When the subject of moving Darrelle Revis to safety was broached in training camp -- by Revis himself -- general manager Mike Maccagnan brushed aside the idea, saying, "Those are questions far down the road."
Don't look now, but the road isn't as long as the New York Jets once envisioned. They're coming up quickly on an intersection.
Once considered a transcendent talent at cornerback, Revis' play has deteriorated to the point that the Jets may skip the switch to safety and simply release him after the season. He's due to make $15 million in 2017, including a $2 million roster bonus on the second day of the league year in March -- a deadline that will force the Jets (and Revis) to make a decision. He probably will have to accept a pay cut to stick around, if it's offered. They may want to simply cut bait.
Believe me, there is no great pleasure in criticizing an all-time great, but Revis, 31 going on 35, has slipped significantly. His performance Sunday was an eye-opener. He was targeted 16 times, according to Pro Football Focus. Back in the day, Revis wouldn't have been targeted 16 times in a month, but there he was against the lowly Cleveland Browns, getting picked on by a journeyman quarterback (Josh McCown) and a wide receiver (Terrelle Pryor) who began the season with two career catches.
All told, Revis allowed 10 receptions for 122 yards, including six for 101 to Pryor. It could've easily been an even 200 yards, but McCown blew a potential 78-yard scoring play by overthrowing Pryor, who had Revis beat by four yards. Revis minimized the damage in the second half, holding Pryor without a catch, but he got safety help, as coach Todd Bowles switched to a double-safety look. The days of Revis covering half the field are gone.
"I thought he had two hiccups early on in the season and I thought he went through a stretch where he was playing good football," Bowles said Monday, alluding to two long touchdown passes in the first two games. "[Sunday], he had a few plays on him in the first half. We’re 3-5, so nobody is getting a stellar grade, including myself. We just have to do better."
This is a delicate spot for Bowles, an old defensive back. Surely, he sees what we all see, but he's not about to call out the most accomplished player on the team. Yogi Berra didn't scold an aging Willie Mays for flopping around in the outfield in the 1973 World Series, and Revis shouldn't be condemned for his diminishing skills. It can be hard to watch, but it's part of sports.
Thing is, Revis has complicated his situation by saying and doing things unbecoming of a superstar. Last week, he told Newsday, "My body's breaking down." That probably didn't sit well with owner Woody Johnson, who brought him back to New York last year and still owes him $14.5 million guaranteed. Revis said he has not considering retirement, but it's hard to believe him when he talks about his body failing.
It's also hard to believe him after seeing what he did in the final minute of Sunday's game. On a swing pass to Isaiah Crowell, a 225-pound running back, Revis showed no sense of urgency whatsoever, seemingly trying to avoid contact on a play that went for 16 yards. He has always been known as a physical corner, unafraid to tackle, but this was a bad look. Not even Bowles was able to serve up an alibi.
"Initially, I thought he was trying to stop him from getting out of bounds, which I could see that," Bowles said. "But after that, he could’ve went in, I guess, from the angle he was looking at. There were about four people on that play that could’ve made it and played it a lot better."
This was Revis' worst game of the season, maybe the worst of his distinguished career. For the sake of his legacy, you hope it gets better. But you wonder if it will.