Sports Media Is Not Your Friend
When you look at the New York Jets, you see a dysfunctional team. There seems to be almost a miasma of dark energy around the organization recently. Every decision they make seems to be made with some vague goal of competing in mind. This goal never comes to pass. The owner and general manager have insulated themselves from criticism. Despite the recent amount of fan protests, I think most fans will come back whenever the team starts winning. It’s the nature of sports and especially the nature of a team who’s highs are simply baseline for some of the NFL’s most successful teams. However, the media around the team is different.
The Jets beat writers are an eclectic group of humans. For the 10 years that I followed them and the 7 years that I’ve seen them on twitter, I’ve seen so much drama that it reminds me of a high school clique. I’ve seen writers call other writers shit, I’ve seen them consistently subtweet and ostracize one particular beat writer, I’ve seen them Direct Messaging fans who disagree, and I’ve even seen them go so far as to dog-whistle certain players. It’s likely a problem in all sports media considering the population of the writers vs the population of the athletes, but it is something that’s especially true surrounding the Jets. I’ll give some examples.
Prior to Bell being released, Brian Costello wrote a scathing article about Bell being dramatic and having a tantrum. This ‘tantrum’ was simply because he used the twitter function, likes, to express his discontent on how he was used. That’s all. Bell did not rant about the Jets, he did not have cryptic subtweets, he did not curse out the team. He simply liked tweets and refused to do zoom calls. Brian has seemingly decided to take the side of a coach who, quite frankly, has accomplished nothing besides being a white man in the NFL who can call plays (an accomplishment that will land him at least 2 other jobs after being released from the Jets). This side involves writing puff pieces and, apparently, hit pieces. During the turn to overtly support Adam Gase, Costello frames the incompetency around factors other than Gase. This was relatively benign and somewhat funny (if not pathetic) until he turned his ire to Bell. By doing that and writing such a…scathing article for a player who literally grew up a Jets fan, it shows just how desperate people are for crumbs of information.
In early 2015, after the Jets fired Rex Ryan and John Idzik, they were pursuing Doug Marrone. Marrone recently got fired from the Bills and was a lead candidate for the Jets (as a bonus, he grew up in the area). Manish Mehta, for some reason, decided to write multiple hit pieces on Doug Marrone using sources. These hit pieces were so frequent and filled with vitriol that the Jets decided to not pursue him anymore and hired Todd Bowles. Marrone has not been overtly successful in Jacksonville, but he did go to the AFCCG in 2017 and was likely a blown call away from winning that game. He was absolutely not this horrible coach who didn’t deserve to be hired.
In early 2019, when Adam Gase was hired, Manish Mehta wrote an article saying ‘Rejoice, Jets fans…your team made the right choice’. This was directly after his stint with Miami where his offense did not rank above 25 during his tenure there. This was also after reports of him alienating and shipping away multiple players. As we all have seen now, history tends to repeat itself. But, back to Manish…what changed? Well, Mike Maccagnan got fired from the Jets a little over 2 weeks after the draft. The moment that happened, Manish shifted his tune completely. Nothing about Adam Gase changed except Maccagnan getting fired. Since then, he takes extra pleasure in detailing (correctly) how awful Gase is and what an impediment for Darnold he was. But, not one fundamental thing about that man changed from January of 2019 until now October of 2020 except that he aided in firing the general manager.
There are countless examples of dogwhistling by the entire Jet beat that I won’t rehash. Needless to say just search whatever beat writer’s name and Geno Smith to see my point. It’s absolutely disgusting and it will turn off any free agent who wants more than money. They play a rough sport already, they do not need people who can barely do a pushup telling them they’re ‘weak’ for not doing a zoom call, or insinuating that they somehow aren’t fit for their job based on weak evidence. That same ‘evidence’ that is somehow missing for players/coaches/etc…who are not black who have exact same stats or issues. When I look at other team’s beat writing, I see maybe one beat writer a team do this. It’s not a concerted effort to smear the players or to beguile themselves to coaches. As much as players see the way ownership treats the stars, they see the way media treats the players and, if presented with a similar choice, they will go somewhere else.
So when fans admire one writer’s ‘honesty’ or even their snark, just know that there is always an agenda and that agenda is rarely to cover that team in an impartial manner. The current agenda disgraces their profession and disgraces the sacrifice these athletes have made, all in the name of clicks.