I sat down at a wedding last weekend and listened to my aunt mockingly ask about Geno Smith. She wanted to know why he was a diva, and why the Jets were always a poorly run circus. At first, I took it in stride; her family are all Giants fans, and like any good little brother our fanbase has grown to withstand insults. Then, I started to think what caused her to view Smith as a diva, and the Jets as a circus, and I realized that the team, while certainly not innocent, is at the mercy of a fundamentally flawed and woefully inept media.
Media coverage around the Jets operate with a clear agenda in mind. The journalists look to perpetuate their self-created circus notion by racing to the bottom and finding easily digestible stories that may contain only the slightest bit of truth. Look to any Tebow moment at all last year; by re-contextualizing certain quotes or relying on flimsy anonymous sources, NY beat writers could construct a plausible and catchy storyline guaranteed to garner page views. The key for them is the initial bite, because after the story launches, the churning mechanisms of 24-7 media cycles will replay the narrative over and over again.
Imagine this. The NYDN can claim that the team is out to get Tebow. After getting quotes from the players about their own report, the NYDN can then run an article about how the team is "refusing to comment on the locker-room tension." After that, the mainstream media combines the initial idea of the NYDN with the more flashy "refusal" angle, and once more we're stuck listening to vapid analysts discussing chemistry and drama without any sort of tangible evidence.
Lazy hack journalists find any sort of substantive analysis difficult and rather time confusing. Look at the difference between the pre-draft coverage here versus the output of Manish Mehta. At GGN, extensive profiles of potential players started to pop up months before the draft; on his Jets Stream or on the NYDN site, Mehta has absolutely nothing of substance about the draft. There is no evidence of tape study, advanced analysis, and even a rudimentary understanding of the game; he's a glorified gossip reporter who serves to only sometimes outpace the NYJ twitter account on transactions.
Geno Smith is the most recent example of this terrible phenomenon. Jason Cole, voicebox for the fired agents now trying to reframe their dismissal, writes a smear piece on Geno and his work ethic. Local NY writers pick up the piece and phrase their reporting in slightly more confusing terminology; you see items like "reports question Smith's ethic" or "is Smith a diva?" None of these articles offer anything substantial, mere hearsay born out of one source with an agenda. After asking these idiotic questions to their readers, the NY writers double down and now ask the players and coaches what they think of the report. This leads to another round of posts rehashing the story, and we're once more stuck gossiping instead of looking at how Geno fits in a West Coast system, or literally anything of merit.
There are consequences to the laziness and ineptitude of these writers. Their inability to generate genuine reporting and their insistence on the big juicy gossip cement an improper label on the Jets. For the casual fan, there isn't a need to look further than this label to form your opinion. Everyone sees the article about Smith and his agents; less see the reaction from the coaches, and even less see the positive reports from Geno's old college coaches or other sources with direct knowledge. Instead, you're stuck with casual ignorance. You're stuck with national NFL analysts like Albert Breer making an off-hand joke about Geno being a robber and everyone laughing because hey, it's just the Jets! Let's not worry that a 22 year old's entire life and personality is the butt of your dumb joke, or that he's being judged long before his career even begins.
This might seem inconsequential, but the casual referencing to a false and biased smear is the first step in creating a narrative that does not go away. The media builds the player up out of one corner of their mouth and knocks him down with the other. We have to demand better from them.