The New York Influence Debate… An Irrelevant Big Apple Is Okay

March 7, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Optimist Prime.

When we first got assigned this topic, I was thrilled. I thought this would be relatively easy to argue. But then that Sunday night happened. If you missed it – and I didn’t because I watched much of the game (because this year’s Academy Awards bored me) – but the New York Knicks, in Carmelo Anthony’s third game wearing a Knicks uniform, upset the Miami Heat. I admit it made my argument maybe a tad more difficult. But hey, that was just one game, and just one game earlier those same Knicks did lose to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers. Other than getting Spike Lee (Knicks), Rudy Guliani (Yankees), or whatever famous New York sports fan more face time on the tube, I don’t think it really matters what the teams in New York do. After all, we’re still going to talk about them!

It’s pointless to say we are going to ignore the teams in the Big Apple because that is just not realistic at all. Bristol, Connecticut (the location of ESPN’s headquarters) is about 100 miles away from downtown New York City, so there’s just no escaping the teams… even if we wanted to forget about them and throw them into obscurity with the likes of the Memphis Grizzlies, Kansas City Royals, and other somewhat “forgotten” teams. New York City is the country’s largest market, so it would be ignorant of me to ignore that.

Each league doesn’t NEED New York to have a successful franchise. Until the past couple of seasons, how long has it been since the New York Jets have been relevant? Sure, they’ve made the playoffs a few times here and there, but did you know the Jets have only won more than ten regular season games once in the past 25 years before this past year? I think the NFL has done just fine without hearing about Rex Ryan’s foot fetishes and Mark Sanchez’s social life.

The New York Knicks haven’t been relevant since Patrick Ewing was traded to Seattle in 2000 (how many of you remember that Ewing played for the Sonics, by the way?). Despite the efforts of the much maligned Isiah Thomas (who belongs in our future “Who Not to Hire to Run Your Team” debate), and Hall of Fame coaches Larry Brown and Lenny Wilkens, the Knicks have been unable to put a worthy product on the court for New Yorkers for a decade. But that’s alright, because we have spent that decade laughing at the Knicks and the NBA has still grown. We’ve wondered how much Spike Lee is throwing away on watching a 30-win team play courtside every season. We’ve wondered how many times Isiah Thomas is going to keep resurfacing. Thank you New York Knicks. Even when you aren’t good, the league still flourishes because it gets to laugh at you as its whipping boy.

The Mets, when they aren’t borrowing money from Major League Baseball, have, with the exception of one year (2006), been out of the playoffs since the Subway Series. The Mets have become known more for blowing big division leads in the last month of the season, changing managers, and having members of its front office threatening reporters. Yet, still, MLB has flourished.

If you are a fan of a rival team of a New York team, then I’m sorry, but those teams aren’t going away. They can be stuck in mediocrity until kingdom come and they are still going to get possible more media coverage than your team. But, the leagues don’t need the teams in the New York markets to be successful. They are going to get the coverage anyway.

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The Pick Your Cornerstone QB Debate… Sanchez Makes NFL Mark

January 17, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Bleacher Fan.

When considering a quarterback to build an NFL franchise around a lot of names come to mind. Names like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees, for example. But today I propose a more subtle and often underrated candidate – Mark Sanchez.

While Sanchez may not seem like the obvious choice, he is no doubt one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. He has quietly turned around a less than stellar New York Jets franchise and has shown flashes of brilliance along the way. He has handled the pressures of playing in the New York market under constant media scrutiny with relative ease. Sanchez rises to the occasion in big game situations, and in all likelihood still hasn’t peaked in terms of his maximum ability. What more could a franchise ask for?

People often forget that Mark Sanchez is young. He is currently wrapping up his sophomore season as a professional but has already accomplished some incredible things. In 2007 – two years before Sanchez’s arrival – the Jets were a 4-12 team. They had virtually nowhere to go but up. The next season the team thought it had lucked into an answer for its quarterback issues in landing Brett Favre, but Favre’s brief tenure in the Big Apple was a band-aid for the Jets problems at best. Under Favre the Jets improved to a 9-7 record, but any progress the team experienced was offset by the transition to a new head coach, and then rookie quarterback in Sanchez in 2009.

Sanchez certainly had big shoes to fill in coming in after #4, but he did so in incredible fashion. In his first year as a pro Mark Sanchez led the Jets to another regular season 9-7 record, and then a deep playoff run that took them within one game of the Super Bowl – and that was as a rookie.

This season Sanchez is right back at it again, and he has dispatched both the Colts and the Patriots in the process. It speaks volumes of his composure and talent that Sanchez can not only hang with, but beat the biggest names in the NFL today – a feat he is not supposed to be able to pull off. He has again taken the Jets to within one win of the Super Bowl, and all that stands in his way is the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has only thrown one interception in the playoffs this season and is getting hot at the right time, as evidenced by his three touchdown performance against the Patriots. That is quite an impressive season for a second year guy, especially considering most players struggle in the midst of the dreaded “sophomore slump.”

Sanchez is still making huge stride, too. He was perfect through the first five games of this season throwing eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. While he began to struggle with turnovers during the second half of the season, critics ignored the fact that he continued to win games. From his rookie to his second season he created statistical gains across the board. During the regular season this year Sanchez passed for his first 3,000 yard season and saw his total passing touchdowns outnumber his interceptions. Those are all the hallmarks of progress, and that is something you want to see in a franchise quarterback.

Another great thing about Sanchez is that he is eager to be molded into a better player. Last season when he was criticized for a reckless and awkward sliding ability that was bound to get him hurt, he responded immediately. Instead of getting defensive and making excuses he addressed the issue head on… or rather feet first, the next time. Sanchez worked with New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi to learn how to slide in a safer, more effective manner. You don’t see that type of humbleness and eagerness in many franchise quarterbacks.

The guy is a great quarterback, and as long as he continues to improve he should see a ring very soon. He’s got the skills and growth a coach wants to see, but most importantly he has the intangibles that make a winner on the biggest stage possible. In a real life fantasy draft, any coach would be lucky to take him first and build a winning program around him.

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… AFC East Battle Ground

September 23, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan.

Over the past nine seasons the AFC East has belonged to the New England Patriots. The Patriots absolutely dominated the division winning seven of nine division championships since 2001, with the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins each winning one championship during that time. With the Patriots looking more vulnerable than ever, the Dolphins and Jets will clash for the top spot in the division in the best game this weekend.

Sanchez Finds His Swagger

The Jets figure to bring their suddenly potent offense to this game, led by a resurgent quarterback in Mark Sanchez. After struggling to get anything going offensively in the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens the Jets righted the ship last week against long time division rival, the New England Patriots. Out of nowhere, New York’s sophomore signal caller went from completing just ten passes for 74 yards and no scores in week one to setting career highs in completions (21) and touchdowns (3) just six days later against the Pats. While one good outing does not make the Jets a lock for the Super Bowl, it does show that Sanchez and the Jets’ offense are improving.

It also appeared as if the Jets answered questions about one of their perceived weaknesses – a lack of elite receiving options. Sanchez connected with Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, and Dustin Keller for touchdowns. Now if LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene – neither of which has scored or eclipsed 100 yards in a game – can somehow jump start Gang Green’s running attack, the Jets could boast one of the most threatening offenses in the league. And the Jets will need it as they take on the stout defense of the Dolphins.

New Team to Beat

For all the praise and accolades that Jets are accumulating, the 2-0 Dolphins are still the team to beat in the AFC East, becoming an offensive and defensive force. Chad Henne is starting to develop rapport with his new number one receiver Brandon Marshall (12 grabs for 124 yards through two games) and the ground game has proven even more formidable. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have racked up 237 yards thus far, and already look like the league’s premier one-two punch. And, of course, the Dolphins can always be counted on for some solid defense.

Miami’s off-season pickup of Brandon Marshall is one of the main difference makers for the new-look Dolphins. Marshall’s mere presence figures to stretch the field and keep opposing defenses honest when attempting to cover the run. It looks like Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie will be asked to cover Marshall, and by all appearances that looks like a matchup that Marshall can win. He is a strong, physical receiver that can mix it up with the contact averse Cromartie all game long. Each player called out of position to support Cromartie in coverage makes the Jets that much more vulnerable.

Tale of the Tape

Both of these teams have playoff contender written all over them, but they will have to get past each other first to truly earn that title. It all starts with this Sunday’s matchup.

For the Jets to win they will need another solid performance from Sanchez. The Dolphins will no doubt be sending pressure in the form of talented young linebacker Cameron Wake. If Sanchez can stay vertical and make accurate passes for scores he will put his team in a good position to win. For the Fins to retain first place in the division they will need to rely on what got the team to where it is in the first place, a gritty run game. Computer projections suggest that if the Miami ground game can surpass the 100 yard mark, then the game is pretty much a lock win for Miami. No matter who wins Sunday, the outcome should reshape the future of the AFC East.

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… Pats Jetting to 2-0?”

September 17, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek.

The battle of the border is back in a big way. There has never been any love lost between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, but here lately the rivalry has intensified. Over the past several season, from Spygate to Tom Brady’s public profession of “hate” for Gang Green, it seems the Patriots and Jets are doing their best Red Sox-Yankees routine. So when the Pats make their first trip to the New Meadowlands Stadium, likely with hopes of extending a run of road dominance over a plucky Jets team, it’s immediately a top contender for game of the week.

Teams with Something to Prove

Before the season started there were several questions swirling around Foxboro that figured to undermine the Patriots effectiveness this season. Like, could the Patriots function despite the distraction of the looming contract situations of Tom Brady and Randy Moss? Would the young Patriots defense make the necessary growth to be serious playoff contenders? And, would Wes Welker be able to contribute before season’s end? Well, with week one in the books it appears those answers are yes, yes, and yes. Now a lethal Patriots team, which has won eight out of nine road games against the Jets, looks to march into the Empire State and prove they are the team to beat in the AFC East.

The Jets, however, have different plans. New York started the season with a tough loss on Monday Night Football to the Baltimore Ravens. It was a game in which sophomore quarterback Mark Sanchez completed just ten passes for 74 yards and zero touchdowns, and the Jets ground game appeared equally pedestrian. But everyone knows that Gang Green’s claim to fame has been solid defense, and with the return of shutdown corner Darrelle Revis from a holdout hiatus, New York looks ready to mix it up with Tom Brady and company. This Sunday may mark the first home win in the team’s new stadium, potentially ushering in the beginning of a new era in the New England-New York rivalry.

Marquee Matchup: Moss versus Revis

One of the most interesting storylines leading into this game is the matchup of elite wide receiver Randy Moss and shutdown corner Revis. During last week’s matchup against the Bengals, Moss was quiet, posting a respectable, but not mind-blowing, five catches for 59 yards and no TDs. While one unexplosive week from Moss is not necessarily cause for alarm, it should be viewed in the greater context – the aging of the Patriots. At 3, Moss is not getting any younger, and a slight reduction in productivity at his age is not unimaginable. Add to that the fact that Moss is unhappily entering the final year of his current contract with no deal from the Patriotss in sight, and this could be the first signs of a potential problem for Patriots’ passing game. This Sunday’s game will give Moss a chance to prove he’s still got it by taking on one of the greatest defenders in the game.

Moss will certainly be motivated for the showdown. What remains to be seen, however, is whether he will get the opportunity to showcase his skills against A) Darrelle Revis, one of the league’s best defensive backs or B) Darrelle Revis, unprepared cornerback suffering from holdout hangover. Now that Revis is back from his 36 day holdout, he appears to be ailing from some hamstring tightness that has limited him in practice. In the week two clash between the Patriots and Jets last season, Revis limited Moss to just four catches for 24 yards, and statements by Rex Ryan have indicated that if Revis is ready on game day he will get his chance at a repeat performance and be asked to cover Moss all day. Revis even added fuel to the fire by dubbing Moss a “slouch” for his underachieving performance last season. This has certainly hyped up the showdown and figures to add drama to an already great rivalry.

War of Words

Even more hype has been added to the Patriots-Jets rivalry as of late because of public statements made by members of both teams. It all started when Tom Brady was asked if he watched the HBO series “Hard Knocks,” a series that followed the Jets throughout training camp. His answer, “I hate the Jets, so I refuse to support that show” didn’t sit well with many of the Meadowlands faithful. Jets head coach Rex Ryan even retorted, “Hell, he knows we hate the Patriots so what’s the difference… join the club.”

There’s a lot at stake for each team. The Jets look to shake a rough start and prove they are Super Bowl bound, while the Patriots look to put upstart rivals back in their place. It figures to be a very physical football game with plenty of aggression on both sides of the ball. In other words, it’s the type of game that reminds guys why they like football in the first place.

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The Undeserving NFL Hall of Famer Debate… Guaranteed to Make Jets Fans Mad

September 8, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Babe Ruthless.

We’ve long been considering having today’s debate. I believe it was Bleacher Fan who came up with the idea some six months ago, and I loved it from the start (Editor’s Note: The idea was also pushed along by reader Old School. Thanks, Old School.). We finally have found a spot for it today and I think you’ll like it. Which current NFL Hall of Fame player is the least deserving? Now, before dismissing the subject of my article, give the prosecution a chance to present the case! I fully believe that Joe Namath – yes, THAT Joe Namath – is the least deserving player in the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

“Broadway Joe” is arguably one of the NFL’s most recognizable and historic faces. And that was before his flirtation with Suzy Kolber. Growing up a huge NFL fan, I always heard about “Joe Willie,” especially living in the South since he went to college at Alabama. Most of you know how he guaranteed victory over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. As much as you’ve probably heard about Namath, you’d probably think he’d have numbers comparable to guys like Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Tom Brady. Guess what? You’d be wrong!

In 13 seasons in the AFL/NFL, Namath threw 173 touchdowns and 220 interceptions. Yes, you read that correctly. That’s 47 more interceptions than touchdowns for you math majors out there. That statistic baffles me. His 27,663 passing yards is respectable, but that averages out to a little over 2,100 a season over 13 seasons. Even Mark Brunell threw for more passing yards. Is Mark Brunell a Hall of Famer? Hardly!

His career completion percentage hovers around 50 percent. Wow! Maybe Michael Vick deserves to be in the Hall! Also, any guesses about what his record was as a quarterback was? He had 77 wins, 108 losses, and three ties! Yes, that’s right!

What part of any of that statistical background screams “Hall of Fame quarterback?” The only reason he is in the Hall of Fame is because of one game, and one game only – Super Bowl III. He led the underdog Jets to a huge upset over the Colts. For all of the publicity Namath gets for that victory, it was actually the Jets defense that often gets overlooked in that game and deserves much of the credit. That group caused five turnovers, including four interceptions. Did you know that Namath didn’t even throw a touchdown the entire game? He didn’t even throw a pass the entire fourth quarter! Yet, he was named the MVP of the game! Go figure!

He’s one of the most recognizable names in NFL history. But I still contend that Joe Namath is one of the most overrated players in NFL history, and he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.

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The 2010 Most Overrated Team in the NFL Debate… Pride Goeth Before the Fall

August 27, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

I don’t think I have ever seen a team believe its own hype more than the New York Jets. It is one thing to walk into camp with Super Bowl aspirations, but the “J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS” are strutting around as if the Lombardi Trophy is already claimed.

Rex Ryan, LaDanian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, and many others, have already gone on record with declarations that they are a Super Bowl bound franchise. While I love the positivity, there is just one problem – it is only week three of the pre-season.

The Jets are walking around with just a little too much bravado, and although many media outlets are hopping on the New York bandwagon, I am going on record right now with my “I told you so” prediction for 2010 – Forget the Super Bowl, the Jets won’t make the playoffs!

Let’s flash back to Sunday, December 20th of 2009. The Jets were walking off of the field after a 10-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, and NOBODY was talking Super Bowl at that time. Instead, folks were doubtful that the Jets would even reach the playoffs.

When you take an HONEST look at the Jets between then and now, what has changed? The short answer is “nothing good!”

Too Much Credit for Not Enough Substance

Sure, the Jets made the AFC championship game last season, but can we REALLY call the 2009 Jets a legitimate Super Bowl contender? I can’t!

The Jets eeked into the playoffs thanks to a schedule where the final two matchups pitted them against teams that already clinched post-season berths, and thus rested the stars. The Jets had the luck to draw a wild card matchup against a one-dimensional Cincinnati Bengals team that so heavily relied on the running game that the running back was simply EXHAUSTED when it came time for playoff football. And if not for some late mistakes by the San Diego Chargers, they would never have made it out of the divisional playoff round.

Now I know what you are thinking – the Jets STILL won their way into the AFC championship game, which is a fact that I cannot deny. I am just pointing out that they were the beneficiaries of very favorable conditions leading up to that AFC championship. As soon as the good luck ran out for New York, and they ran into a playoff seasoned Indianapolis Colts team, they were completely embarrassed in a 30-17 rout.

While the Jets enter the 2010 season after being just one game away from the Super Bowl last season, the result HARDLY matched the output.

Quarterback Concerns

Has Mark Sanchez done ANYTHING to convince anyone he can be a great quarterback in the NFL?

Not once last season did he pass for more than 300 yards in a single game. He DID have 14 games where he failed to eclipse the 200 yard mark, though. On the season, his 2,444 total yards ranked as the 23rd worst total in the league, and was almost DOUBLED by the NFL’s best, Matt Schaub.

In 18 games (including the playoffs), he had only one game of 20 completions or more, and his season total of only 196 completions placed him 25th in the league.

He threw for only 12 touchdowns last season (24th in the NFL), but had 20 interceptions (the second HIGHEST total, behind only Jay Cutler of the Bears).

I know that the Jets have brought in Santonio Holmes to give Sanchez another top-level target to throw the ball to, but (once more) has Mark Sanchez done ANYTHING to convince anyone he can be a great quarterback in the NFL?

In a word – NO!

Who Needs a QB Anyway?

So the Jets have a lousy quarterback. It didn’t seem to hurt at all last year, did it? Thomas Jones racked up more than 1,400 rushing yards, leading the Jets to the top rushing offense in the league last season.

That is a GREAT way to compensate for having a bum behind center. And the Jets plan to build off that tremendous rushing performance from last season, right?

WRONG!

In the organization’s infinite wisdom, Thomas Jones was released in favor of unproven Shonn Greene. Now I’m no football genius, but the adage “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” sure would seem to apply in this case.

Releasing Jones was the “head scratching” move of the off-season. The top rushing offense in the league (which arguably was the reason the team had marginal success during the regular season) actually parted ways WILLINGLY with the guy who made them so successful, all so they could rely on a kid with a whopping 108 TOTAL rushing attempts on his resume.

And alongside this unproven kid the organization brings in the soon-to-be washed up LaDanian Tomlinson, who hopes for one more shot at a winner before riding off into the Canton sunset.

What do you get when you mix a highly touted, yet unproven prospect with a once-great NFL record holder who thinks he still has a little gas left in the tank? You get a position battle!

That’s right, in a matter of months the Jets have fallen from having the league’s best rushing offense to not even knowing who the starter is (neither of whom have a PRAYER of producing the way that Thomas Jones did).

But Defense Wins Championships

The New York Jets had the top defense in the NFL in 2009. Led by All Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, the Jets shut down opposing offenses, giving up only 252.3 yards and 14.8 points per game, no team was stingier when the offense was on the sidelines.

Here’s the problem, though. That superstar leader of the Jets defense, Darrelle Revis, has yet to show up for practice. Because he feels he is bigger than the team he plays for, Revis is foolishly demanding a new contract, and has held out from participating in team activities as his protest.

Without Revis, the Jets defense may not be hapless, but it is certainly not the loaded unit it was last season. And even if Revis and the Jets can come to some sort of an agreement (which today STILL seems unlikely), it is so far into the pre-season that his game-readiness is doubtful.

Wide Egos for Wide Receivers

I will grant only a couple sentences to the least valuable players on the entire Jets roster – Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes.

Holmes, who won’t even be on the field for the first four weeks of the season due to suspension, came to the Big Apple after being dealt away from the Pittsburgh Steelers because of yet another legal issue. It doesn’t at all matter what Holmes will do on the field, because he cannot seem to control his personal life.

As for his cross-field counterpart, the only thing that Braylon Edwards seems able to catch is bad press. He can run his mouth, but that pesky little thing called catching the ball seems to trip him up every time.

A Formula for Failure

Last season the Jets capitalized on the element of surprise and relied on a solid running game and a stingy defense to reach the AFC championship game.

Now the teams has drawn as much attention to itself as possible by painting a giant target on its back. The front office has weakened the running game, brought in unreliable receivers to support a quarterback whose performance would have gotten him fired on almost any other team in the league, and the top player is holding out for more money.

Are the Jets REALLY a playoff team?

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The Jets versus Darrelle Revis Debate Verdict

August 18, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

As I stated in the intro, it seems as if this is a yearly battle with at least one marquee player or one rookie. This year, it’s Darrelle Revis’ time to be on the hot seat or put the Jets on the hot seat, depending on how you look at it. The only thing the two sides have really agreed on to this point is to keep all contract talks confidential.

No one is really questioning the fact that Darrelle Revis is underpaid. I know it. Revis knows it. Rex Ryan knows it. Woody Johnson knows it. He’s a guy who wants to be paid like the best, and as Babe Ruthless indicated, it’s hard to blame him for that. Though, I did throw my hands up in the air when I read over the weekend that he turned down a pretty lucrative contract. The bottom line is that Revis wants a big payday; much like Rod Tidwell did in Jerry Maguire. He wants someone – specifically Jets ownership – to “show him the money.”

There’s no question that the Jets are a much better team with Revis starting in the secondary. The Jets obviously are going for the championship, and they stand a much better chance of advancing with Revis in uniform, especially going up twice a year against the likes of Randy Moss and Brandon Marshall. That’s all well and good… but…

Does he really have any contractual leverage? The answer is no, and that’s why Bleacher Fan wins this debate.

It’d be one thing if Revis was entering the fourth year of a four year, $24M deal. He can fall back on the old “sign me or lose me” saying that Bleacher Fan mentioned. Maybe if Revis and his agents held out for a better deal in 2007 he wouldn’t be in this position of making just $1M this season.

What real benefit does Revis gain by holding out? Yes, he might hold his stance and eventually get his way. But at what cost? How long is he going to be out? Is he going to be in good football shape? If he misses any regular season games, will the Jets be too far behind the Patriots and Dolphins to make a run at the AFC East title? What if he’s really stubborn and sits out the entire season? He’ll still have plenty of cash to pay his satellite bill to watch the Jets on TV, but that’s not where he belongs and not where he wants to be. Sitting out any significant time also diminishes any potential legacy he likely wants to build. He should take a page out of Anquan Boldin’s book by coming to camp and letting the situation play out as it is. Boldin openly campaigned for a new deal. While he never got one Arizona, he eventually got one after a trade to Baltimore.

Injuries are certainly always a factor when considering contracts. But Revis is no different than the other players in the league in that regard. That’s why I didn’t necessarily buy into Babe’s argument. The bottom line is that Revis doesn’t have enough leverage. He’s played THREE seasons. He’s not a six or seven year veteran. In three years, Revis will be 28. Anyone want to guess how old Nnamdi Asomugha was when he signed his record deal last year? He was 27 when he signed the deal, but 28 when he took the field after signing the contract. Play out your contract, Darrelle. Your time will come.

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