Jachai Polite wasn’t supposed to find himself on this list.
Roster cutdown day isn’t for the faint of heart. Teams across the league must get down to a 53-man roster before the start of the regular season. It’s a cruel reality for hundreds of players that their desired future is about to be altered. It’s where many NFL dreams are either deferred or come to an abrupt end.
Moments after the Jets concluded their preseason schedule, with a win over the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday at MetLife Stadium, head coach Adam Gase spoke about one of the toughest days for anyone in the NFL.
“It’s tough because you develop relationships, and then you have to move on,” Gase said. “You’ll never see some of these guys again.”
For the next 48 hours, the Jets went about the business of making sure they’re in compliance with the league’s mandate. Their roster of 91 became 53 by the 4 p.m. ET Saturday deadline.
Polite, the Jets 2019 third-round selection out of Florida, was one of the releases. It was a move which raised eyebrows on social media and, most likely, throughout the league.
How did this happen?
Third rounders are not supposed to find themselves on this list, not this early in their playing career, not without even playing in an actual regular season game. Polite didn’t even make it to week 1.
The 21-year old linebacker was supposed to help supply a much-needed presence on the edge for the defense. But he was barely a presence on the field in the preseason, he only registered five tackles in four games.
Heading into the draft, Polite was looked at by many as having first-round talent but his stock dropped after a poor showing at the NFL Combines and pre-draft workouts. This was a red flag.
The Jets took him anyway with their third-round pick and the person responsible for that decision was Mike Maccagnan. This, however, turned out to be Maccagnan’s last draft class as the team’s general manager because he was fired shortly thereafter.
So Polite now, without the backing of Maccagnan, needed to prove himself to not only a new head coach (Gase), a demanding defensive coordinator in Gregg Williams, but now a new general manager in Joe Douglas.
All throughout training camps across the league, hundreds of players scrap for the opportunity of making an NFL roster. They bleed, sweat, and pay the price just for a chance to run out on the field in September.
It should’ve been motivation enough for Polite, it turned out it wasn’t.
Which brings everything to now. The Jets will move on and begin preparing for week 1 against Buffalo. Polite, meanwhile, must now find work elsewhere while also trying to put his time with the Jets behind him.
Polite may turn out to be the edge rusher Maccagnan believed he could be for the Jets. What became clear, however, is that Douglas, Gase, and the team’s new regime wasn’t going to wait around to find out.
It was already June by the time Douglas was offered and accepted the general manager position for the Jets. He had no allegiances to this year’s draft class because it wasn’t his to draft.
The ability to make quick evaluations is a crucial requirement of any coach or person working in the front office. Polite had all of camp, and the preseason, to convince Douglas he’s a keeper. For Douglas, that was more than enough time to make a decision to move on.
In a playoff-starved city, on one of the toughest days on the NFL calendar, the new regime of the Jets sent a message they’re not here to waste time.