New York Jets: Tim Tebow

Imagine if the Jets had Vernon Davis

June, 9, 2014
Jun 9
10:35
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One of the fascinating aspects of the NFL draft is that each one produces a lifetime of what-if scenarios. No one knows this better than the New York Jets, whose history is filled with stars that got away. They passed on Dan Marino, Warren Sapp, Emmitt Smith ... and the list goes on. Well, here's another what-might-have-been:

Davis
Vernon Davis.

Former Jets coach Eric Mangini, speaking to the Hartford Courant during the run-up to his annual youth football camp last weekend in the Hartford, Connecticut area, said the Jets almost grabbed the freakishly talented tight end in the 2006 draft. Their interest in Davis was reported at the time, but it wasn't thought to be serious. Apparently, they were dead serious about Davis.

"When I was with the Jets, I really loved Vernon in the draft," Mangini said. "We were pretty close to drafting him in New York. It's funny how that kind of comes full circle."

Mangini is the new tight ends coach for the San Francisco 49ers, so he gets to work with Davis on a daily basis. It would've been fun to see Davis with the Jets -- they haven't had a weapon like him in a long time -- but you can't criticize them for not drafting him. Picking fourth in '06, they selected D'Brickashaw Ferguson, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who has missed only one play in his entire career. Ferguson isn't as good at his position as Davis is at tight end, but he solidified the crucial left-tackle spot for the Jets.

In other words, this wasn't like picking Kyle Brady instead of Sapp. But, hey, on a slow day in June, it's interesting to ponder what might have been.

Comparing Tebow and Manziel: While on the subject of former Jets coaches, ex-defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was asked over the weekend to compare his Tim Tebow experience (2012) with the current Johnny Manziel phenomenon. Believe it or not, the Cleveland Browns' coach said the Manziel hype is more manageable than it was for Tebow.

"The circumstances are different," Pettine told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Tebow was an established NFL player, he wasn't coming in as a rookie, unproven. It's a little easier for us with Manziel because he understands he earned Johnny Football as a college player and nobody understands it more than him. It's like, 'Listen, I don't want to be named starter coming out of the draft.'

"People criticize us for referring to him as a backup. That's what he is. It would have been a disservice to the other 80-some players in the locker room and it would have been a service to him carrying that burden of 'What have you done to deserve this?' We all want him to be successful but there is a process that has to occur and he has to go through it."

Presumably, Pettine won't have clandenstine, training-camp practices featuring Manziel-specific plays.

Jets notes: QB job should be 'open'

June, 1, 2014
Jun 1
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Thoughts and observations on the New York Jets:

1. Another QB question to ponder: With everyone engaged in a semantic debate on whether the Jets' quarterback competition is open or closed (let's call it semi-closed), let me pose this question: Why not make it a truly open competition and bill it as such?

Yes, Geno Smith showed promise at the end of last season, but he doesn't have enough pelts on the wall to be granted front-runner status. True, Michael Vick arrived in town with baggage (age, durability and turnover concerns), but his body of work warrants a 50-50 shot at the starting job. Not only would an open competition eliminate confusion, but it would create a "best-man-wins" scenario.

The Jets are traveling down a slippery slope by tilting it in Smith's favor, because there's a good possibility Vick will outplay him in the preseason. Then what? Everybody knows the expression, "You can't have your cake and eat it, too." It applies to the Jets' quarterback situation. In their case, you can't have your competition and have a predetermined favorite, especially when the other guy might be better. You're just asking for trouble.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
AP Photo/Julio CortezMichael Vick has proven to have the respect of his Jets teammates during offseason workouts.
2. Low-budget signings: The Jets didn't exactly break the bank with their undrafted free agents. Teams were allocated to spend up to $80,362 in signing bonuses, but the Jets doled out only $4,000, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Defensive end Anthony Grady ($2,500) and fullback Chad Young ($1,500) were the only UDFAs to receive a signing bonus; the other five got zilch. The size of the bonus often indicates the quality of the player. When multiple teams are bidding, top UDFAs have been known to land more than $10,000. Two years ago, nose tackle Damon Harrison received a $7,000 bonus from the Jets. Because of their unusually large draft class (12), the Jets placed less emphasis on the UDFA market. Basically, it was an afterthought.

3. Rex tweaks Tim: Ryan took a veiled shot at Tim Tebow the other day. Trying to defend Eric Decker against the perception that he's a Peyton Manning creation, Ryan reminded us that Decker caught touchdown passes from Tebow in 2011. "I think that's pretty impressive," Ryan said, thinking it was eight scoring catches (it was actually four). The inference was clear: If Decker scored with the scatter-armed Tebow, he can score with anyone. Ryan neglected to mention that Decker had no receptions and two drops in five targets when he and Tebow faced the Jets in that same season.

4. Where's the depth?: Right guard Willie Colon (arthroscopic knee surgery) is expected to return before training camp, so there's no reason for the Jets to panic, but the injury casts a harsh light on their offensive line depth. Their nine backups have played a combined total of 14 regular-season snaps -- all by center/guard Caleb Schlauderaff. That's a bit troubling, no? Considering Colon's durability issues (four surgeries in the last four years), the front office should sign some veteran insurance. Never thought I'd say this, but ... where's Vladimir Ducasse when you need him?

4a. New kind of surgery: Loved this tweet from one of my followers, @MisterRoberts, who refers to Colon's surgery as a "Colon-oscopy." Brilliant.

5. From enemies to comrades: Four months ago, Decker and Breno Giacomini played on opposite sides of one of the most lopsided Super Bowls in history. Giacomini's Seattle Seahawks embarrassed Decker's Broncos, 43-8. Now they're teammates. I asked Giacomini if they've talked about the game. A little trash talking, perhaps? He said there was a brief lunch-room conversation. Giacomini said he asked Decker about the first play of the game, the errant shotgun snap that resulted in a safety. Decker chalked it up to the noise generated by the pro-Seattle crowd at MetLife Stadium. And that was the end of the conversation. Touchy subject, obviously.

"I didn't want to say anything else to him," Giacomini said. "That's behind us, we're teammates now. Hopefully, we can reach it again -- together -- and win another one."

6. The Fridge, Part II?: You have to love Sheldon Richardson's candor and sense of humor. Asked if he hopes to continue in his role as a goal-line running back, Richardson said, "It was a fun experience. Hopefully, they call my number again." He quickly added, "Hopefully not, because it means the offense is doing what they're supposed to do."

There's some truth in his humor; this was a problem area last season. Richardson (two) and Geno Smith (six) combined for eight of the 12 rushing touchdowns. For all his power, Chris Ivory scored only one touchdown on six attempts on goal-to-go runs from the 5-yard line or closer, per ESPN Stats. That's not Chris Johnson's forte, either. He received only one such carry last season (a 3-yard touchdown). Be ready, Sheldon.

7. Respect for elders: Ryan has been around football for his entire life, which means he has seen and heard just about everything. One day recently, though, he heard something from the offensive huddle that struck him as unusual. Vick told one of the young fullbacks to run a certain pass route and the player (Ryan wouldn't identify him) responded with, "Yes, sir." They have only two fullbacks, so it was either Tommy Bohanon or Chad Young. Said Ryan: "I don’t know if I’ve heard that in a long time with a teammate talking to another teammate. [Vick] certainly has that kind of respect in the locker room."

8. Pinocchio Island: Did anyone check to see if Darrelle Revis' nose was growing when he spoke glowingly the other day about Bill Belichick and the Patriot Way? Once upon a time, Revis called Belichick a "jerk." Yes, free agency makes for strange bedfellows.

9. Broadway Joe to Hollywood Joe: A movie on the life of Joe Namath is in the early stages of development. James Mangold, who directed the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line," already is on board as the director, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Here's hoping they get Ann-Margret to play herself.

10. The Mo, the better: Kudos to Muhammad Wilkerson, who will present five student-athletes from New Jersey and Long Island with $1,000 college scholarships. Wilkerson, giving back to his local roots, grew up in Linden, N.J. He's making the donations through his T.E.A.M 96 Foundation.

11. Futbol and football: Portugal's national soccer team, led by global superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, will train at the Jets' facility from Tuesday through June 9 in preparation for the World Cup. The team's stay in the area will be capped by a June 10 exhibition against Ireland at MetLife Stadium. Paulo Bento, the Portugal coach, already has visited the Jets' facility in Florham, N.J., declaring "the pitches are very good." With the World Cup approaching, I wonder if Bento still has open competition for each starting job.
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.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
AP Photo/Michael PerezIf 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.

Another Tebow mess? Not with Vick

March, 21, 2014
Mar 21
11:55
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On the two-year anniversary of the worst personnel move in franchise history -- the Tim Tebow trade -- the New York Jets made another high-profile quarterback acquisition: Michael Vick.

They apparently don't believe in bad omens for March 21.

This time, it was a sound football decision, not a publicity stunt. Unlike Tebow, Vick is a functional passer with the ability, albeit somewhat diminished, to help the team. Yes, it's a quarterback controversy waiting to happen -- Vick versus Geno Smith -- but it won't be a distraction as long as Vick continues to be the player and person he was last season for the Philadelphia Eagles.

And as long as the Jets, who mismanaged the Tebow situation at every turn, don't repeat the same mistakes they made in 2012.

Vick was a model teammate last season when he got hurt and lost his job to Nick Foles. Instead of moaning, Vick supported Foles in every way, winning the respect of cynics around the league.

The Jets are putting Vick in a tough spot because they expect him to compete with Smith for the starting job, but they want him to serve as a mentor to the second-year quarterback. It's a delicate balance, and it takes a selfless person to pull it off.

Other teams might have been hesitant to take the risk, but the Jets feel comfortable with Vick because of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, his former coordinator with the Eagles. "Inside knowledge," general manager John Idzik called it.

On Friday night, shortly after signing his one-year, $5 million contract, Vick said all the right things, vowing to support Smith and help the team win. If he maintains that attitude, especially if he's on the bench, it'll be a win for everybody. If he turns into a diva, it'll get messy and the old circus will return.

"I don't have one ounce of hate in my blood," said Vick, explaining he had too much respect for Foles and the Eagles to make a stink last season when he was kept on the bench.

Once upon a time, Vick was the most polarizing athlete in sports. There was the dogfighting scandal and the subsequent prison sentence, 21 months in a federal pen. He was bad news, but the Eagles took a chance after commissioner Roger Goodell reinstated him.

It's funny how times change. When Vick became a free agent in June 2009, the Jets wanted no part of him, quickly and decisively indicating they had absolutely zero interest. Five years later, they believe he's fit to help groom their potential quarterback of the future.

"I'm a Jet and I appreciate all the Jets fans that appreciate me and accept me for who I am and what I've become, not for what I've done," said Vick, who has rehabilitated his life, career and image. "I think right now my past is irrelevant. We're talking about football, not the things that transpired off the field."

In the Jets' perfect scenario, Vick wouldn't have to play. He'd be Smith's eyes and ears, teaching him and pushing him to become a better quarterback. He'd be a $5 million Yoda. But as we all know, plans rarely works perfectly, especially for the Jets.

If Vick doesn't win the job in training camp, he'll probably get a chance at some point, either by injury or ineffectiveness. If Vick becomes the Week 1 starter, let's be honest, he probably won't last the season, considering his durability issues. Chances are, the Jets will need both quarterbacks.

The Vick-Smith relationship will be vital. Vick said they have a "great friendship" even though it's only a year old. They got to know each other before last year's draft, Vick offering advice to the former West Virginia star.

Vick sounds as though he's already invested in Smith. It's the right attitude.

"[I want to] help him to become the quarterback that we all want him to become," he said.

The Jets will have to do their part, meaning they need to avoid the missteps from two years ago.

They can start by not having a mega news conference to introduce Vick. (Who can forget that Tebow extravaganza?) They shouldn't have clandestine practices to work on top-secret formations, inviting the media as a tease. They shouldn't let live TV into their training-camp practices.

And owner Woody Johnson might want to avoid saying, "You can never have enough Vick."

If the Jets manage this properly, and if Vick accepts his role, this could actually work, March 21 jinx be damned.

Ex-Jets QB McElroy retires at 25

March, 21, 2014
Mar 21
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Former New York Jets quarterback Greg McElroy, best known in Jets Nation as the guy that started ahead of Tim Tebow when Mark Sanchez was benched, announced his retirement Friday on Twitter.

[+] EnlargeGreg McElroy
AP Photo/Kathy WillensPlaying in two games for his NFL career, QB Greg McElroy had one touchdown, one interception and one fumble -- all with the Jets.
McElroy, only 25, spent last season on the Cincinnati Bengals' practice squad and is currently under contract to the Bengals.

"At this time, I would like to announce my retirement from the NFL," McElroy tweeted. "Thank you to Marvin Lewis, the Brown family and the entire Cincinnati Bengals' organization. The fans make this decision especially difficult, as you have provided so much joy throughout my career. Playing in the NFL was my lifelong dream; therefore, I must also thank the New York Jets for providing me with my original opportunity. The future is bright, and exciting things are on the horizon! God bless to all."

McElroy, who led Alabama to a 14-0 record and the BCS championship as a junior, was a seventh-round pick of the Jets in 2011. He was thrown into the three-ring, quarterback circus in 2012, when they had Sanchez and Tebow. McElroy's shot was fleeting. On Dec. 2, he replaced an ineffective Sanchez and helped the Jets to a come-from-behind win against the Arizona Cardinals in quite possibly the ugliest game ever played.

Three weeks later, the Jets' quarterback controversy exploded when Sanchez was benched and McElroy -- not Tebow -- was named to start against the San Diego Chargers. McElroy was battered in the loss, as he was sacked 11 times. He suffered a concussion, but it wasn't diagnosed until a few days later, prompting Rex Ryan to replace him with Sanchez for the finale. McElroy, perhaps knowing he'd never get another chance to prove himself, wasn't forthcoming with regard to the concussion symptoms.

He lost his third-string job last summer to Matt Simms. As a member of the Bengals' practice squad, McElroy received a shout out from the coaching staff for preparing a detailed scouting report on the Jets, which they used in Week 8 -- a 49-9 win by the Bengals.

His final NFL statistics: Two games, 19-for-31, 214 yards, one touchdown, one interception.

McElroy, who posted one of the highest Wonderlic scores in history, is exceptionally bright and has talked about a career in TV or politics. His transition to the "real world" should be seamless. Like he said, the future is bright.

10 plays that shaped the season (6 to 10)

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
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Of the 2,068 plays in the New York Jets' season (not including special teams), we've selected 10 that shaped 2013. Numbers six through 10:

10. The push heard 'round the world: The Jets' 30-27 overtime win against the New England Patriots in Week 7 ended with a controversy, sparking a back-and-forth between Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick. The Patriots' Chris Jones was called for an unprecedented pushing penalty while attempting to block a 56-yard field goal, setting up Nick Folk's eventual game winner from 42 yards. Jones pushed a teammate into the line of scrimmage -- a no-no. Belichick questioned the call and, after reviewing the film, accused the Jets of using the same illegal technique on an earlier field goal. Ryan fired back, insisting his team did nothing wrong. In fact, it did. The league eventually said a penalty should have been called on the Jets, but it was too late. They had their stunning upset.

Smith
9. The Behind-the-Butt Fumble: Geno Smith committed 25 turnovers, none more ... uh, creative than his embarrassing fumble at the Tennessee Titans in Week 4. With a pass-rusher crashing into his right side, Smith tried to switch the ball to his left hand, going around his back. That type of ballhandling might work on a basketball court, but not the football field. Predictably, he lost the ball and it was recovered by the Titans in the end zone for a touchdown. It was one of four turnovers by Smith in a humbling 38-13 loss. In terms of slapstick, it wasn't as extraordinary as Mark Sanchez's Butt Fumble in 2012, but it was unusual on its own merit.

8. The Wildcat strikes: One year after the Tim Tebow debacle, the Jets finally figured out how to run the Wildcat -- and throw a pass out of the formation. Bilal Powell's 30-yard completion to Jeff Cumberland was one of the key plays in the season-ending win against the Miami Dolphins. Even though it was a meaningless game for the Jets, they were loose, but confident, wrecking the Dolphins' playoff hopes with an attitude best exemplied by Powell's pass. The day was capped by the postgame announcement that Ryan would return as coach.

Holmes
7. Holmes, sweet Holmes: Smith hooked up with Santonio Holmes for the longest scoring play of the season, a 69-yard touchdown that proved to be the game winner in the 27-20 win against the Buffalo Bills in Week 3. In a case of poetic symmetry, Holmes caught the ball in the same spot on the field in which he suffered his devastating foot injury one year earlier. It capped a brilliant, 154-yard game, but it was his last feel-good moment. He tore a hamstring the following week, missed five games and never scored again, finishing with only 23 catches in what probably was his final year with the Jets.

6. Geno's 19th interception and a seat on the bench: The low point of Smith's up and down season came in Week 13, when he was intercepted by Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe late in the second quarter. Ryan had seen enough of his rookie and pulled him at halftime, losing patience after five bad games in a row. The media and fans were screaming for Matt Simms, but Ryan stuck with Smith the following week and he was rewarded. Smith rallied in the final four games, providing optimism for 2014. His QBR over that stretch (78.9) was second to Peyton Manning.

Two-minute drill: David Nelson

November, 30, 2013
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Our weekly Q & A is with New York Jets wide receiver David Nelson, who played with the Buffalo Bills from 2010 to 2012:

As a high-school senior, you were called out on national TV by Regis Philbin, a Notre Dame alum who didn't appreciate your decision to de-commit from the Fighting Irish in favor of Florida. It happened on "Live! With Regis & Kelly." What was that like?

[+] EnlargeDavid Nelson
Mark Zerof/USA TODAY SportsWide receiver David Nelson has 17 catches for 211 yards with the Jets this season.
DN: He looked into the camera and said, 'Big mistake for you, kid.' They were excited for Charlie Weis coming in. I committed to Tyrone Willingham, and he got fired and they brought in Charlie. I was the first one to leave Charlie and go somewhere else. My mom still has that tape, it's recorded on a VHS. My mom loves Regis Philbin, so the fact that he mentioned my name on national TV was really cool for her. To be an 18-year-old kid and having a nationally known name mention me, even if he was bashing me for making the wrong decision, it was pretty cool. Looking back, I think I made the right decision.

You grew up in the Dallas area, dated a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, and got a chance to experience a storybook moment in your hometown. Tell me about it.

DN: When I was in Buffalo and scored a touchdown against the Cowboys, I ran the ball over and handed it to her (Kelsi Reich). A lot of people think I proposed to her. They say, 'You're the guy who proposed to his girlfriend.' I'm like, 'No, that was the guy from Boise State.' I just gave her the football, gave her a hug and walked away. We were dating, that was my girlfriend. I'm from Dallas. I had 80 family members in the stands. It's so random that you're playing the team your girlfriend cheers for in your hometown. I happened to score a touchdown, so all the stars aligned.

You played with Tim Tebow at Florida. What's your favorite Tebow story?

DN: My favorite story was, day of the national championship (January, 2009). We had three or four hours off, a time when guys get their minds right, go over the game plan, last-minute preparations at the hotel. I remember receiving a text message from him: 'Hey, can you come to my room?' When the starting quarterbacks calls you to come to his room four hours before the national championship, you get a little alarmed. What's going on? What's happening?

I walked into his room and there were five other guys and our team chaplain sitting there. He was sitting on his bed, and he opens the book of Matthew from the Bible and reads this verse: 'Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.' Before the biggest game of our lives, he was humbling himself before us. He was saying, 'I have so much pressure on me, so much attention, so much expected of me, but after reading this verse, I want to humble myself in front of my peers. What happens tonight, let's just go out and have fun. Give whatever we have and enjoy the moment.'

A lot of times, guys put out this image that they have it all figured out and have all the answers. For him to say that and do that at that time, it truly meant something. A lot of us grew closer to him and connected on a deeper level. It was truly powerful. (Note: Florida defeated Oklahoma, with Nelson scoring on Tebow's famous jump-pass.)

You and your brothers, Patrick and Daniel, are raising money to build a residential village for orphans in Haiti. How did you get involved in that?

DN: About three years ago, I was on a mission trip to Haiti. It was my first time there. I've always loved kids. I'm the oldest of eight. I've always been surrounded by kids, and I knew I'd do something with kids when I got older, I just didn't know what. I spent a weekend at an orphanage and met a couple kids whose mother and father passed away in the earthquake. They're kids who don't have anything to call their own, except for a pair of clothes and some shoes, but they still have so much hope for life. I came back and my life was changed by those kids, by their hope and perspective on life.

I called two of my brothers and asked if they'd go back with me. We went back and stayed for a week. Our lives radically changed because of those kids. I was playing in the NFL, but these kids didn't care who I was, they didn't care what I did, they didn't care what I was bringing them, material wise. All they wanted was love and attention, and for me to hold them and play soccer with them. It rocked my world. My brothers and I made it our mission to provide for these kids any way we can, so we started this non-profit organization back in January.

Jets figure out Tebow experiment with Geno

November, 13, 2013
11/13/13
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Tim Tebow, Geno SmithGetty ImagesThe Jets' offense has featured the Wildcat and zone-read elements, without the Tim Tebow circus.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- One year after the over-hyped and ill-fated Tim Tebow experiment, the New York Jets finally have it figured out. They've successfully incorporated the Wildcat and zone-read elements into their offense.

It's amazing what you can accomplish when you have the right person calling the plays and the right people executing them -- strange and radical concepts, indeed.

The surprising Jets (5-4) are in the playoff hunt, in part, because they've kept defenses off-balance with their change-of-pace rushing attack. Ironically, they've managed to do it in relative anonymity, sans the crush of national media. Without Tebow, it's almost as if nobody cares.

A year ago, Rex Ryan was questioned about Tebow and the Wildcat on a daily basis. That he made it through the season without losing his cool (or turning sideways) was a tribute to his patience. This year, the topic rarely comes up even though they're using the zone-read and Wildcat twice as often as in 2012.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Al Bello/Getty ImagesGeno Smith has scored three rushing touchdowns this season.
Twice!

And more effectively.

Not only have the wrinkles sparked the offense, but they've helped Geno Smith through a difficult stretch of season. His most accomplished pass-catchers, Santonio Holmes and Kellen Winslow, were gone for a month, prompting the coaches to install more designed running plays for the rookie quarterback. He's no Colin Kaepernick, but Smith is a capable runner. He's the Jets' most mobile quarterback since Ray Lucas, circa 1999.

"I never said I was a pocket passer," Smith said Wednesday. "I'm effective from the pocket, but I can run as well. That's kind of the point I've been trying to push all along, that I'm not a quarterback you can put in a box. I do it all and I try to perfect every single thing, even running the ball."

Smith, displaying unwavering confidence for someone who has thrown 13 interceptions, described himself as a player with "a tremendous skill set. I think I can be one of the better quarterbacks in this league, but it's going to take time and effort."

Lately, he has been better with his legs than his arm. In the Jets' last game, their upset of the New Orleans Saints, he scored on a 3-yard run -- a designed play off a zone-read. For the season, Smith has rushed 11 times for 48 yards on zone-read plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

As a team, the Jets have run 46 zone-read plays and another 23 out of the Wildcat. The combined production is 30 yards per game. (Keep in mind that some zone-read plays can come out of the Wildcat.) In 2012, the respective season totals were 40 and 19, averaging a total of 18 yards per game.

Last season wouldn't have been so bad if the Jets didn't shamelessly promote Tebow and his potential impact, but they sold it with more passion than a used-car salesman. On the rare occasions when they used Tebow, it usually was a dive play into the line. They fattened him up and tried to turn him into Larry Csonka. The whole thing was a sham, perpetrated by an organization desperate for attention.

Now they run it with creativity and precision, along with proper use of personnel. Running backs Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory also have been used on zone-read plays; in fact, Ivory is averaging 7.4 yards per carry, second only to Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor (8.2) on such plays, per ESPN Stats & Information.

The Jets have melded quarterbacks coach David Lee's Wildcat and zone-read concepts into Marty Mornhinweg's offense, becoming what they were supposed to be last season.

"They do a lot of unique things," said former Jets safety Jim Leonhard, who will face his old team Sunday as a member of the Buffalo Bills. "They do a lot to make you think. That's nothing new. They've done it all year, and we definitely have to stay on top of our adjustments."

Smith's mobility adds a different dimension to the offense. He already has scored a team-high three touchdowns (two designed rushes and one scramble), meaning he already has reached the end zone three more times than Tebow, who never got a chance to do any Tebowing.

Coaches and teammates, namely backup quarterback David Garrard, have encouraged Smith to run more often. He wasn't a big runner at West Virginia, so this is a transition. He already has rushed for 172 yards, well past Mark Sanchez's career high.

"We've been running the ball well, and we've been doing a pretty good job on the read plays," Smith said. "We've tried to stick with the things we're good at, and that's one of them."

It's funny, but Smith was chided for his touchdown run against the Saints. Based on the way it was defended, he should've handed the ball to Ivory. The result was six points, but he still heard the criticism.

"Coach Lee," Smith said, "is a hard coach."

New WR David Nelson a Tim Tebow fan

October, 6, 2013
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The thought of Tim Tebow conjures up bad memories for New York Jets fans. For newly signed WR David Nelson, it's all good.

Nelson and Tebow were teammates at the University of Florida, where they connected on one of the most famous plays in school history -- the celebrated "Jump Pass" against Oklahoma in the 2009 BCS National Championship Game. Tebow's touchdown to Nelson cemented the victory for the Gators, linking them together forever.

Nelson finds it hard to believe Tebow isn't playing in the NFL.

"I can't imagine football without Tim Tebow," said Nelson, who signed last Tuesday and likely will make his Jets debut Monday night at the Atlanta Falcons. "For the past seven years, he's been such a polarizing figure. The guy's a competitor and a leader. Not only does he make you better on the field, but it's well documented he makes you better off the field. He's just a proven leader.

"His competitive will in clutch time ... there's a presence about him. You want to be around him when it's game time. He just has this aura. It's contagious."

Nelson has been around the Jets for less than a week, but he observed, "I think he impacted a lot of people in this locker room." He spent time with Tebow last offseason and they discussed Tebow's ill-fated season with the Jets. Nelson said his old teammate never shared any negative opinions about the Jets.

"Obviously, he wishes he could've played and, obviously, he wishes he could've stayed," Nelson said. "But he made the most of his time."

Nelson smiled when asked about the jump pass. He was the third or fourth receiving option on a team loaded with talent, so he caught the Sooners by surprise.

"As I was running out there -- I still remember it to this day -- Coach [Urban] Meyer said to me, 'Go win the game,'" he said. "That's a memory I'll never forget. That's kind of what I'm known for back in Gainesville."

Since arriving last Tuesday, Nelson has spent almost every waking moment trying to learn the Jets' offense. He showed up at 6 a.m. to one-on-one time with receivers coach Sanjay Lal. They might need him, especially with Santonio Holmes (hamstring) sidelined.

Jets steal page from Tebow playbook

September, 9, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Face it, the New York Jets won Sunday in Tebow-esque fashion. We're talking about the 2011 version of Tim Tebow, the player who orchestrated miracle finishes for the Denver Broncos.

All the ingredients were there Sunday for the Jets. They sputtered on offense but played terrific defense against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, extending the game until late in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Geno Smith made a few plays with his legs, including the game-deciding one. In the end, they still needed some help -- a gift. Bucs linebacker Lavonte David provided it, delivering the greatest shove of all. He pushed Smith as he stepped out of bounds, resulting in a 15-yard penalty and ... well, you know the rest.

Sound familiar? It was reminiscent of the Tebow miracle on Dec. 11, 2011, when Bears running back Marion Barber mindlessly ran out of bounds to stop the clock in the final minute of regulation, leaving time for the Broncos, who tied it with a long field goal and won in overtime after a Barber fumble. It was one of a series of amazing comebacks, including one against the Jets, that made people wonder if supernatural forces were at work.

This could be the Jets' formula this season. Obviously, they can't rely on fluke plays every week, but they're a defense-oriented team that should be able to keep games close into the fourth quarter, giving Smith a chance to make a play or two.

"We're going to have to be extraordinary this year because we're so young," linebacker Calvin Pace said after Sunday's 18-17 victory. "Once Geno gets his feet under him and starts to feel confident in the pro game, then it's going to be really good. But we're going to have to hold them off a while (as a defense), and that's fine with us. We had to do the same thing with Mark (Sanchez) when he was a rookie."

New York coach Rex Ryan believes his defense is up for the challenge. On Monday, he bristled when a reporter asked if it was good defense or bad quarterback play by Josh Freeman that set the tone on Sunday.

"You guys figure it out," said Ryan, adding, "We'll be pretty good on defense."

Sunday also showed what can happen when a team plays low-scoring games, with little margin for error. There was one lapse -- safety Dawan Landry's missed tackle on Tampa Bay receiver Vincent Jackson -- and it nearly wrecked the game for the Jets. They got lucky because of David's brain cramp. You can't expect something like that every week. Then again, who knows?

A wild ride: Nine QBs in 18 months

September, 3, 2013
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Does the Jets' quarterback situation make your head spin? Welcome to the club.

The last 18 months have been like a ride on the Coney Island Cyclone. We're talking about nine quarterbacks, three free-agent signings, three cuts, two trades, one draft pick, one retirement and one contract extension. Pop a dramamine, and relive the madness:

UNDER GM MIKE TANNENBAUM

March 12, 2012: The Jets profess their faith in Mark Sanchez, rewarding a mediocre season with a three-year contract extension -- a total package of five years, $58 million.

March 16: They sign former Lions backup Drew Stanton to serve as Sanchez's primary backup, giving him a $500,000 signing bonus.

March 22: Stunning the NFL, the Jets trade for Tim Tebow and name him the No. 2 backup. Hello, quarterback controversy. Stanton immediately requests his release.

March 24: Stanton is traded to the Colts. He makes a half-million bucks for a week of doing nothing.

2012 season: Pick a day, any day. Dysfunction reigns throughout the season.

UNDER GM JOHN IDZIK

March 12, 2013: On the one-year anniversary of their commitment to Sanchez, the Jets sign veteran David Garrard to compete with Sanchez for the starting job. Team officials are blown away by his workout, downplaying (or ignoring) his chronic knee condition. Privately, they say he has a good chance to win the job.

April 27: They draft Geno Smith in the second round, changing the landscape of the position. Idzik, with a straight face, calls it an open competition with six QBs -- Smith, Sanchez, Tebow, Garrard, Greg McElroy and neophyte Matt Simms.

April 30: After showing up for two weeks of off-season workouts, Tebow finally gets his release -- a foregone conclusion.

May 15: Unable to make it through a month of OTAs, Garrard announces his retirement, citing chronic knee pain -- an unexpected snag in Idzik's grand plan.

Aug. 9: Smith sprains an ankle in his first preseason game. Another snag.

Aug. 24: Sanchez suffers a significant shoulder injury because of Rex Ryan's controversial decision to play him in the fourth quarter behind the second-team line -- yet another snag in the plan. This time, it's a $715,000 mistake. Read on.

Aug. 28: The Jets sign Packers castoff Graham Harrell, giving them five quarterbacks. The depth chart is growing at a time when most teams are cutting down.

Aug. 31: McElroy is waived with an injury. Simms, their best quarterback in the preseason, makes the 53-man roster.

Sept. 1: The Jets quietly fly the well-traveled Brady Quinn into town for a workout.

Sept. 2: With Sanchez expected to miss a few weeks, the Jets sign Quinn to a one-year deal, probably for the $715,000 veteran minimum. Harrell is released. Quinn is expected to open the season as the No. 2 quarterback, essentially filling Tebow's role. That's interesting because Quinn wasn't good enough to beat out Tebow in 2011 with the Broncos.

This can only happen to the Jets.

'You can never have enough Tebow'

August, 31, 2013
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Tim Tebow has been fired twice in a span of four months, so you have to figure his next move will be to a TV studio or a broadcast booth. If a smart coach like Bill Belichick can't find a way to justify a roster spot for him, it doesn't bode well for his chances of catching on elsewhere. Unlike the Jets, the Patriots aborted quickly, incurring no damage whatsoever.

Only a year ago, the Jets were in the throes of Tebow-mania, with Rex Ryan & Co. predicting big things for their new "dynamic weapon," as former GM Mike Tannenbaum once called him. Owner Woody Johnson delivered one of the most infamous quotes in Jets history, saying, "You can never have enough Tebow." I prefer to remember him as a "weapon of mass dysfunction," as ESPNNewYork.com colleague Ian O'Connor once referred to Tebow.

Tebow
It turned out to be the worst personnel move in Jets history, in my opinion, because it showed dysfunction on every level of the organization, from ownership to coaching. Many lives were affected by the Tebow debacle: Tannenbaum was fired. Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano was fired. Ryan was put on the hot seat. Mark Sanchez ... well, there's no way to quantify the psychological damage it did to him.

Here's the irony: If the timing had been different, the Tebow experiment might have had a chance, albeit a small one.

As we quickly learned, Sparano didn't know the Wildcat from "The Cat in the Hat." He barely practiced it in training camp; he didn't use it in preseason games; and he didn't know how to use it when the games mattered.

The current coaching staff actually has a clue. It's planning to run the Wildcat with running back Bilal Powell and wide receiver Jeremy Kerley, and it might incorporate read-option into the attack with quarterback Geno Smith. New quarterbacks coach David Lee, not Sparano, is the true pioneer of the Wildcat for the Jets. Under Lee and coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, the Jets have developed a novel concept: They actually run these plays in practice and in games. Cutting edge stuff, folks.

Even if Tebow had Lee and Mornhinweg, he might have been doomed anyway in New York, where the sideshow was out of control. New general manager John Idzik didn't want to deal with the circus, so he sent Tebow packing after the draft. There was too much baggage, and he had to go. Lousy timing. Lousy everything.

Severe weather: Jets suspend practice

July, 28, 2013
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- On the one-year anniversary of Tim Tebow's shirtless jog through a driving rainstorm, the Jets were greeted Sunday morning by another deluge at training camp. This time, the team suspended practice -- and, no, none of the players removed his jersey for a "Chariots of Fire" run past cameras.

The Jets stopped practice at 10:25 a.m., 25 minutes after they started what was to be their first practice in pads. There was lightning in the area, so an announcement was made to suspend the session. Players and coaches filed off the field, toward the locker room.

Sunday notes: Geno needs to pick it up

June, 9, 2013
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A quick look at the Jets and the NFL:

1. The Battle of Clunker Hill: Listen to Rex Ryan, and you come away with the impression he'd rather crochet a sweater than start Mark Sanchez at quarterback. Ryan's tone has been, um, less than enthusiastic. But guess what? He might have little choice. Judging from what I've seen and heard, rookie Geno Smith hasn't blown anybody away, the way Russell Wilson did last season when he walked into the Seahawks' facility. It's still early and things could change, but the way this is headed, it'll be Sanchez versus the Bucs in Week 1. That's the way it should be. Unless Smith is lights-out in the preseason, the Jets should open with Sanchez.

As much as the organization would like to start over at quarterback, it wouldn't be prudent to throw a rookie into a fire. And it'll be a blazing fire. Think about it: new offensive system; limited weaponry; difficult schedule. You'd do it with Andrew Luck, but Smith is no Luck. Of the past 11 quarterbacks drafted in the second round, only one started Week 1 as a rookie -- the Bengals' Andy Dalton in 2011. Smith throws a pretty ball, but it'll take more than that to win over the coaches and his teammates. Like it or not, it'll be Sanchez to start. How long he lasts, well, that's a different story.

2. The Q Mystery: Quinton Coples' switch to outside linebacker is going well, according to Coples. Curiously, he didn't play a lot of linebacker during the three OTA sessions open to the media. I suggested to him, half-jokingly, that maybe the team is purposely keeping him under wraps, a la Tim Tebow and the Wildcat. Coples, who has a terrific sense of humor, replied, "Hopefully, I'll do more than we did in the Wildcat."

Coples said he's not having any trouble with pass-coverage responsibilities. Any interceptions?

"Nah, not yet," he said. "I like to consider myself 'Lockdown.' They don't throw the ball my way."

Coples Island?

"I respect [Darrelle] Revis, so I don't want to say Coples Island," he said, smiling. "Revis Island, that's his gig. That's his deal. He showed me a lot of things when he was here. But I'm definitely a lockdown type of guy."

3. Speaking of Revis …: Just a random thought. Let's play the what-if game: What if the Jets had kept Revis, hoping to sign him to a long-term extension before the season?

With a $10 million bump in 2013 compensation (based on the contract he received from the Bucs), the Jets would have only about $2 million in cap space. They wouldn't have DT Sheldon Richardson, whom they selected with the Revis pick (13th overall). Or would they? It's believed that Richardson, WR Tavon Austin, CB Dee Milliner and G Chance Warmack were the top four on their draft board, not necessarily in that order. Austin was gone by the ninth pick, and you have to figure they wouldn't have picked Milliner with Revis in the long-term plan. So the choice would've been Warmack or Richardson. Maybe they would've ended up with Richardson anyway. That, of course, is based on the assumption their board would've remained the same with Revis in the picture.

4. Mr. Coffee: TE Hayden Smith has coordinated a coffee klatch in the Jets' locker room. He brews espresso after practice (he keeps a machine in his locker) and serves teammates, some of whom sit around in a circle and shoot the breeze. Smith believes it promotes team chemistry. He got the idea from his rugby days in England, where teammates routinely visited a local coffee shop after practice. It shatters the stereotype of beer-drinking rugby types.

"There's certainly a time and place to enjoy yourself," Smith said, "but there's a lot to be gained from sitting around and having a coffee together. Other than a great pick-me-up, it's nice to sit and talk with the guys."

5. The Sons Also Rise: Brock Sunderland, who worked in the Jets' scouting department for six years, has left the team to become the assistant GM of the Ottawa Red Blacks -- a new CFL team. Brock, the son of former longtime Jets scout Marv Sunderland, became the fourth Jets scout to leave or not have his contract renewed this offseason. During the 2010 playoff run, he was instrumental in helping the Jets reconnect with former player Dennis Byrd. There's also a scout on the rise in the Bradway family. Mike Bradway, the son of longtime Jets senior personnel executive Terry Bradway, has been promoted to the post of Eagles' Eastern regional scout.

6. Mother Knows Best: Dottie Hampton, the matriarch of one of the most popular families in Jets history, died last week at the age of 76. She's survived by husband Bill Hampton, the former longtime equipment manager, and son Clay, the current director of operations. Veteran scribe Randy Lange, of the Jets' official website, wrote a nice piece on Hampton, noting two behind-the-scenes contributions. She purchased the Hanes Beautymist pantyhose that Joe Namath wore in his famous 1973 commercial and, leading into the 1968 AFL Championship Game, she sewed pockets into the jersey fronts of Namath and the skill-position players. The pockets were a huge help on a bitterly cold day at Shea Stadium. Former longtime PR director Frank Ramos said she "might be the greatest Jets fan of all time." Condolences to a great family.

7. Belichick's Delay of Game: If Patriots coach Bill Belichick waited any longer to shoot down the notion that he "hates" Tebow as a player -- an anonymous quote in a May 9 story by Yahoo! Sports -- we'd be asking him about it on the conference call leading into Jets-Patriots in Week 2. It took him four weeks, making his reaction come across as disingenuous.

8. This Ain't Right: What's wrong with this picture? JaMarcus Russell, the epitome of bust-dom, gets a tryout with the Bears. Meanwhile, Tebow, a playoff-winning quarterback, sits at home, seemingly black-balled by the entire league.

9. A 'Sup-er New Yorker: Frank Supovitz, the NFL's point man for Super Bowl XLVIII, is all New York. He grew up in Queens, once worked as an usher at Radio City Music Hall and lives on Long Island. Now, in his job as the league's senior vice president of events, he gets to coordinate a Super Bowl in his hometown. How personally satisfying is that?

"I've never been asked that question before," Supovitz told me the other day. "Words don't describe it, really. It’s an honor to be leading a group of professionals that pull this event together. It's a national event that requires professionals from all over the country. The opportunity to be able to do it here, where I grew up, it's an incredible honor."

10. London Calling: I'm not a fan of putting a team in London, but I suspect it's inevitable. Hey, maybe it'll open a door for Tebow to get back into the league -- unless it's the Jaguars, of course.

Sunday notes: Namath takes on Rex

June, 2, 2013
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Checking out the Jets and the NFL:

1. Another cup of Joe: I realize some people might be Namath-ed out after the last few days, but I'd like to share some leftovers from our conversation the other day. Joe Namath has very strong opinions (gee, what a shock) on Rex Ryan. He doesn't care for Ryan's player-friendly approach, which he believes contributed to the team's two-year slide.

"I’ve always said I've never seen that kind of coaching style before in my life," Namath said. "The first two seasons, you win. Hey, OK. In the meantime, those teams were inherited to some extent. The psyche of the team got in a place where they’re spending more time thinking about what they've done rather than what they're doing and what they're going to do.

"Coaches, they all want to feel like they're loved. Nice. Nice. Nice. Don Shula was hated by some of his players. Coach [Bear] Bryant was hated by some of his players. Bill Belichick, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll. Come on, you can't be Mr. Nice Guy as a head coach. You have too many players that have to be disciplined. Trying to be everybody's buddy at one time, I don't what that coach is. I think that's one of the situations Rex created, being a really friendly guy. He's got everybody's back. Yeah, he's got everybody's back until you get rid of them. Excuse me, this is a business."

Namath also suggested the recent coaching defections on Ryan's staff are a poor reflection of Ryan, saying: "When your coaches are leaving you, it's not a good endorsement of the head guy. This goes back to [Bill] Callahan and [Brian] Schottenheimer. They weren't getting the offensive input in the draft they would've liked and they saw the writing on the wall, so to speak. Our defensive coordinator for the last four years [Mike Pettine], where's he? New job, OK, but I don't know if it's moving up. When it comes to coaching, if you're not happy, you move around. You leave to improve your chances of becoming a head coach or it's jumping ship because you don't like how the captain has been handling it."

Tell us how you really feel, Joe.

2. Keeping up with the Joneses: I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but the Jets' actual draft was eerily similar to the player ratings on the Cowboys' draft board, which was exposed during a TV interview and pieced together by a web site called Blogging the Boys.

CB Dee Milliner was rated fourth on the Cowboys' board; he was picked ninth overall. DT Sheldon Richardson was 16th on their board; he was picked 13th. QB Geno Smith received a second-round grade and was 37th on the board; he was chosen in the second round, 39th overall. OT Oday Aboushi got a fifth-round grade and was 112th on the Cowboys' board; he went in the fifth round at 141st overall.

The only discrepancy involved G Brian Winters, who received a low fourth-round grade from Dallas (89th on its board). Obviously, the Jets liked him more than that, taking him near the top of the third round (No. 72 overall). If you're a Jets fan, are you feeling good, knowing that your draft aligned with Jerry Jones' view? I didn't think so.

3. Farewell to Yarnell: Steve Yarnell, the Jets' VP of security, announced his retirement after 16 years with the team. He started in 1997, hired by Bill Parcells, who coached him at West Point back in the day. Before the Jets, he worked with the FBI as a special agent on criminal and terrorism matters. He could write one heck of a memoir if he ever decided to dish on his job experiences. Fans probably don't know Yarnell, but he was the stern-faced guy on the Jets' sideline, the man who always escorted the head coach to midfield for the postgame handshake. That alone could be a chapter in the book.

I interviewed Yarnell only once, three years ago, for a story on Laveranues Coles. If it weren't for Yarnell, the Jets wouldn't have drafted Coles, who was deemed a risk because of off-the-field issues in college. He dug into Coles' background, gave him a thumb's-up and stood his ground in a legendary draft-room showdown with Parcells in 2000. Yarnell told Parcells he'd stake his reputation on Coles, who turned out just fine. When I spoke to Yarnell, who became friendly with Coles over the years, he got emotional when he mentioned Coles' 2005 admission that he was molested as a child by his stepfather. Yarnell choked up for a few seconds, expressing his admiration for Coles' courage. It was a quick glimpse into the man behind the poker face. And that was the last time we talked.

4. Give Me the Damn Bieber: This Keyshawn Johnson-Justin Bieber spat is kind of amusing. The last time Keyshawn got this fired up about one of his neighbors was 1997, when he trashed teammate Wayne Chrebet in his book, "Just Give Me the Damn Ball." Their lockers were side-by-side, which made for some interesting situations.

5. Pace setter: LB Calvin Pace believes the Jets' offseason overhaul on defense will become the norm in the league. "I think this is the way the NFL is going to become now," he said. "You don't see a lot of guys playing 10 years. I don't think the young guys see that. I think it's going to get younger and younger to the point where you're going to look at a guy playing five years, and he's a vet. I think that's the way of the business." Everything, of course, is dictated by the salary cap, which has remained relatively flat -- but this was the deal the players agreed to.

For the record, the Jets cut two starters (both over 30), lost four starters in free agency (two over 30) and traded one.

[+] EnlargeEric Mangini
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireFormer Jets head coach Eric Mangini is taking a job as the 49ers senior offensive consultant.
6. Mangenius to San Francisco: I'm not surprised by Eric Mangini's decision to take a job with the 49ers as their senior offensive consultant. Coaching is in his blood. This isn't coaching, per se, but it gets him back into a competitive environment. He's always been a defensive coach, but his expertise on that side of the ball will allow him to help the offense. The 49ers make sense. GM Trent Baalke was a Jets scout in the late 1990s when Mangini was a low-level assistant with the team.

7. Holmgren on Mornhinweg: I couldn't fit this anecdote in a feature story on Jets OC Marty Mornhinweg, but Mike Holmgren tells a funny story about his former protégé. A few days before the Packers faced the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, Holmgren got so disgusted with his team in practice that he took the play cards -- used by the scout team -- and threw them in the air. "These are junk," he screamed.

Holmgren told me he did it for effect, but Mornhinweg, who stayed up all night designing the cards, didn't know that. After practice, Mornhinweg emerged from the shower with the cards and, buck naked, gave Holmgren and another coach a mini-lecture on how hard he worked to prepare them. He was Holmgren's QBs coach for the Packers. Recalled Holmgren: "He was so passionate. We did all we could to keep from laughing."

8. The Kid is All Right: Bills coach Doug Marrone said first-round QB EJ Manuel has performed better so far than any rookie he's ever coached. He was around two good ones as a Saints assistant coach, G Jahri Evans (2006) and T Carl Nicks (2008). If Ryan made that comment about Geno Smith, it would be back-page news.

9. Tebow Time: So now Tim Tebow's father has chimed in, telling NFL.com, "You are old enough to believe not all you hear" -- a convoluted way of dismissing ESPN The Magazine for reporting that someone in the QB's inner circle suggested that Tebow thinks his career is likely over.

Here's a novel idea: Why doesn't Tebow speak for himself?

10. June swoon: Remember when June 1 on the NFL calendar meant a slew of cap casualties? Those days are gone. Can't say I miss them.

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