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Palladino: Getting Rid Of Trouble

'From the Pressbox'
By Ernie Palladino
» More Columns

Ernie Palladino is the author of "Lombardi and Landry." He'll be covering football throughout the season. This is his first column.

The Jets dumped Derrick Mason on the Texans and then claimed the move was spurred by Mason's non-production and the team's desire to get Jeremy Kerley seriously into the wide receiver mix.

If it wasn't for the silliness of that stance, all would be well. Teams move struggling players to the bench all the time, sometimes even off the team. But the fact that the Mason trade came after his critical comments about offensive Brian Schottenheimer after the Baltimore game a scant two games ago makes the whole thing wreak of vindictiveness.

Of course, general manager Mike Tannenbaum would never admit to anything like that, even as reporters grilled him Wednesday on his motives.

"I think the hallmark of our program is everyone has to be themselves," Tannenbaum said. "Clearly, that's the environment we have here. What (Mason) said after the Baltimore game had nothing to do with the decision we made (Tuesday) night. Obviously, the performance on the field wasn't where he had expected it to be or where we expected it to be."

Tannenbaum also reiterated he and Rex Ryan pride themselves on running a program where players are allowed to be themselves.

Apparently, that only goes so far. Whether they want to admit it or not, Mason was not only not producing, but he was flapping his gums while not producing. So drop the act and come out and say it.

Derrick Mason had become a problem. Clearly. And the Jets needed to deal with it.

And guess what? There's nothing wrong with that, unless you live in Jetsland, where no negative connotation is ever shrugged off as the price of doing a very public business. What the organization must realize -- and what the Jets never really have -- is that the Mason move is hardly a unique one. It's all been done before, even by that other Big Blue squad that shares a stadium with them.

In 1990, Lionel Manuel had become just such a problem child. The leading receiver of 1988 had suddenly become unproductive, which would have been enough of a sin in Bill Parcells' book to bench him. But he also had fallen into this nasty habit of coming late to meetings or missing them entirely.

What happened? Cut. Right smack in the middle of a 13-3 season. Though the move raised eyebrows around the clubhouse, it didn't particularly hurt that squad. And by the time they raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Tampa that postseason, Manuel was just a bittersweet memory.

The Jets are in an entirely different situation, of course. They're 2-3 by way of a three-game losing streak, and their whole season could fall off the cliff if they lose to Miami Monday night.

They could use big performances from both Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes against an 0-4 Dolphins team that goes in without its starting quarterback. But they'll also need production from Kerley, a rookie who caught his first three career passes last week against New England. He drew raves in training camp, and now that Mason is gone, he should see some targets, especially if the Jets can't get their running game going.

They've put themselves in a tough position by resting their hopes on an untried rookie.

Tannenbaum and Ryan had best hope it works out. Otherwise, they're going to be facing a season of uncomfortable questions about the slumping veteran wide receiver they traded for next to nothing.

Again, nothing wrong with that. They'd just better be right.


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