Editor’s Note: This is a post from new B&T staff writer Brad Barrell. The ideas posed are pretty well thought out and he will make a superb part of the community. Please welcome him to B&T.
Let me start by saying there’s no denying the talent level and importance to the team that Maurice Jones-Drew possesses. He’s our only nationally recognizable star on a small market team, I get that. The holdout will eventually end, I get that, too. We wouldn’t have won even 2 games without MJD carrying the offense. I know, I know… but hear me out.
This isn’t an attack on what MJD brings to the table; his work ethic, passion for the game and elite talent level are all unquestioned. This is about the fundamental change in the NFL over the last decade or so. In today’s NFL, if you can’t pass at an elite level, you can’t win. This has become the standard, with very rare exception. This is not breaking news by any means.
The statistic that may shock you is this: NONE of the starting running backs on the last 10 Super Bowl champions even cracked the top 10 in rushing the season their team hoisted the Lombardi trophy.
Even more alarming: Since 2003, no pro bowl running back has even made it to the super bowl. Let that sink in… With 3 backs from each conference, so 6 a year for 10 seasons, that’s 60 pro bowl appearances, ZERO Super Bowl appearances.
This goes to show just how devalued the running back position has become. Giving a hefty contract to a 27 year old running back who still has 2 years remaining on his deal just doesn’t make sense. Jacksonville is 2 years away from being a super bowl contender at best and MJD will be hitting 30 by then… The proverbial graveyard age for an NFL running back. He knows he needs to capitalize on his value NOW.
What we need to know is the Jaguars need to capitalize on his value NOW, too.
Enter Mike Wallace and the Pittsburgh Steelers who like Jones-Drew is also holding out. Don’t forget the Steelers just rewarded Antonio Brown with a 6 year, $43 million contract, so they are not likely going to be doing the same for Wallace anytime soon. Their star running back, Rashard Mendenhall, is likely out for the season with his torn ACL, and they have a hole in their backfield. The Jaguars Wideouts have been lackluster since Jimmy and Keenan left… Connecting the dots yet?
How do you think Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin would feel about Big Ben handing off to Mojo? This would immediately bring back the smash-mouth “Steeler football” that they have seemingly lost touch with over the last few years by adding the reigning NFL rushing champion.
Investing in an ascending 25 year old pro bowl wide receiver in his prime that has never missed a game in his career and no off-the-field issues would seem to fit Jaguars GM Gene Smith’s mold perfectly. He has totaled over 170 catches, 3,200 yards and 18 touchdowns over the last 2 seasons, all while averaging an incredible 19 yards per reception. He’s arguably the best deep threat in the game today, and is a top 10 wideout in the NFL.
The big cats need to see what we have in Blaine Gabbert, and FAST. It goes without saying you either have an elite quarterback and are competing for championships, or you’re looking for the next elite quarterback… So you can start competing for championships. Providing Blaine an unquestionably great supporting cast will immediately bring to light whether or not he’s going to sink or swim in this league. Acquiring Wallace would instantly give the Jaguars a top 5 wide receiving group with Mike Wallace, Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon, teaming with Marcedes Lewis to form a ridiculous group of weapons. Rashad Jennings showed flashes 2 seasons ago and is ready to carry the load at running back, to complement our passing arsenal, and it’s been shown that starting running backs can be found in the draft every year.
The bottom line is this: in today’s NFL, a top 10 wide receiver is far more valuable than a top 5 running back.
I, for one, would like to thank MJD for all he’s done for this franchise… and then thank him even more for allowing us to parlay an elite player at a non-premium position into a great player at a premium position. Make it happen, Gene!
– Brad Barrell