FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Eight days ago, New York Jets CEO Christopher Johnson gathered the team off the practice field. It got quiet. Some players wondered, “Why is the owner talking to us?” Johnson isn’t a spotlight guy, not a big talker, so his impromptu meeting caught many by surprise.
In his understated style, Johnson told the players to ignore the outside noise about Adam Gase, that he was committed to his coach. He also happened to mention that he would love to beat the New York Giants because of the New York-New York thing. (They did, 34-27).
On Wednesday, Johnson went public, telling the world what he said behind closed doors. He delivered a strong endorsement of Gase, saying he won’t make a coaching change — not now, not after this season.
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Bold move, Cotton.
Johnson, still kind of new to the ownership thing, should have gone to the old “we’ll-evaluate-everything-after-the-season” line. Yes, that would have put Gase on the hot seat in his first season, but there’s nothing wrong with turning up the temperature under a coach’s derriere. Coaches do it to players all the time. If nothing else, it would have sent a message to the paying customers that accountability is paramount.
By declaring Gase will return in 2020, Johnson not only sent his fan base into a frenzy, but he boxed himself in. What if the Jets finish 2-14 or 3-13? What if Sam Darnold remains on the quarterback roller coaster? What if the offense continues to, you know, stink?
Johnson is so convinced that Gase, 41, is the right guy that he informed the entire team he’s standing by his man, no matter what. This declaration came last Wednesday, three days after the humiliating loss to the Miami Dolphins, when the Jets were a leaguewide laughingstock. Weird timing, huh? Johnson is doubling down on the commitment he made last January, essentially telling everyone to ignore the record (2-7) and the horrible offense (32nd in total yards) and all the penalties (25th).
The message was clear: Trust me.
This will be Johnson’s defining moment. If his coach succeeds, he will be hailed as a visionary who was able to see through the smoke. If his coach flops, he will be ripped for staying married too long, setting back the entire franchise.
If you’re a long-suffering fan, you can only hope Johnson’s faith in Gase is sincere (and well-founded), not something born from stubbornness. Gase was Johnson’s first big hire, and he desperately wants it to work. He was vilified for firing general manager Mike Maccagnan after the draft — two months after singing his praises — and a quick hook with Gase would dredge up those same questions about his leadership ability.
On the flip side, two wrongs don’t make a right. The Jets learned that lesson in 2017. They didn’t draft a quarterback, in part, because they refused to acknowledge the obvious: Christian Hackenberg, drafted in 2016, never was going to be a starter. They kept alive the charade and missed out on Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. If Gase turns into Hackenberg, the Jets are screwed.
In explaining his endorsement for Gase, Johnson repeatedly used the word “trust.” As in: The team trusts him. GM Joe Douglas trusts him. (Of course, he does; he wouldn’t have the job if it weren’t for Gase.) Darnold trusts him. (Side note: Gase, Douglas and Darnold are represented by the same agent, Jimmy Sexton. Read into that what you will.) Something tells me Maccagnan, if polled, would have gone the other way.
In fairness to Gase, he inherited a mediocre roster — a seven-win team (my prediction) if the key players stayed healthy. They didn’t stay healthy, and the lack of depth — a byproduct of years of lousy drafting — has crippled them. Johnson’s hope is that Douglas — an unproven GM — can rebuild the talent base. His other hope is that Gase, an unproven winner, will succeed with better players and a one-year foundation for his program.
“It’s said that you are what your record says you are,” said Johnson, whose record is 11-30 as the Jets’ acting owner. “That’s not very impressive. But looking forward, I think this is going to be a good team. I have so much faith in Adam and Joe to put together a great future for us.”
He said the same thing about Maccagnan and former coach Todd Bowles — until he fired them. Now Johnson is going all-in with Gase, whose career record is 25-32.
Chiefs regroup after starters Damien Williams, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif opt out – Kansas City Chiefs Blog
The Kansas City Chiefs thought they had two advantages over most of their competition heading into training camp, one being startling continuity for the salary-cap era and the other a high-scoring offense led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Those advantages might still be there, though not in the abundance they were before the calendar turned to August. Two offensive starters, running back Damien Williams and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, opted out of playing this season amid the coronavirus pandemic, dealing the Chiefs a blow.
“It hurts,” tight end Travis Kelce said. “The guys that we have in that locker room can fill that void. I honestly believe that. We have an unbelievable roster, and I’m excited to see how this group molds together.”
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There’s no reason to believe the two player losses will unravel everything the Chiefs have going for them. Eighteen starters still return from the Super Bowl LIV win over the San Francisco 49ers. That familiarity could provide an edge in a season without offseason practice and preseason games and with an abbreviated training camp.
But Williams was the Chiefs’ leading rusher last season and a Super Bowl star. He ran for 104 yards against the 49ers and scored the final two touchdowns in the fourth quarter of the 31-20 victory.
The Chiefs also lost their second-leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, who left as a free agent. They did draft LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round, but their veteran running backs have a total of five NFL starts among them.
The Chiefs already had big expectations for Edwards-Helaire as a rookie. Now he must deliver.
In an illustration of just how important he is to the Chiefs this season, a defensive player, linebacker Anthony Hitchens, said, “Our job [on defense] is to get him ready for Week 1: show him different looks, practice hard, try to strip the ball out, playing tight coverage on him.”
The Chiefs also lost Stefen Wisniewski to free agency, so they need starters at both guard positions. They had to mix and match along the offensive line last year. Injuries forced them to start five different line combinations.
So between free-agent additions Kelechi Osemele and Mike Remmers, part-time 2019 starters Andrew Wylie and Martinas Rankin and young players in Nick Allegretti and Lucas Niang, the Chiefs have plenty of candidates.
The Chiefs won’t have as much time to sort through the possibilities as they usually do.
“The older guys, the more they play, the easier it is to mesh them together,” tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. “Obviously, [Osemele] has had an awesome career and Remmers has had a really good career too. Those are guys who understand fits and understand how to play with people, next to people. So that’s not something I’m too worried about.”
Giants lose third opt-out player with CB Sam Beal’s decision
According to the NFL’s daily transaction wire, linebacker Josiah Tauaefa was also removed from the reserve/COVID-19 list one day after being placed on it.
Beal becomes the third Giants player to take the opt-out route, joining offensive tackle Nate Solder and wide receiver/kick returner D’Mari Scott. Under the agreement reached between the NFL and NFLPA, players had the option of opting out of the upcoming season without penalty by 4 p.m. on Thursday. The opt out is irrevocable.
The Giants already had question marks at cornerback prior to Beal’s decision. Cornerback DeAndre Baker is on the commissioner’s exempt list and faces charges of armed robbery and aggravated assault with a firearm. He is unlikely to play another snap with the Giants.
Baker was a first-round pick last year. Beal was a third-round supplemental pick out of Central Michigan in 2018 who missed his entire rookie season with a shoulder injury. He played in six games with three starts last season and finished with 25 tackles and one pass defended. He missed the season finale with a shoulder injury.
Beal, 23, was expected to be in the mix, along with second-year cornerback Corey Ballentine, for a starting spot opposite offseason acquisition James Bradberry. Rookie fourth-round pick Darnay Holmes also appears to be in serious contention for the job.
Beal’s absence now leaves the Giants with an obvious void and a lack of depth. A source indicated recently — even before Beal’s opt out — that the team was searching for cornerback help on the waiver wire or via free agency. Among the options on the open market are veterans Logan Ryan, Aqib Talib and Dre Kirkpatrick.
New coach Joe Judge has firsthand experience with Ryan and Talib from their time in New England. Ryan appears to be the most likely option, especially since the Giants will gain $13.55 million in salary-cap space from Solder’s decision to sit out the 2020 NFL season.
Growing frustrated by suspension, Cowboys’ Randy Gregory lashes out, says he’s ‘doing everything right’ as he aims for reinstatement
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory took to social media Wednesday to say he is being treated unfairly by the NFL as he attempts to be reinstated from an indefinite suspension.
“I really miss playing football and being a player in the NFL,” Gregory wrote. “I’m doing everything that is asked of me and I’m in great shape physically, mentally and emotionally but I’m being held back from furthering my career because of Covid and testing. I’ve been ready to play and test for months but still have gotten little to no help to resolve my reinstatement. I’m asking more questions than I’m getting answered. It’s amazing that the powers that can keep passing the buck and also use this pandemic as a way to prevent me from joining my team. Telling me to just sit and wait in limbo over things I can’t control, all the while doing everything right off the field is unfair and flat out wrong!!!”
A request for comment from the NFL regarding Gregory’s status has been made.
For all of you that’s wondering… pic.twitter.com/gj7nWJpw5e
— Randy Gregory (@RandyGregory_4) August 5, 2020
Gregory applied for reinstatement in March, according to sources. Last month ESPN reported his attempt to return had not been denied but he was not cleared to return either and sources said there was some optimism he would be allowed around the team in some fashion even if he could not practice.
Gregory is on an indefinite suspension for multiple violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy dating to his rookie year in 2015.
Under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, players can no longer be suspended for a positive test for marijuana, but because he was penalized under the old system he would still need to be welcomed back by commissioner Roger Goodell. A player can continue to be suspended for missing tests or not taking part in a care plan.
Gregory missed all of last season after playing in 14 games in 2018 and finishing with six sacks, which was second on the team. He missed 30 of 32 regular-season games in 2016 and ’17 because of suspensions. He has played in only 28 of a possible 80 regular-season games in his career.
The Cowboys selected Gregory in the second round in 2015 and have stood by him, including agreeing to an extension with him last year that was ultimately blocked by the league. The team had a short-term extension for Gregory blocked last year by the league because of the suspension.
Earlier this offseason, pass-rusher Aldon Smith was conditionally reinstated by the NFL after multiple suspensions that have kept him off the playing field since 2015. Smith has passed numerous tests within the last year and has agreed to a strict after-care program.
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