Darrelle Revis Traded: A Case Study in How to Run a Franchise Poorly

Ronald Martinez

I can't say I'm very angry tonight mainly because I saw this coming. Around January I saw enough from the Darrelle Revis situation to believe the most likely scenario was the Jets selling him off for twenty cents on the dollar. There was clearly no intention to even consider trying to re-sign him. The days of Herschel Walker type trades are over in the NFL, and the unique complexities of the Revis situation made it unlikely.

I have spent the last few months thinking about the Jets. I have also thought about teams I support in other sports and even teams I don't support. I have thought about what makes the best franchises great. My biggest reflection is that they build their teams around great players. Sure, they need to provide quality supporting casts, but they do not overpay for good. They also recognize greatness and make sure to hold onto it. They find a way.

This is applicable even for a struggling team like the Jets. When you rebuild there are two options. You can either totally gut your roster of talent, starting for scratch, or you can build your team around great players if you are lucky enough to have them. The first method is long and painful. You have to do almost everything right to rebuild a team when you are starting from scratch. In order to get enough talent on your roster to compete, you can rarely miss when you make a big move. Even if you are almost perfect, it might not be enough. If you have a great player, your task is a tad easier. Your talent disadvantage is reduced. You might be at the bottom of the league, but that great player makes your talent level a lot closer to the top than it would be otherwise. Because your talent level is higher, you need to add less to get back to the top.

It's clear how this was applicable for the Jets. Having Revis made the Jets a lot better on the defensive side of the ball. The defense was built around his talents. The Jets would never get better without drafting other high level players, but keeping Revis around would have made life a lot easier. He could have carried the load these next few years. Hopefully some other great players would join him. Gradually the load would have shifted to these other players as they became more seasoned, and Revis slowed down. Eventually these other players would need to get a raise, and Revis could be let go to clear the room as his skills deteriorated.

The Jets really needed Revis. The talent level was already too low, and now it has been decimated. It would be one thing if the Jets had the talent the 49ers do. Then they could let Revis go, but they would have other great players who could pick up the slack lost. They don't.

There was a way to work this out. There usually is. Revis wanted to remain a Jet. His initial demands might have been off the charts, but they were only initial demands. Back in 2010, he wanted to become the highest paid cornerback in the league. He did not get the richest cornerback contract ever, but he got one that satisfied him. The same probably could have happened here. Heck, it is obvious to see how it could have happened. Revis' contract with the Buccaneers is low risk. There is no guaranteed money. This makes his contract amount to six individual team options. Remember that talk about how signing Revis would prevent the Jets from being competitive? It never really added up how one contract in a league where the salary cap is over $120 million could be the difference between a team contending and having no shot, especially when the player was one of the most valuable in the league. It still doesn't add up when you look at the tens of millions in cap space the Jets had available for 2014 even with Revis under contract in addition to the (hopefully) solid Draft classes coming in and few players upcoming who need a big raise. It totally goes out the window when you consider the Jets could have gotten rid of Revis at no cost if it ever got to a point where that actually happened.

That brings us to the real problem here. This was not a football decision. This was a decision dictated by the owner for personal reasons. There are published reports that Woody Johnson did not want to pay Revis. There were reports before John Idzik was even introduced as general manager to this effect. The Jets never even contacted Revis' representation to discuss potential contract parameters according to other reports. Say what you will about the people who cover the Jets. These reports were said in a definitive voice with plenty of corroborating evidence and nothing contradicting them. Even if you thought Revis was going to ask for too much guaranteed money that would expose the team, why wouldn't you at least keep all options on the table? Obviously these things were not deal breakers after all. For a team that loves to use the phrase "due diligence," that seems like sloppy work.

This points to the conclusion that this was not a football decision. All options were not explored. All avenues were not examined. The owner dictated that a player had to be traded without regard for the best decision for the team. This is the most disturbing part of this sordid tale. It would be one thing if the football people made a decision it was best to move on because signing Revis put the team's future at stake. This clearly did not happen.

This is why I do not blame John Idzik. His hands were tied. He waited as long as he possibly could have and held out for the best deal. It was a crummy deal, but it is tough to say he could have done much more given the circumstances.

It also makes me worry about Idzik. By all accounts, he's a bright chap and qualified for the job. The problem is that might not be enough. Further depleting an already untalented roster to this degree makes the difficult task of rebuilding this team into a Herculean one. Idzik can do a lot right. It might not be enough. It is going to be incredibly difficult to get enough talent on this roster to compete even if he does a reasonably good job.

More than that, I worry about the messed up culture of this team. This is yet another example of how wrong the process can be with this team. This isn't new either. The Jets have made a series of botched moves over the past few years where the problem has seemed to be not just the evaluation but also the thought process behind it. There have been moves made that seemed like they were made primarily to get headlines, to deny a past mistake was made, or to just try and look smarter than everybody else. Idzik might be a capable guy, but this culture might be too big for him to fix alone, particularly since so many who created this culture retain prominent roles in this team and are among Idzik's top advisers.

Now the Jets are left with a pair of Draft picks and a long rebuild. Odds are they won't come close to being as valuable as Revis. You can't count on finding a player that valuable, especially with just a first round pick and a third round pick. These things just don't happen, especially for a team that functions like this.

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