Jamal Adams
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

New Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams never could quite overcome Jamal Adams while with the New York Jets for three seasons.

Robby Sabo

He arrived with a promise.

“I’m versatile. Not only that, but I’m a great person off the field. I’m not gonna cause any harm to the Jets organization. We’re gonna get this thing rolling and we’re gonna get back to that Super Bowl.”

He leaves with a promise broken and plenty of itches that need future scratching.

The New York Jets traded their best player, Jamal Adams, to the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday, along with a 2022 fourth-round pick, for safety Bradley McDougald, a pair of first-round picks (2021 and 2022), and a third-rounder (2021). After an offseason of noise, the Jets first-round selection in 2017 finally received his wish—a ticket out of town.

If only the world could believe Adams’ wish was totally justified, the world would feel normal again for so many folks. The “same old Jets” moniker would take hold and the usual ineptness fans and media sense would be present.

The truth is a bit fuzzier, and, at the very least, Adams’ most identifiable enemy was himself.

Jamal Adams arrived to Florham Park as a youthful player ready to attack the world. Prez leaves town with an uncertain future—no matter how many dollars are collected along the way.

It all started in late October 2019. News leaked out that Jets general manager Joe Douglas discussed Adams as a trade possibility with another team. The man who learned from the value-driven Ozzie Newsome stated it plainly at the post-trade-deadline presser in Jersey: “When a team calls you, you should always listen.”

Adams offered up a thunderous response—the first of this degree as a pro.

“At the end of the week last week, I sat down with the GM and Coach Gase and told them I want to be here in New York,” Adams tweeted on Oct. 29, 2019. “I was told yesterday by my agent that the GM then went behind my back and shopped me around to teams, even after I asked him to keep me here! Crazy business.”

Later that week, Adams spoke to the media and inserted his name with the active NFL greats.

“The Rams don’t take calls on Aaron Donald,” Adams said. “The Patriots don’t take calls on Tom Brady.”

Other than more-than-usual downtrodden interviews after losses, the Adams situation carried on. Although his role as a leader of the locker room should have been questioned earlier.

After the Jets annual Green and White scrimmage, Adams worked overtime, pleasing the fans with autographs and “J-E-T-S chants.”

But as transparent as he is on the field in front of the fans is as questionable as he oftentimes is behind the scenes.

Nobody can ever label Adams a “bad teammate.” The impossible notion is as laughable as Adams’ all-world production on the field. But as the New York Post’s Brian Costello points out, his leadership qualities have been “greatly overstated.”

During one specific media appearance post-trade-deadline, Adams walked up to the podium and caught wind of one of his teammates yelling something at him in almost a mocking fashion. It was Le’Veon Bell—the very same man who served as the voice of reason following during a usual dose of New York media craziness.

Nobody in the media scrum could quite make out what Bell said, but Adams’ reaction wasn’t confusing. He stared over his shoulder at him and provided a priceless look of, “I can’t believe you just said that to me, out loud.”

Adams shrugged it off—while at the mic—as (Bell) acting crazy, but the dialogue wasn’t anything ordinary. At the very least, an awkward post-trade-deadline-overreaction moment had just occurred.

Then this offseason arrived, the point in which all hell broke loose. Adams’ transformation into Prez was on after an initial good soldier phase that saw him publicly praise Douglas and patiently wait it out.

First, George Floyd happened. Adams was all over it.

It was the following tweet that really completed laid the track that allowed the transformation.

“When I was younger, I used to be scared to use my voice because I wanted to be liked by everyone,” Adams tweeted. “Life lessons & sports have changed my outlook on life. I will not hold back on the truth. I will fight & hold everybody accountable until it’s right. BLACK LIVES MATTER!”

To each’s own when thinking about politics and societal views. Adams’ stance on the topic is not up for debate here. It’s instead the idea his outspoken nature took firm control of his life—his social media life.

Social media is big business. Adams, a kid born in Lewisville, TX in 1995 and signed to Nike’s Jordan brand, grew up with some of the more untouchable idols of our lifetime. Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and others led the way for athletes looking to earn money off the field. Somewhere along the line, Adams realized every eye on his platform—whether positive or negative—is good business.

Complicating matters was his sudden (and drastic) visual change. He was suddenly posting videos of his golf game always making sure a cigar was in hand. ESPN’s 30 for 30 The Last Dance aired just before tragedy struck George Floyd (and this country). Adams was, naturally, all over it.

Anything Nike or Jordan Brand meant an opportunity to spread that very brand and awareness.

Did Adams ever flaunt his cigar-smoking ways to blatantly prior to The Last Dance and/or the push for societal change? It’s hard to conjure up those images in prior years. What is he, the new Michael Jordan?

He even provided fans an Antonio Brown moment (with cigar firmly in the picture) the night he was traded to Seattle.

The imagery isn’t exactly the easiest to explain—especially when your son or daughter asks, “Why is my favorite player so happy with leaving the Jets?” What’s the lesson here, exactly? Athletes get what they want so long as they demonstrate the willingness to create as much craziness as possible?

Then his goodbye message to Jets fans felt Mamba-like with his originality already in question.

Mamba out. Prez out.

Social media and off-the-court/field business cannot be discussed without LeBron James. Remember, Adams was in high school when James decided to announce to the world he’d be “taking his talents to South Beach.” There he was, live on ESPN, a youngster scared he’d be left out in the championship-less cold in several years. So, he teammed up with friends in order to collect a few cheap chips.

There’s no chance in hell that moment didn’t resonate with young Adams at the time. The very same kid who’d wind up joining James at Nike decided to act on one of those very same itches: get to where you want to go in a hurry.

He now needed to play for a winner. Life—as demonstrated since the early part of 2020—is too short to wait around for a tired-old Jets organization to catch up to his star.

Habitual line-stepping is what followed. Whether it was saying his goodbyes to Marcus Maye on Twitter, responding to Jets fans on Instagram, or publicly trashing Douglas, Adam Gase and the Jets organization through Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the kid could not be controlled.

The details regarding Adams’ claims that the Jets promised him an extension in early 2020 remain unknown. Whether or not Adams scapegoated Gase unfairly also remains a question mark. All we can do is look at the facts.

Unless this was one giant bluff, Adams was willing to remain with the Jets (and Gase) if a contract extension was offered. To be completely willing to remain with that coach only to knock him on the way out (the very same guy the majority of Jets fandom has issues with) doesn’t quite add up. Besides, it was with Gase that produced Adams’ most successful winning campaign (7-9 in 2019 as opposed to a combined 9-23 over his first two seasons with Todd Bowles).

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As far as the general manager is concerned, back in late October, Douglas didn’t blink. He admitted speaking to another team about Adams yet denied the “firesale,” as it was reported a the time.

Then, throughout the entire offseason, the Jets organization remained quiet as a mouse. No overreaction, no noise, no crap.

While we may never know the real truth, it’s appropriate to apply common sense. Study Adams’ social media profiles. Learn how incredibly destructive the Jets in-house leaks were prior to Douglas taking control. Even if Douglas wasn’t comfortable in dishing out big bucks to a safety in this salary-cap-driven land, Adams is the one who truly could not overcome Adams.

If it was all about the loot and the respect that comes with being the highest-paid safety in the NFL, he’d still be demanding a new contract in the Great Northwest. This was about a kid needed to get somewhere else—anywhere else that fits sports media’s winning narrative.

The kid’s a superstar, and, in his mind, he’s larger than life. On the field, at the very least, there’s no question he is just that. Off the field, however, he believes he has work to do, and being a part of a winner while fully and freely expressing himself is the option he chose.

No matter the Jets’ faults in this situation, Jamal Adams simply could not overcome Jamal Adams during his time with the New York Jets. There are now originality problems and the willingness to do whatever it takes to get his way.

Hopefully, for his sake, I hope Prez will find his way against Prez the next time a major itch needs scratching. After all, it’s Jamal Adams who is officially out, not Prez, the reborn version of the grinning LSU product who couldn’t wait to attack New York City and New Jersey three short years ago.


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