Darnold Gives Jets Fans Like Me Hope.

By Jason Klein

Thursday night, I left the Meadowlands with a win.

I’ve walked out of there many times through the years.  This time felt different, though.

Inside, there were no passes thrown, no yards gained and no touchdowns scored.  My team gained no ground in the standings either.

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Sam Darnold – Drafted 3rd Overall By The Jets.

I still left with a win, and it was unlike any victory I’ve experienced in that stadium, or the old one.

I won because I left with hope.

Like, long-term hope. Like, hey, I might have several years of meaningful football ahead of me kind of hope.  Maybe even a decade of hope.  Maybe even more.

Thursday night, I left the Meadowlands after the New York Jets selected Sam Darnold with the 3rd overall pick in the NFL Draft.  I was there, watching along with other Jets fans, at the team’s 2018 Draft Party.  When Darnold put on that crisp Jets cap and held up that green jersey, he immediately became the most promising prospect to play Quarterback for the Jets since Joe Namath left forty years ago.

He was not expected to be available for the Jets to select.  Like so many of the games I’ve watched in that Stadium, I felt Darnold was just a little out of reach. Too good to be true.  Not meant-to-be.

I was wrong.

Somehow, as I watched inside MetLife Stadium, Darnold, arguably the top Quarterback in the draft, miraculously fell into the Jets lap.  This sort of thing doesn’t happen to the Jets. Ever.  This is a team that finds a way to lose, even when they win.  Not this time, though.

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Attending the Jets Draft Party at MetLife Stadium

Mark it down as a “W.”

I’ve waited a long time for this.

I had a Ken O’Brien jersey as a kid.  I traded that for a Boomer Esiason uniform.  Browning Nagle and Glenn Foley were teases.  I never bought into Neil O’Donnell, but I fell hard for Vinny Testaverde and Chad Pennington.  Mark Sanchez brought me closer to a Lombardi Trophy than anyone since Vinny…twice. Ultimately, he had the rug pulled out from under him.  Brett Favre was a gimmick.  Tim Tebow was a distraction.  Geno Smith was never the answer and Ryan Fitzpatrick was a bearded bridge to nowhere.

So many different Quarterbacks through the years.  Some showed the promise to rise above the ineptitude that has so often hampered this organization.  All of them ended up sinking, one way or another, deep into the swamps of Jersey.

Unfulfilled potential. Unfortunate injuries.  Undermined by management.  Unbelievable misfortune.

This is different. Landing Darnold is a franchise-changing victory.

Sure, he could be a bust. He could turn out to be just another name to add to the list of failed Jets Quarterbacks.  We won’t know that for several years.

But, what if he succeeds? What if he’s a true Franchise Quarterback?  What if he leads the Jets to the playoffs?  What if he gets one of those Lombardi Trophies?  What if he gets more?

What if he has a long, historic career for the Jets?  Like, a 10-12 year career?  My daughters are in 2nd grade and pre-school now.  What if Sam Darnold is still the Quarterback of the Jets when they’re in college?  What if?

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Darnold Introduced to New York.

That’s what makes this pick a win. A conquest so different than all the others I’ve seen through the years in East Rutherford, NJ.

It’s the hope.  It’s the optimism.  It’s the faith and belief in my team that I’ve lacked for far too long now.

Sports fans need hope. Without it, what’s the point?  Why spend the time or the money?  Without hope, rooting for a team becomes a robotic ritual. Passionless and pointless.

I want my Sundays in the Fall to matter.  I want to trust in a process and be confident in a plan.

The last few years, I’ve watched this team with indifference.  There seemed to be no strategy for the future. Drafting Sam Darnold changes that.

Drafting Sam Darnold gives me hope.

For me, that’s a win.

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Drafting, Developing New Talent a Waste of Time For Jets

By Jason Klein

It won’t matter who the Jets select in tonight’s NFL Draft.

You can take that to the bank.

You’ll probably bump into Woody Johnson while you’re there.  He’ll be the one shamefully depositing your hard earned PSL money.

If Woody won't pay Revis, who will he pay?

If Woody won’t pay Revis, who will he pay?

I wish I were wrong.  However, based on everything we know about this team and their owner, I’m not.

How can I be so sure?  It’s simple.  Woody wouldn’t open up his checkbook for Darrelle Revis.

Darrelle Revis!

He refused to pay a homegrown, game-changing, once-in-a-lifetime talent who single-handedly eliminates the opposition’s best offensive weapon every single week.  Revis doesn’t just dominate in some games, or even most games.  It’s literally every game!  He makes it a ten-on-ten contest every week! There is no other player in the league who can dominate their position like Revis can.

Injury aside, he’s a 27 years-old future Hall of Famer who was a leader in a clubhouse that desperately needs one.  Teams could spend decades searching for a player like Revis.  Woody had him and didn’t make any effort to keep him.  No phone call, no text message, no e-mail or tweet.  Woody was more isolating than a trip to Revis Island.

Why?  Because, he couldn’t justify giving $16M a year to a Cornerback.  OK, fair enough.  Revis isn’t a Franchise Quarterback.  Understood.  But this sets a very dangerous precedent for the two young players the Jets will select in the first round tonight.

Despite the Jets’ dubious draft history, what happens if one of tonight’s selections develops into a Pro Bowl-caliber talent and wants to get paid some day, just like Revis did?  Assuming they don’t take a quarterback, will Woody and the Jets sack them too?

The Jets could spend years searching for another Revis.

The Jets could spend years searching for another Revis.

How can any young player, who’s not a Franchise Quarterback, feel confident about a long future with the Jets?  Why should fans root for and support developing players who will be jettisoned, in their prime, before a big payday?

If you won’t pay Revis, who will you pay?

Jadeveon Clowney?  A victory-challenged Jets team will be in the running for the South Carolina stud next April, but he’ll want Revis-like money, or more, when his time comes too.

The bottom line is, with the acquired pick from Tampa Bay, the Jets hope to draft a player who can one day, possibly, be the type of star Revis already is today.

New GM, John Idzik, deserves a chance to try and find that elite player.  At the end of the day, will it matter though?

If the past week is any indication, it won’t.

Draft choice tonight.  Financial castaway tomorrow.

Take that to the bank.

You know Woody will.

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Five Four a Perfect Fit For Emerging Athletes

By Jason Klein 

As Seen in In New York Magazine  – 4/26/12

When 22 year-old Michael Floyd marches across the Radio City Music Hall stage during tonight’s NFL Draft, he will officially shed his amateur status and transition towards life as a professional athlete.  The wide receiver out of Notre Dame – expected to go early in the first round – will hold up his new jersey, flash a smile and pose for pictures with NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell.  He’ll do all of this while sporting a designer suit, custom made for the big event.

After all the pomp and circumstance, he’ll slip into something a little more comfortable – something tailor-made for his personal lifestyle rather than tonight’s gaudy Broadway spectacle.  Like many of today’s athletes, Floyd will throw on some clothing from Five Four.

NY Jets QB, Mark Sanchez, Wearing Five Four

It’s the hottest line of apparel you’ve likely never heard of.  Its reach covers a wide variety of entertainers, celebrities and athletes.  Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Zac Efron and Larry King have all been spotted rocking Five Four.  Top players like Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Troy Polomalu and Mark Sanchez wear it too.

Their garb is everywhere, especially in the sports world.  I wanted to know why?  Why Five Four?  Why not Nike, Adidas, or some designer label?  When I asked Five Four Co-CEO/Founder Andres Izquieta, his response was simple.

“Our stuff is just cool,” says Izquieta.  “Athletes love our brand because it fits comfortably, no matter what size you are, its stylish, and it perfectly represents an athlete’s lifestyle.”

Izquieta and Dee Murthy started Five Four as 21 year-old students at the University of Southern California in 2002.  Since its inception, the modern, yet classic-looking “Lifestyle Brand” has been all about setting goals, dreaming big, passion, winning and success – all core values shared by up-and-coming athletes looking to make it on a professional stage.

“Athletes transitioning to the NFL are great ambassadors of the brand,” says Izquieta.  “They work so hard their entire life to get rewarded and take the next step.  That’s the kind of passion and drive we have at Five Four.”

It’s the reason Izquieta and Murthy teamed up with California-based football agency, Athletes First to create The Graduating Class.  It’s a 108-page book profiling twelve NFL prospects entering the 2011 Draft, and their transition from college to the NFL.  According to Izquieta, the book gives a stunningly personal look into each athlete, “chronicling their journey through fashion, art, and photography, while they are in the pursuit of achieving their lifelong dream.”

The book is filled with motivational phrases, philosophies, and great photography.  There are even hand-written bios from each player, revealing their fears, inspirations, and career goals.  Of course, I also noticed each athlete is draped in Five Four.  According to Izquieta, they wear the clothes “not because they have to, but because they truly want to.”

Often portrayed as superheroes in the media, The Graduating Classdelicately humanizes each player, peeking in on their insecurities and anxiety leading up to the biggest day of their lives – draft day.  Casually decorated in Five Four, each player comes off as a “regular guy” – a concept that helps readers relate to these larger-than-life figures.

The Graduating Class.

Notable members of The Graduating Class 2011 include Von Miller (Broncos), Jake Locker (Titans), and Scotty McKnight (Jets).  Five Four will feature twelve players from tonight’s draft, including Floyd, as part of the project’s second run – this time, packaged as part of an online campaign.  Other highlighted players include: Keenan Robinson (Texas), Melvin Ingram (South Carolina), Kellen Moore and Doug Martin (Boise State), Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma), Keleche Osemele (Iowa State), Alfonzo Dennard and Jared Crick (Nebraska), Harrison Smith (Notre Dame), Cyrus Gray and Jeff Fuller (Texas A&M)

Though Five Four is primarily a West Coast brand – their one retail location is in Los Angeles – their product is carried in over 400 stores nation-wide and is worn by athletes and celebrities everywhere.  This May, they will introduce Five Four Club, a men’s subscription service that will serve as a personal stylist for men.  They also plan to introduce a line of footwear this June.

Like many of the young players drafted tonight, you may have never heard of Five Four Clothing.  Projects like The Graduating Class are helping to spread the word, and expose it as a brand of choice among many athletes.

Especially players like Michael Floyd, a man who will realize his dream tonight.

When he does, his life will change forever.

His Five Four wardrobe won’t.

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Lockout Casts Bizarre Shadow over NFL Draft

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For IN New York Magazine – 5/2/11

This weekend’s NFL Draft was more awkward than Prince William and Kate’s Royal Kiss.  Both were public spectacles with millions of viewers, and both just seemed a little weird.

With the ugly Lockout serving as a backdrop, all eyes were on New York City as the NFL kicked off its 2011 Draft on Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall.  Traditionally a positive celebration of the league’s bright future, this year’s Draft was marred by greed and uncertainty.

Commissioner Goodell at NFL Draft/Getty Images

When negotiations failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement in mid-March, the NFL owners locked out its players, effectively ceasing operation of the nation’s most popular sport.  Since that point, owners and players have not been allowed to communicate with each other, negotiate contracts, sign free agents, execute trades, or prepare for the upcoming season in any capacity.  Players who showed up to team facilities have been turned away by security.

Yet, strangely enough, the show went on as scheduled Thursday at Radio City…sort of.  As expected, NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell stepped to the podium to announce that the Carolina Panthers, owners of the first overall selection, were “on the clock.”  Typically greeted with cheers, frustrated fans instead booed and bombarded him with “we want football” chants.  He acknowledged the crowd’s pleas with a Tweet:

“I agree with the fans here at Radio City,” he posted on Twitter Thursday night.  “We want football.  I’m with you, I get it.”

Does he, though?  Football fans can only hope so.  The longer the NFL is doing battle in the courtroom instead of on the gridiron, the greater the possibility that the upcoming 2011 season could be in jeopardy – a disaster the owners and players should seek to avoid at all costs.

That grim possibility seemed to be ignored at the draft.  Commissioner Goodell was all smiles – though it seemed like he was just going through the motions – as he ceremoniously welcomed each collegiate prospect into the same player’s union he is currently battling in court.  Very odd.

Welcome to the NFL!  Now you’re locked out!  Go home!

Radio City Music Hall/Getty Images

Should the owners and players come to an agreement in time to salvage the 2011 season in its entirety, fans will forgive and forget.  However, if this dispute lingers through the summer, cancelling games, the NFL could start to lose its loyal fan base.

It’s potentially a Royal mess.

Under the circumstances, it might seem awkward, but it’s time to kiss and make up.

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NFL Fans Always Ready For Some Football

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 4/22/10

It’s baseball season.  So why is everyone still talking about the NFL?

Former Houston Oilers Head Coach, Jerry Glanville, once claimed the NFL stands for, “Not For Long.”  These days, the National Football League has more lasting power than ever.  It’s been nearly three full months since the New Orleans Saints hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, yet football continues to be top of mind for most sports fans.  Why?

NFL Draft – Prime Example of NFL’s Popularity

The NFL has successfully turned the most innocuous league-related occurrences into “must-see” events.  What other professional sports league can create a buzz around the release of their upcoming schedule?  This past Tuesday, media outlets were alerted of the impending football calendar announcement to occur at 7:00 PM sharp, strategically leaking a few of the marquee matchups in the hours leading up to it.  The next morning, fans around the country were playing the ever popular “WLWLWL Game” with their co-workers and friends, sparking heated water cooler debate.

Tonight, the NFL takes center stage once again.  The 2010 NFL Draft will make a weekday appearance, and will do so under prime time’s hot lights.  This annual roster replenishment affair is often over-analyzed, contains little action, and drags on for hours, yet, few NFL fans will miss it.  Fans are so trained to hang on every NFL-related word, they’d probably watch paint dry if Chad Ochocinco were the one doing the painting.

Every morsel of NFL activity is precious, something fans should cherish…at least that’s the way the league portrays it…and why not?  Their product is unique, exciting, contains some of the biggest stars in the sports world, and is extremely limited in nature.

While leagues like Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association schedule never-ending 162 and 82-game seasons respectively, NFL teams only play 16 contests per year.  That’s it.  Each game is so meaningful, and is analyzed and promoted as individual events, rather than single games that make up a larger season.

An NFL Sunday is a holiday, a sacred day full of rituals that include face paintingjersey wearingtailgatingchest bumps and fist pounds.  The final Sunday of the season, Super Bowl Sunday, is so big it needs two full weeks of hype leading up to it.

Fantasy football has also added to the game’s development in recent years, giving fans across the nation reason to watch out-of-market games and follow players they would otherwise have no interest in watching.  Other new technologies including Facebook and Twitter, are meticulously used by league personnel, and players, to keep fans informed, and well connected to all breaking league news.  Even Commissioner Roger Goodell operates his own Twitter account.

The league’s relationship with HBO’s “Hard Knocks” is another marketing tool working in their favor.  Each season, an NFL franchise is featured throughout training camp, granting curious fans exclusive access into the locker room, team meetings, and after-hour activities.  The show gives fans a better understanding of how a team functions, and brings them closer to some of the game’s biggest stars.

The NFL’s focused marketing strategies have its popularity rising at an alarming clip.  They have embraced technology and used it to further infiltrate their fans’ lives.  Face it, the NFL is everywhere, all the time.  There is no off-season anymore for the nation’s most popular sport.  For now, baseball is America’s Pastime. But, Not For Long.

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