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Thursday, July 4, 2013

NY Jets #65 - Part 2

The other day somebody asked me that Proustian question: what is the lowest form of human misery? I answered quickly: regret. There are better choices, but regret possesses an addictive mixture of pleasure and pain. We regret the love affair we let go of, the one we never had, the life we could have had, all the while knowing that these alternate existences about which we are wondering will only serve to intensify our present misery that much more, though we'll also never know what kind of misery an alternate life would have brought us.

I'm referring of course to the NFL draft - that string of long-lost love affairs that Jets fans know very, very well. Someday I'm going to assemble the kind of football team the Jets could have had over the years if only they had made all the right choices in the draft. It would be both horrifying and ridiculous to contemplate, and therefore perfect for the Internet.

Jimmie Jones #65 has a rare distinction in that he was drafted in 1969, the only year the Jets were champions of professional football. He was linebacker who came to us in the sixth round.

There were two other linebackers who were available in the second round that the Jets could have picked up - the great Bill Bergey and Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks. They chose offensive lineman Dave Foley in the first round (a good choice overall) and quarterback Al Woodall from Duke in the second round. They had no pick in the third, but then look at who was available in the fourth - Bob Kuechenberg and John Zook. There was not a single player in the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds who made more than an average distinction as a pro in the game (including Jimmie Jones, who played for the Jets from 1969-70 and then three seasons for the Redskins) but then, amazingly, two players picked one after the other in the eighth round were legends of the 70's - Larry Brown and James Harris. Missing out on Larry Brown was OK, as the Jets were fine at running back, and John Riggins would come in the first round two years later, but imagine James Harris taking over for Namath when he was injured throughout the early 70's and not, say, a rookie quarterback out of Duke? Most incredible is LC Greenwood, sitting all alone in the tenth round, waiting for the day that he'll be wearing those yellow shoes.

For himself, Jones grew up in South Carolina but went to Wichita State. A year after being drafted, his alma mater's football team was nearly decimated by a plane crash in Colorado that killed 31 players and staff members. Jimmie Jones must have known or been familiar with the players on that plane. Remarkably enough, the shattered remains of the plane and the wreckage the crash created around the mountain are still visible today. An SI article in 1970 on the crash some weeks afterwards indicated that pilot error was the cause but so too were decisions Wichita State made regarding the contracting of outdated planes for their team's travel. It paints a picture of what real regret looks like. It's remarkable to think that only weeks later the same thing would happen to the famous Marshall team of that season, and with greater casualties.

***
Brandon Moore #65
For lesser casualties, there is Brandon Moore #65 whose career is an illustration of the simple truth that hard work, dedication, consistency, and skill will be punished by one brief moment of calamity that is in no way your fault and that can be watched again and again on YouTube and put to the music of the Benny Hill Show, at least until such time as the grid goes down, the Cloud is destroyed, civilization in the digital age collapses, and the sun turns black. I speak, of course, of the Buttfumble.

I come to praise Brandon Moore and to symbolically bury the Thanksgiving Buttfumble, certainly for his sake. For though people will come to games at the Meadowlands next year with #6 jerseys bearing the name "Buttfumble," Brandon Moore goes through his days trying to forget that his is the butt they're talking about. It's not as if his butt was pushed into the way of Mark Sanchez as he was furiously looking around for an open receiver. Like a child running from a house fire, Sanchez sprinted ahead without looking, and he collided with an offensive lineman just trying to hold his ground, which more often than not, even in last year's terrible season, is what Brandon Moore did. Anyway, for those of you still in need of yet another depiction of this metaphor for 2012 season, for our relationship to the Patriots, for perhaps our entire history as a franchise, I can direct you to my favorite, put to cartoon music; if you ask me, it's better than the Benny Hill version.

As of this writing, Brandon Moore was released by the Jets after 11 seasons of playing consistently week in and out. He is still not picked up by anyone, but surely he will be over the next few weeks. As he has graciously acknowledged in interviews, he was initially undrafted, was then forced to change positions from defense to offense, and was released by the Jets once before and then picked up again back in 2009. Luck and hard work have made his career, and usually people who emphasize the former without harping on the latter are well respected by their teammates, and that's what Brandon Moore has been. He will be missed.

Back in May, Adam Waksman for Bleacher Report made a good argument for bringing Moore back. Moore is in his early 30's, and certainly for the Jets remaking what was a low performing offensive line is important. I have thrown away my supposed expertise about the team. I don't know what they should do. But someone should pick up Brandon Moore. Two things Rex Ryan said about Moore in the BR link above (from 2012 training camp, obviously; Ryan's thinner, Moore's mentioning Tebow with a vague hopefulness) stand out - first, he says he's been insisting "ever since I got here that he's the best guard in football." We know Ryan proclaims his people's skills hyperbolically, but I agree that traditionally Moore has been that good at his position, and I'm not just being sentimental. Not just.

The other thing he mentions is that Moore is a "self-made" player, referring again to Moore's having to change from one side of the ball to the other and then mastering the new position. Much as we love the skill players who were apparently born to play their position - Adrian Peterson, Tom Brady, Lawrence Taylor, Darrelle Revis - there's a lot to be said for a player that learns a new position as a rookie while learning to play pro ball as a whole.

And the longer I spend on this ship-in-a-bottle of a blog, the more I admire the offensive linemen, the silent warriors of this very unkind game. If I had an adolescent daughter, and she insisted that she absolutely had to date a football player, I would a) seriously wonder where I went wrong as a parent and b) recommend that she date with an offensive lineman, and hope for the best. They are the steady, dedicated characters of the game, the ones who are forced to live with the knowledge that it's their butt in question, yet they're also the ones with humility enough to handle that uncomfortable truth. I don't have any of my usual lamely rueful observations about how the winds of time are cruel to the body and mind of the football player. After 11 seasons, I'm just sad to see Brandon Moore go.

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