F.A.Q.: What can the Jets possibly be thinking about Peyton Manning?

Mark Sanchez in Miami. (nfl.com)
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A conversation with W.W.D. media reporter John Koblin about the New York Jets' designs on Peyton Manning.

Josh: I wouldn't want to get too worked up about reports that the Jets are looking into getting Peyton Manning. I mean, nothing wrong with talking, of course. But is this not slightly insane?

John: I don't think it's insane to talk to Manning's people, as long as it's just that.

If his people respond by saying something like "Hey! Yes, you're on a list of several other teams. Do something to impre$$ us," that's when I'd start getting the willies.

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Josh: Well that must be why I've already got them. I can't imagine it's going any other way, if they're talking.

Which would also mean that the Jets are taking all the wrong lessons from last year, when two well-run rival organizations won conference titles while they crashed and burned. This franchise is getting to be like one of those disastrously top-heavy presidential campaigns that can't understand why it's losing and so keeps bringing in ever-higher-priced "talent" to layer over the problems.

I mean, seriously? The Sanchez era is over, and they're Going For It so they can Win Now?  

Does that ever turn out well?

John: Nope! I might understand a team like the Jets being tempted if they hadn't fallen victim to a Rent-a-QB scheme just four years ago. (By the way: Brett Favre in '07 had 28 TDs, 15 interceptions, and 66-percent rate of completion; Manning '10 was 33 TDs, 17 int., 66-percent completions.) And we saw how well that worked out.

Granted, Manning isn't Favre. Manning would start here sooner. Manning is methodical. Manning is a student of the game and more disciplined, etc. etc. But ... I just don't buy it. There are no examples in the N.F.L. of an aging QB legend going to a team with problems and turning the whole thing around to win a championship.

Also, the Jets under Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum have had the most successful three-year start of any regime in Jets history. There are lots of things to like about it! If you bring in Manning, not only do you sacrifice a young quarterback (who might get good), but you sacrifice the whole enterprise. Either they win the whole thing or they're back to rebuilding, under new management.

Josh: So I'll chalk up the exhortations from the Steve Serbys of the world for the Jets to prostrate themselves before Manning and "Rexplain" why he should come to New York to the fact that columnists need to get read. He's just doing what he does.

But if the team actually listens ... I mean, I know Tannenbaum is supposed to be a smart guy, but it's like, is he making the decisions or is he secretly focus-grouping this stuff with WFAN callers?

The Jets are starting to feel like this cautionary tale about what happens when you treat an actual football team like a fantasy football team. It doesn't matter on a fantasy football team if your star receiver turns out to be a sociopath who doesn't interact well with the coaching staff or the rest of the roster. There's also no reward in fantasy football for maintaining the kind of continuity you're talking about, particularly at quarterback.

But on an actual football team, that stuff matters. I'm worried the Jets have got the G.M. equivalent of their just-fired offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer: a smart guy with lots of neat tricks up his sleeve who isn't actually so great when it comes to the big picture.

Or am I being too grim?

John: Ha! I think it's OK to be grim right now. These are grim times! When was the last time you felt this demoralized in an offseason?

But yes, the Jets shouldn't react to what the Giants and Patriots did last season by trying to catch up to them with a go-for-it-all trade. This is what bad teams do. I just want them to have a really boring off-season.

Remember the Jets and Giants last year? The perceptions of each team in August? The Jets were Super Bowl-bound with their fancy wide receiver Plaxico Burress! And the Giants were a laughingstock. Jerry Reese was a gutless fool. Two of the Giants defensive backs said (on the record!) that they would prefer to play for Rex. Osi wanted nothing to do with them. And they stayed the course and …

Anyway, I don't know how much this is Tannenbaum and how much of it is Woody Johnson. I feel like if Mr. T worked for a different owner he would be a different G.M.

Mind you, this team switches identities on a dime.

Josh: YES. That's exactly the problem.

I understand the Jets' obsession with newness: In the minds of the management, they not only need to shed their identity, but to make a great show of doing so. Not the same old Jets! and all that.

But they seem to feel the need to prove it over and over again, approaching every season as if they're fresh off firing Rich Kotite. I think the only way they're actually going to establish that new, better identity they're looking for is if they just stop it already.

In any case, the only way they're going to please the "long-suffering" fans—the real ones—is by getting the results a good franchise gets.

A good franchise would have stuck with Chad Pennington instead of replacing him with Brett Favre. Now, being a good franchise means sticking with Sanchez, or at least not throwing him over for a 36-year-old, no matter what the columnists and the fans in the new-looking Holmes jerseys say. 

John: Completely. Look, I don't think Sanchez is Richard Todd. He's absolutely not a bust. He did regress last year, yes. But you know. The Giants stuck with Eli! Didn't Eli and Mark have virtually identical stats through their first three years? I think they gotta stick with him. And yeah, what happened with Chad? He won comeback player of the year and won the AFC East, beating the Jets in week 17 in the Meadowlands.

One thing, though. I know we're in agreement about "staying the course," but how far do you go with that? Does that apply to Holmes?

Josh: Oh, don't get me wrong: Staying the course has its limits. If Holmes doesn't want to play for the Jets, they should trade him or cut him and move on. That's what good teams do! I'm already kind of ashamed to be a football fan, given what we now know about what it does to the players. But I feel somehow that this team owes it to me not to make me ashamed to be a Jets fan, too.

Give me Jeremy Kerley, go get Laveranues Coles off whatever couch he's sitting on, and sign up a post-college kid who can catch, and let's go with that, if that's what it comes down to. Holmes has no business pulling on the same uniform that Al Toon used to wear.

John: Well, they'll have a chance to draft Al Toon's son this year. So there's that.