If it's at all possible for a man to feel bad for a player who went to three schools, was undrafted, signed as a UDFA, and after four seasons cashes in to the tune of $82.5 million? Well then I am that man. And JC Jackson is that player.
The JC Jackson I watched in New England for four years was a great success story. His was a tale a good parent tells their children to inspire them to believe anything is possible. That you can be overlooked by practically everyone, and yet if you believe in yourself and work hard enough, you can achieve your dreams. Even become the most sought-after defensive player in free agency.
But now? He's a shadow of himself. And it's profoundly sad to see. Just watch him on this play. Knowing Denver had just 0:50 on the clock, no timeouts, and needed a good 50-plus yards to get into field goal range, he gave KJ Hamler at 10 yard cushion. TEN! And still Hamler blew past him like he was a parking meter. And then was seen no more.
Source - The Los Angeles Chargers made corner J.C. Jackson one of the highest-paid corners in the NFL, believing the former New England Patriot could solidify the secondary. Through six weeks, the return on that investment has been abysmal. ...
Chargers coach Brandon Staley had seen enough, benching Jackson in favor of Michael Davis in the second half and overtime.
"It just wasn't good enough in the first half, and we felt like we needed to make a change," Staley said on the decision to bench Jackson, via Chargers Wire.
Jackson played 23 snaps Monday night. It was rough the entire way.
The corner was called for defensive pass interference on the opening drive. Later he caused a busted coverage on a 39-yard TD to tight end Greg Dulcich. On the final drive before halftime, Jackson got beat by KJ Hamler for a 47-yard catch. Staley admitted both plays were Jackson's error.
Jackson allowed two catches on three targets for 86 yards and a touchdown in the first half, per Pro Football Focus.
And how did the change Staley referred to work out?
The difference in Wilson's Tale of Two Halves?
I say this with a heavy heart. I'm not here to bury Jackson. I'm here to praise the man who made the very difficult and universally criticized decision to let him leave in free agency: Bill Belichick.
Has the defending Executive of the Year done it again, or has he done it again? As we've seen so many times in the past, he cut ties with Jackson, who was his best cornerback last year, at precisely the right moment.
And that 2022 figure obviously doesn't include last night's soiled diaper of a game. So it's likely to get worse, statistically hard as that may be. According to Pro Football Focus, that 149.0 is the fourth worst mark among all corners in the league with at least 160 snaps. As for the rookie Belichick replaced him with?
The contrast can't become any more stark. GM Bill swapped out the statistically fourth worst cover corner in the league for the fourth best, and saved $82.5 million in cap space in doing so. And PFF has Jack Jones graded No. 1 in coverage and No. 1 overall among all corners. Jackson is graded second worst in coverage, third worst overall, out of 93 corners.
If you're thinking any of this sounds familiar, you're not mistaken. Malcolm Butler's career followed almost this exact same pattern. Although he didn't have the kind of final year in New England that Jackson had. Those of us still wondering how Butler got benched in the Super Bowl against the Eagles tend to forget he had become somewhat of a coverage liability in 2017, giving up eight touchdowns to just two interceptions, getting flagged seven times and surrendering a passer rating of 102.3. And after signing with Tennessee (for $61 million), posted almost exactly the same numbers: seven touchdowns, three picks, seven penalties and a 102.7 passer rating. While allowing receptions at a career high 63.7%. By midseason of that year, Butler was the demoted to the third corner in Tennessee, as it would appear Jackson was in LA last night.
And who replaced Butler in 2018? An impressive rookie named JC Jackson. Time is a flat circle:
If these were the only examples of GM Bill knowing exactly when to sell high on a player, it wouldn't be all that impressive. But there's a pattern here. Dion Lewis quickly comes to mind. He went from 1,000 yards, eight touchdowns and 4.8 yards per attempt in Foxboro in 2017 to 500, one TD and 3.3 YPA with the Titans the next year. Trey Flowers went from 77 and 78 QB pressures his final two seasons in New England to 62, 16 and six in Detroit, and currently has eight with the Dolphins. Trent Brown cashed in on his 2018 Super Bowl season by signing with the Raiders and was a shadow of himself before coming back to the Pats and playing like he had before. I could go on, but you get the point.
For every Tom Brady who still has a couple of more seasons left in his gas tank after he leaves, there are dozens of guys who are coached up to excel in New England, and turn into mortals once they leave. JC Jackson, sadly, is just the latest. Let's remember that the next time a free agent leaves and everyone is in hysterics. Now, as always, In Bill We Trust.