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Are the New York Jets Ignoring Tangible On Field Performance Too Much in Player Evaluations?

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Intangibles are a great thing for a player to have. It is also a good thing to have quality people in the locker room. The most important personnel ingredient for a successful football team, though, is pure talent. When looking at some of the moves the Jets have made in recent years, one cannot help but wonder whether they emphasize this enough.

Example A is Kerry Rhodes. Rhodes had a disappointing 2009 with the Jets, but he finished strong. This included a monster game against San Diego in the Divisional round of the Playoffs. He was solid in coverage. He also had eight tackles and a huge sack. The Jets probably would not have won without him. He also had a pair of Pro Bowl snubs early in his career. The Jets sold low on him after that relatively disappointing 2009, shipping him to Arizona for virtually nothing. The Jets hinted that he was a locker room problem. People tended to take it at face value. I asked then the same question I ask now. Why? Was Rhodes' attitude such a problem that he had to be sent out of town for nothing? We all know about his flaws tackling, but he was a great talent. He wasn't enough of a problem to keep the team from reaching the AFC Championship Game that year. It sure seemed like his play came on as he got more comfortable with the system. Dealing with problem players is a subjective thing. The coaching staff seemed to view him as more trouble than he was worth. The Jets sure could use a safety with his attributes now.

Example B is Braylon Edwards. I think people might go a bit overboard talking about the kind of player Braylon is, but it is clear he was a good fit in the Jets offense. The team did not show any real interest in keeping him after an  arrest and reports he was a diva in the locker room. I can understand that. I would have had real reservations about the Jets giving him a longterm deal. The thing is he did not end up getting a longterm contract. He got next to nothing as a free agent. Perhaps he would have felt so slighted that he would not have accepted a "Prove It" contract from the Jets, but his career is about making money. The Jets probably could have afforded his eventual price range easily with a no risk contract. It would have made sense. Mark Sanchez and he developed good chemistry. The Jets could have even added Plaxico Burress as well. Plaxico could have been eased into the lineup and shaken off his rust in practice, getting snaps in three receiver sets with Santonio Holmes moving to the slot. This would have been a different offense. I think part of the reason the deep ball has gone away is that there is no Braylon to run past defenders. The Jets seem reluctant to use Holmes that way, and Burress' game is not about running past people. It is about winning contested balls. It is difficult to expect a quarterback who has been ordered to not make mistakes to just throw it up to Burress. Like many others, I stated at the time that the Jets should try and find a way to keep the receivers Sanchez was comfortable with since the team was trying to develop him into a quality quarterback.

Exhibit C is Eric Smith. At the end of last season, as Brodney Pool got more comfortable with the defense, he became a playmaker. He was the best safety on the team by the end of the year. Now he barely sees the field in the base defense because Smith somehow became the starter for reasons nobody can quantify. Smith has allowed more yards in coverage than any safety in the NFL. The defense of the move seems to the be the inquantifiable, "He makes sure there are no mental errors on the defense," even though there have been plenty of mental errors by Smith alone this season. Smith leads the team in tackles, but the number of tackles per game from the safety position is about the same as it was a year ago. Smith is just taking away somebody else's tackles with his increased playing time. For all the talk of his play against the run, the Jets have a worse run defense than they did a year ago. Whenever stories about Smith come out, we hear a lot about his advanced vocabulary and how much the coaching staff loves him. We also hear vague comments about how helpful he is, but we seldom get specifics on how he makes the team better because it really is not obvious.

I believe this question is fair game. There are some moves the Jets have made that do not make a ton of sense on paper. As much as the other stuff matters, tangibles are important too. What do you think?