By Jason Klein
Today, the Jets look towards the future without a very important piece from their past.
Bryce Petty gets his second start at quarterback just days after the team placed center Nick Mangold on season-ending injured reserve. The move could signal the end of Mangold’s 11-year run with the Jets. Even if he returns, this season’s injury woes proved that his best days are behind him.
One of the most dependable and talented centers in NFL history, Mangold has only one season left on his contract. He’ll turn 33 next month, and will carry a large salary cap charge of $9.1 million into 2017 – both reasons why the Jets could decide to move on.
If they do, it would be a wasted opportunity for a franchise that wastes a lot of them.
In 2006, the Jets drafted Mangold, and left tackle, D’Brickashaw Ferguson in the first round. Over the next decade, they would anchor a dominant offensive line and stabilize the team’s core. In all that time, the Jets failed to find a true franchise quarterback for them to protect.
It’s been almost 50 years since Joe Namath wagged his finger atop football’s highest peak. The Jets haven’t been able to replace him since. Perhaps most frustrating of all – the star-crossed franchise wasn’t able to do so within the 10-year “Nick & Brick” window.
Imagine a baseball team boasting an elite pitching staff, all healthy and in their prime, but unable to secure any top hitters to score any runs.
Aside from quarterback, a center and left tackle are arguably the most important positions on a football team. The Jets haven’t had to worry about filling those holes for a decade now.
Before this season’s ankle issues, Mangold had been a rock at center, going to 7 Pro Bowls and missing only 4 games over his first 10 years. Ferguson retired in 2015 after a 10-year career with the Jets. He went to 3 Pro Bowls and played in all 160 regular season games, only missing one play. One play!
The only thing more reliable than these two has been the team’s lackluster play at quarterback.
The Jets thought they found their man in 2009 when Mark Sanchez took them to the first of back-to-back AFC Title Games. That was as close as they would come, though. Sanchez fizzled and the search continued.
Today, Petty gets his shot.
It’s too early to tell if he’ll be the answer.
It’s too late for him to do it behind “Nick & Brick.”
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