Following the Jets trade of wide receiver Derrick Mason on Tuesday night was speculation on whether the 12-year veteran’s mouth had anything to do with general manager Mike Tannenbaum’s decision.
The Rex Ryan-era Jets, for better or worse, have been tagged by the media for speaking out…a lot. The sound bites, however, have been directed at opposing teammates or “to all the non-believers,” if you ask linebacker Bart Scott.
Mason referred to “cracks” in the offense, noting that, “whenever somebody wants to seal up the cracks, then we’ll continue to move forward as an offense.” It’s pretty obvious who Mason was talking about, unless, of course, he’s referring to Bob Vila. (Yeah, I wen’t there.)
So the question now is this—was Mason dealt strictly based on performance, or to send a message?
While the timing would imply that the post-game remarks (as well as reports that Mason and fellow receivers Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress complained to Ryan about Schottenheimer) had an impact on the move, Tannenbaum was quick to refute the speculation:
"It may look one way, but we can’t control that. What we can control is what’s best for the Jets.”
When asked to elaborate on the decision to deal Mason, Tannenbaum had this to offer:
"What he said after the Baltimore game had nothing to do with the decision we made last night. Obviously the performance on the field wasn’t where he had expected to be or where we had expected to be.”
So there you have it. At least in the words of Jets management, the trade had more to do with Mason’s performance (13 catches for 115 yards in five games), and nothing to do with him questioning the offense.
But do we buy it? In the case of Mason, I think we have to. While Ryan was predicting upwards of 90 receptions for Mason, any football realist knew that wasn’t going to happen.
Here are the facts: Mason is 37-yeard-old, was playing with a quarterback sporting a sub-60 percent career completion rate, and as the third WR option on a team that still feels committed to the run.
If Jets really wanted to set an example, and change their identity from a brash team that always speaks their mind, parting with a player like Mason just doesn’t strike me as a "statement" move.
What will be telling is to see how the Jets react to the media going forward, if they can keep certain issues in-house, and if the team known for talking the talking, can finally start walking the walk.