Beast Mode, Jets Misery, and the Sad Browns: The NFL Underground Mailbag

Chris Harris is keeping the football conversation going during the off-season. This week, he tackles just how bad things look for the New York Jets, Marshawn Lynch's interest in the Raiders, and more.
April 7, 2017, 4:23pm
Photo by Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the NFL Underground Mailbag, where Chris Harris is keeping the football conversation going during the off-season. Ask Chris your questions about the NFL, general sports, or cultural minutiae at And if you're interested in fantasy football, check out the Harris Football Podcast at

D. Francis: Over/Under three wins for the Jets this year?


David: What can I expect from the Jets this year? Heartbreak?

Because they play in the NFL's most populous city and because they're owned by a born-on-third-base idiot who's now Donald Trump's pick for United States ambassador to the U.K., the Jets were my most-asked-about franchise of the winter. And not in a good way.

Read More: Is Colin Kaepernick a More Generous Philanthropist Than Donald Trump?

Their starting quarterback is apparently Josh McCown. Brandon Marshall is gone. Matt Forte turns 32 in December. The O-line was bad last year, lost Nick Mangold, and gave money to Kelvin Beachum, who was terrible in Jacksonville. Darrelle Revis slid off the planet and won't be back in Gotham. Much-hyped first-round safety Calvin Pryor is a bust. Sheldon Richardson is a knucklehead the team would love to unload. And please don't sell me Morris Claiborne as a solution at corner. I can't always look at an NFL roster and promise its outcome, because parity is real, but I look at the Jets and I see a tank job. If the Browns are Football Siberia, the Jets are fixing to be Football Antarctica, at least in 2017.

Sorry, Jets fans. Photo by Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Poor Todd Bowles is a dead man, and GM Mike Maccagnan had better hope Woody is too busy trying to figure out how much spotted dick he can fit in his mouth to pay attention to football. Because three wins in '17 might be charitable.

Speaking of the Browns…

Michael M.: The Browns have a ton of draft picks over the next two seasons, but it's never been the Browns Way to make good selections. Do you see the current front office turning this franchise around via the draft?


Here's a dirty secret Mel Kiper doesn't want you to know: the draft is a crapshoot. We no longer live in times when Gil Brandt or Ron Woolf could slip a fiver into a mystery source's G-string and get the REAL SCOOP on a player. Everyone knows how high the players jump and how fast they run around cones. Everyone talks to all the kids. Even the Bengals have actual scouts now, instead of relying on some guy named Jelly Bean who cuts Mike Brown's hair. There are no secrets, there are no unknown prospects, and college football resembles pro football in the way smeary old Alec Baldwin resembles unrecognizably skinny young Alec Baldwin. Which is to say: not much.

There's no magic formula anymore. You'll still see guys like Mike Lombardi—a former GM who specializes in moving his lips without saying anything real—claiming they have an unbeatable draft recipe, but these days Lombardi is busy fluffing Bill Belichick's pillows rather than actually drafting so, y'know, grain of salt. Reality is, it's difficult to know how very young kids playing a spread-out game against athletes who are vastly inferior to them will react once they have more money than God and adults beating the hell out of them. Does Rams tackle Greg Robinson look like a terrible pick at No. 2 overall in 2014? Absolutely. Would most teams have taken him right around there? Absolutely. He was considered the best tackle prospect that year. As much as I think Rams GM Les Snead is bad at his job for other reasons, I can't criticize him for Robinson.


So if the draft is pretty random, then having as many picks as possible is a good thing. I think the Browns whiffed by trading away the No. 2 pick last year; they'd be happier entering a second season with Carson Wentz than holding their nose and taking Mitch Trubisky. But at least current Browns brass was under no illusions in '16, gutting the team of every free agent and playing with a minor-league squad, when "trying real hard" was only gonna get them to 4-12.

Whether or not all those picks turn into good players? I'm afraid that'll require some luck. But, y'know, trust The Process.

Mark: Changing the subject a little, since it's about to be the NBA playoffs: we just went through a season where the Cavs sucked for a month and Kevin Durant hurt his knee and the media couldn't freak out enough about both of those things, and after all that we're still headed for a Cavs/Warriors finals, right?

We are indeed. There are a lot of really cool, really smart people who cover the NBA for a living, and you seriously couldn't pay me enough. In the era of mega-teams, there's about as much drama in the NBA's Bataan Death March of a regular season as there is in The Walking Dead. ("Really! Rick might die! Michonne might die! Korr-ull might die!" Snickers. Kills off 12th-billed lead who's headed to a Star Trek reboot.) It's the worst regular season in sports. Maybe those years in the 1920s when the Yankees bought all the best players from stupid poor teams were worse, but back then Americans were mostly obsessed with Fatty Arbuckle and didn't give a crap.


Oh no! LeBron complained about the bench! Oh no! LeBron unfollowed the Cavs! Oh no! LeBron bit the head off a live bat and spat it at Kevin Love! There has to come a point in our sporting lives when we stop indulging in ginned-up nonsense that distracts us from the fact that nothing happening on the actual court matters. The Celtics had a chanced to take the East's one-seed Wednesday night and they lost by 100. And even if they'd won, they'd have had home court and gotten swept in the East Finals. Could the Spurs surprise the Warriors? Maybe, if Curry's hurt and Durant's hurt and Green kicks someone in the nards. It's like pro wrestling for six months, then let's have a Finals!

Coming back into the football discussion like. Photo by Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Walter S.: What are your thoughts on the new Beast Mode developments?

Marshawn Lynch took a moment away from his apple-bong to decide he wants to play football again, except not for the team that picked him up and dusted him off and made him famous and won him a ring, but that other team, the one that's so closely associated with Lynch's hometown it decided to go door-to-door and offer a middle finger to anyone who's ever invested emotional energy in the Oakland Raiders. What a great story!

The Raiders have a good quarterback, good receivers, a good offensive line, and Lloyd Christmas running their organization, and if Lynch could transplant his 2014 body into 2017, we'd really be on to something. But I think the Raiders would be making a mistake. They jettisoned Latavius Murray, so if they sign Lynch and don't draft another back, he'd be their only big rusher; pipsqueaks Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington have promise but only in supplemental roles. Lynch will be 31 this season; he didn't stay healthy in '15 and didn't stay in shape in '16. So much would have to go right, and old RBs rarely access the Wayback Machine. If I'm a Raiders fan, I'd want my team to go young and burly, and leave as little to chance as possible.


Then again, who the hell will be a Raiders fan this year?

Mike G.: Got an EPL Top 4 prediction?

I'll say:

1. Chelsea

2. Tottenham

3. Man City

4. Arsenal

I left Liverpool off, mostly because I predict Woody Johnson will mistake them for food and then, in his disappointment, advise diplomatic sanctions.

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