Although the Jacksonville Jaguars are right there, the New York Jets should fear the Dallas Cowboys most as it pertains to Trevor Lawrence.
The tank for Trevor race has never been hotter. Don’t tell Joe Douglas that his team is leading the standings by a full game over the Jacksonville Jaguars; he’d have none of it.
The New York Jets general manager, whose culture talk represents the imagination of what’s planned to be a new organizational era, wouldn’t allow for such a discussion.
Losing games purposefully? Don’t be silly. This is the National Football League, the place Jerry Glanville once so eloquently dubbed “Not For Long.” You either win or you’re out of a job. In a league that features men working independent contractor careers, each of the season’s 16 games is precious.
That’s the official story, the public information relayed from 1 Jets Drive. The genuine story is a bit different, one that has Douglas fully understanding just how critical Trevor Lawrence is to one lucky team’s NFL future.
It’s more than enough to manufacture crazy theories and elicited advice. “Ensure that your professional employer is not the Jets,” they say to young Lawrence. “Do anything in your power to avoid the Florham Park, NJ organization” is what a good portion of our sports media has already expressed.
Problems exist in that regard. Who would Lawrence target? The No. 2 team in the tank standings, the Jacksonville Jaguars, don’t exactly showcase a rich tradition of winning. The Cincinnati Bengals in the three-hole already have Joe Burrow, a kid who—despite his devastating injury—remains the future. The kid can’t point to any team and say, “I want to go there.”
For a Lawrence power-play to actually become feasible, there needs to be a team worthy of infatuation near the top of the draft. And now, 12 weeks into the season, one frightening situation is starting to take shape.
The Dallas Cowboys should stoke fear in the hearts and eyes of all-things Jets-Lawrence.
Mike McCarthy’s 3-8 Cowboys have been nothing short of a disaster in 2020. At 3-8, America’s Team is coming off an embarrassing effort against the Washington Football Team on Thanksgiving—the Boys’ day.
Several weeks ago, the feeling about Dallas winning a terrible NFL East remained healthy. Not a single team in the division looked the part and the Cowboys’ overall talent could easily be viewed as enough to get over the hump. Suddenly, after a day of turkey, stuffing and horrible football, dem Boys feel like a longshot to do anything positive the rest of the way.
It’ll likely come down to two things when analyzing the possibility of a Lawrence power-play to Big D. First and foremost, who is Lawrence’s agent? When Eli Manning forced his way to the New York Giants in 2004, his agent, Tom Condon, had a lot to with the transaction.
Eli’s dad, Hall of Fame quarterback Archie Manning, a man who wasted away in New Orleans for most of his career, insists that he had nothing to do with his son’s decision.
“It was a decision that Eli and Tom Condon made,” he told the Rich Eisen Show in 2016. “Most people thought I orchestrated it, which I didn’t. I don’t tell my kids what to do, or make decisions for them.”
Then-San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith believes it had to do with himself.
“They wanted no part of San Diego, because of me,” Smith once said, via SB Nation. “I was a scout that was a novice GM and ‘he doesn’t know what he’s doing right now; he just got there.’ Head coach [Marty] Schottenheimer was there and Tom Condon was his agent and my sources told me that he knew [Schottenheimer] wasn’t long for the place.”
Smith added that he thought Schottenheimer’s inability to get the best out of quarterbacks contributed to the Manning decision, but Condon was the greatest factor through his eyes.
“It comes down to Tom Condon, who at that time I called him ‘super agent,’” Smith said. “He’s like Scott Boras of baseball: prolific in their business, and they try to manipulate the system if they can. They’ve got great players, they have connections, and they can do certain things.
“Then there’s Archie Manning, who I really enjoy listening to constantly talk about how he’s out of the fray, not involved, and just lets his kids do their thing. All fathers want to take care of their families — we all do that. And then he portrays an image, that as far as I’m concerned, is as false as can be, but that’s beside the point.
“Once I connected all the dots and realized all the parties involved: One it’s the Giants, two it’s the agent, and three, Archie Manning.”
Prescott, 27, has been a solid NFL quarterback over four-plus seasons in the NFL. He’s only thrown for 30 touchdowns once, however, which is hardly prolific in today’s pass-happy sport.
Now, dealing with a serious right ankle injury, his future is uncertain. Couple the injury with the money the soon-to-be free agent is expected to garner this coming spring and Jones has a situation on his hands.
Or does he?
Earlier in November, Jones called it “crazy” to think Dallas would draft a quarterback high in the draft. Prescott is Jones’s man.
“Yes, you ask me if it’s crazy to bring the idea up? And I’ve answered it, yes,” Jones said. “It’s not the thing to be talking about at all. Dak is our quarterback. … We’re so fired up about him and leading us into the future. … We’re fired up about our future with Dak.”
Then again, this was a few weeks ago. After beating the Minnesota Vikings, they laid a Thanksgiving egg against Washington and now sit in the cellar of the division. Besides, which professional sports owner is batting 1.000 in the honesty department? I imagine it’d be tough to even dish out a Rod Carew-type average to any one owner in the sport.
General managers in this specific NFL era understand just how advantageous a stud quarterback on a rookie deal is for the overall health of his depth chart and salary cap situation. Why pay a guy $30-plus million a season when a potentially better quarterback who’d earn under $10-million in his first season is ripe for the picking?
Joe Burrow‘s average salary is $9.047 and his 2020 cap hit is just $6.505. Imagine paying a 27-year-old quarterback $30-plus million when the 21-year-old generational rookie is performing better while raking in a fraction of the cost. The ability to mold the rest of the depth chart morphs into a hyperactive form of its norm.
Jones can preach his Prescott loyalty all he wants; the temptations are just too legitimate to fully take him at his word. But more than the Cowboys’ quarterback situation, it’ll likely boil down to Lawrence’s personal feeling about the situation and his agent’s influence.
The Jets are still in the driver’s seat. As of now, the Jags hold the strength of schedule tiebreaker, and unless something drastic changes, will likely hold that tiebreaker until the end of the season. Any combination of a Jets win and Jags loss would flip the two teams in the race, causing the, by far, greatest problem en route to Lawrence.
And while the Cowboys are a back-burner consideration at the moment, that threat has to be treated as genuine. It is one of the few organizations in the NFL (similar to the Giants) that carries a rich tradition. Not even a winless season could tear the mystique down completely—no less a poor 2020 without the starting quarterback in the lineup.
America’s Team appeals to a lot of kids, especially those who grew up in the south. Lawrence, born in Knoxville, TN, and raised in Cartersville, GA, certainly qualifies as a “kid from the south.”
How Jones deals with McCarthy and Prescott will greatly factor into this discussion. How Lawrence approaches the draft, and who he chooses to represent him will be most critical.
Perhaps Lawrence looks at the two situations and opts for Joe Douglas, a new head coach, plenty of draft assets and salary-cap space in New York. Maybe he’s just that sort of kid, one who wants to take on the challenge in the best media market in the world. Or, maybe he becomes mesmerized by the star in Dallas and decides to shake things up.
For now, everything remains speculative. Just don’t think for one moment that the Dallas Cowboys aren’t a threat for Trevor Lawrence’s services. Currently No. 4 in the draft order, they’re not only close enough to the one-hole to possibly engineer a potential draft power-play, but they also carry a rich tradition that’s tough to ignore.
Just ask Jamal Adams.
Trevor Lawrence just might not be a power-play type guy. Most guys in his spot aren’t. In the event he is, the Jags aren’t the destination. The Bengals certainly aren’t either. Who remains? The Los Angeles Chargers? No chance with Justin Herbert throwing darts. The New York Giants remain a slim possibility, but they’re now in the NFC East driver’s seat.
The New York Jets’ great Trevor Lawrence/power-play fear has to be the Dallas Cowboys at this very moment. The good news is that this fear is still a long way from becoming a reality.
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