Keidel: Robby Anderson's success in Carolina just another indictment on Adam Gase

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What if someone offered you one of the five best wide receivers in the NFL at half price? It would cost you no collateral - no trading valued players or dealing draft picks - other than money, and very little of it.

You'd jump on it, say thank you very much, and get the heck out of there, right?

That sounds appealing to most NFL clubs, but not the Jets. They had such a player in the fold, named Robby Anderson, and the wideout would have happily stayed with Gang Green were he welcomed. Instead, a team that was supposed to be the Jets this year - the Carolina Panthers - pounced on Anderson this past offseason, signing him to a two-year, $20 million deal.

In return for this most modest investment, Anderson led the league in receiving yards entering Monday Night Football (DeAndre Hopkins bumped him to No. 2, and he’s in the Top 5 in receptions (40), receptions over 20 yards (8), yards after catch (240), and longest reception (75 yards). If that's not enough, Anderson is also Top 10 in receiving yards per game and first-down grabs, and according to Next Gen Stats, he was among the five fastest ball carriers at WR last season, with an average speed of 15.63 mph.

The Panthers have a head coach (Matt Rhule) who was on the Baylor sideline last year, a quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) who suffered a life-threatening leg injury a few years ago, and are without their best player and potential league MVP when healthy (Christian McCaffrey). In all this turbulence, the Panthers are still a scrappy 3-3, and Anderson has been one skill player they can bank on. He just wasn't useful enough for Gang Green or head coach Adam Gase to keep around.

Anderson earns half of what Keenan Allen - the second-highest paid wideout in the NFL - makes with the Chargers, but he's hardly been half the player. And he’s just another in the plethora of high-end players that either the Jets in general or Gase in particular have either mismanaged or just jettisoned.

A few former pupils of Gase in particular have found flowering prosperity far from his campus. We just saw running back Kenyan Drake roll over the Cowboys, with 164 yards and two scores, and we’ve seen Anderson’s success – but neither is the most stunning explosion on the football scene. That would be Ryan Tannehill, who was mediocre in Miami under Gase, but has mushroomed into a force for the Tennessee Titans, arguably the best team in the league.

The former Dolphins QB led Tennessee to within 60 minutes of the Super Bowl last year, and this year, the Titans are 5-0, lounging atop first place in the AFC South, and prepping for a showdown with the also-undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers.
It would not be silly to suggest that Tannehill is in the running for NFL MVP, flashing the guts and gifts that Gase couldn't squeeze out of him.

Of course, the Jets traded Jamal Adams, perhaps the best safety in the sport. But at least they got some bounty back for him, while Anderson just strolled to Carolina with a big coupon glued to his helmet. Ever since the iconic Herschel Walker deal, it looks smart to snatch a stack of draft picks for your star player, as Dallas pivoted off that trade and became a dynasty, with Jimmy Johnson, fresh from the Miami Hurricanes, hardwired into the best college talent. But the Dallas Cowboys have a history of title contention (even if that history is inching back into the rearview mirror), while every time the Jets whiff on a draft pick or trade a big-ticket player, you expect the worst.

The Jets will have myriad holes to plug and two first-round picks this year and next year. They could draft a speedy wideout, who's got the grit to grind across the middle, and is a first-down machine. The only problem is they already had one in the huddle, and let him walk.

Follow Jason Keidel on Twitter: @JasonKeidel

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