Maurice Jones-Drew's Bitter Holdout Is a No-Win Scenario

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistAugust 22, 2012

Things aren't looking up for Jones-Drew.
Things aren't looking up for Jones-Drew.Matt Stamey-US PRESSWIRE

When it comes to prognostication, I have a bias.

It's a stupid bias, and it leads to me being wrong more often than not.

I have a bias toward rational behavior.

I assume (foolishly, of course) that people are inherently rational and that they will act intelligently and in their own self-interests.

In the case of Maurice Jones-Drew's increasingly bitter feud with the Jacksonville Jaguars, those have proven to be ridiculous assumptions.

The standoff escalated to DEFCON 2 yesterday as Jones-Drew's camp reportedly let it be known they were open to trade (hat tip to Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union).

The latest tantrum was apparently touched off by a string of dismissive statements by Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who has been playing the waiting game expertly with Jones-Drew from the start.

Suddenly, Twitter and message boards around the NFL are lighting up with fans eager to acquire the NFL's rushing leader from 2011 for their favorite team.

I freely admit that, from the earliest days that a potential holdout was rumored for Jones-Drew, I was dismissive. Despite the fact that he has a credible argument, he lacks the one thing necessary to complete a successful renegotiation of his contract: leverage. I simply could not understand what Jones-Drew could gain by a holdout, and I assumed he would realize that he had little hope of success.

While I firmly believe Jones-Drew's absence for more than a game two will have negative consequences for the Jaguars, the fact is that early-season success in the first two preseason games has eroded whatever tenuous ground the running back was holding.

Backup runner Rashad Jennings doesn't have to play like Jones-Drew for 16 games. He only has to play well long enough in the preseason to make it appear like Jones-Drew is expendable.

With the Jaguars digging in, willing to wait Jones-Drew out, the runner is left with few options short of total surrender. His best hope is for a terrible offensive performance by the Jaguars this week. The Giants and Saints were high-profile opponents for Jacksonville early in the preseason, but they also field suspect defenses (regardless of reputation). The Baltimore Ravens post a sterner test.

If the Jags lay an egg against the Ravens, Jones-Drew can hope the tide of public opinion might swing back in his favor. Such hopes are truly a reach, however, as the team is unlikely to budge even if things break perfectly for Jones-Drew.

At this point, asking for a trade is his only way out of a mess of his own making. Unfortunately for him and for some lucky team, that trade is unlikely to happen.

First, the Jaguars would be caving by trading Jones-Drew. They are unlikely to land a quality pick for him. I doubt he would garner anything higher than a fourth-round selection at this late date. By dealing him for a song, they would be giving him what he wanted, and thus weakening their own future position in other contract fights.

They could get around all that if the trade was advantageous enough, but that's just not likely. He'll have missed all of training camp, and Chris Johnson can tell you what that does for a running back's productivity. He told John Glennon of The Tennessean:

“I never really questioned myself, but it was a situation where I thought that — even though I was holding out – that when I got back that I would be able to  just jump out there and be the best, be better than everybody,” Johnson said. “But the situation is that that you can’t do that in a league like this when everyone is working and trying to be the best out here, too.”

Undoubtedly, Jones-Drew is making the same miscalculation.

Jones-Drew isn't being selfish or evil or anything so nefarious as fans would like to believe.

He's just being stupid.

He's right and he knows it, but he and his agent have forgotten that being right doesn't matter. He doesn't have leverage and he never did.

Fans want to see him swapped for Mike Wallace or Dwight Freeney or some high draft pick, but all of those deals are fraught with complications. Freeney would cost $14 million this season. Wallace would simply exchange one nightmare contract fight for another.

As for the high draft pick, after what happened to Chris Johnson last year, no one is going to cough one up for a disgruntled runner, who likely won't be rounding into shape until October.

There will be no trade. There will be no new contract.

The Jaguars have already passed the point where they can escape this mess unscathed. They've adapted and moved on, and are willing to suffer the consequences. They have no motivation to bend.

Jones-Drew is going to lose this fight. The only question is why he ever thought he could win.