.
7. The stable grows: Picking up Daryl Richardson on waivers was a good, no-risk move. He has talent, evidenced by a promising rookie year in 2012. The question is whether he's healthy. Richardson battled toe turf last season for the St. Louis Rams, causing him to miss the final eight games. He became expendable when the Rams drafted Tre Mason in the third round. The Jets have a crowded backfield, but Richardson could challenge for the third or fourth spot, jeopardizing Mike Goodson's place. Richardson already has a comfort level in the AFC East; he averaged 5.9 yards per carry against the division in 2012.
8. Like Mike: Boyd already has talked about how he grew up admiring Vick; he's not the only draft pick in that boat. Wide receiver Jalen Saunders was a quarterback in high school -- a left-handed quarterback and a dual threat, same as Vick. Just the other day, Saunders got a chance to meet him in the locker room. "It was great to meet somebody you idolized growing up," Saunders said. No, he didn't share his childhood secret with Vick. Said the rookie: "I wouldn't tell him that. We're both grown men now."
9. Welcome back, E. Smitty: After sitting out last season, former Jets safety Eric Smith is back with the team -- as a coaching intern. As a player, Smith was an overachiever who relied on his smarts. He was always one of the sharpest guys in the room, and now he'll get a chance to apply himself as a coach. "I think he's the smartest coach we've got," Ryan said. "I think he's got a chance to be a great one."
10. 'Mayhem' says goodbye: Former Buffalo Bills first-round bust Aaron Maybin, who played with the Jets in 2010 and 2011, announced his retirement last week at the age of 26. He had a strange run with the Jets. He was a sparkplug in 2011, recording six sacks. The following year, he was utterly ineffective and was fired in the middle of the season. His nickname was "Microphone" because his booming voice traveled across the locker room when he gave interviews. His football career never panned out, but Maybin has a promising career as an artist.