You’d be hard pressed to find a better distillation of the bone-deep dysfunction, ineptitude, and LOLJetsiness of the New York Jets than this: On Saturday, the team cut promising pass rusher Jachai Polite just four months after drafting him in the third round.
For smart teams, the third round of the NFL draft is usually where you look for players who are either reliable but limited or highly talented but risky, players whom you can give some meaningful playing time right away and hopefully can develop into dependable starters in the near future. Third-rounders aren’t sure things, but they are closer to that than lottery tickets—and they are almost never, absent total managerial incompetence, at risk of being released from the team before their rookie seasons even begin.
But these are the Jets we’re talking about here, where incompetence is more often the norm than the exception. Many prognosticators saw Polite as a first-round talent during his junior year at the University of Florida, until the emergence of the dreaded “character concerns” in the months leading up to the draft sent teams running and Polite’s stock plummeting. Sensing a bargain, the Jets swooped in and selected Polite with the fourth pick of the third round. They have come to regret it in record time.
Now, it’s perfectly conceivable that Polite truly is some kind of irascible knucklehead who either will never make it in the league or needs a serious wakeup call in order to refocus himself and realize his considerable potential. However, much more damning than any personal or professional shortcoming of Polite’s that contributed to his premature exit from the Jets is the Jets’ own rudderless leadership that allowed this to happen.
Remember: the GM who made the call to pick Polite is no longer with the team. The Jets fired that guy, Mike Maccagnan, just a few weeks after the draft. Letting a lame-duck GM oversee a draft, even when it was already clear that the GM and the head coach had serious disagreements about team-building strategy during said draft, only to then can the front office and empower that same head coach less than a month later, evinces a lack of foresight that would be staggering if it weren’t so familiar to this franchise.
Polite could very well go on to never make a meaningful impact on an NFL team. But no matter what comes next for the player, the biggest bust here will always be process that led to the Jets drafting and then cutting Polite in the first place.