You would think that the last thing the New York Jets would try to bring into the fold is someone else who knows nothing about the game of football. Keep in mind, however, that when it comes to scouting players, the Jets are much more reality show than hard-nosed coaches.
Their recent history is rich with innovative signings that didn’t quite pan out, from Brad Smith’s underused skill set to Brett Favre’s dud renaissance. In 2009, with few options available at quarterback, the team traded away picks and players to snag SoCal golden boy Mark Sanchez in the draft. Three years later, with his talent and future in doubt, the team gave him a vote of confidence by agreeing to a ridiculous deal which, puzzling as it was in the summer, appears now to be a bona fide $15 million mistake.
Quickly looking to top that deal in insanity, the Jets then proceeded to add the services of Mr. Tim Tebow, who is the indomitable role model with the skills of a running back, has the throwing mechanics of a trebuchet, and the luck of the Irish. Many of us in the peanut gallery questioned the wisdom of throwing money at the problem of Mark Sanchez’s confidence only to undermine it so spectacularly by bringing in the league’s most polarizing player to back him up. Of course, nothing about that situation worked out.
Another signing this offseason brought the 6’7” Hayden Smith onto the roster. Fresh off a promising career in rugby, Smith decided to give football a shot, and the Jets were happy to be the setting of another storyline. A work in progress, Smith has logged one reception this season, though presumably he now understands the concepts of down and distance. It was reminiscent of their 2005 signing of Australian rules football player Ben Graham, who turned into a very good NFL punter.
In light of the team’s history of bold signings, and of owner Woody Johnson’s need to occupy headline space, it was no surprise to see the New York Times report Friday that yet another misfit has charmed his way into the hearts of the hapless Jets. Havard Rugland is a 28 year-old Norwegian whose soccer team disbanded and left him without a use for his enormous left boot. He put a trick-shot video on YouTube, and that was enough to get him a tryout with the Jets.
If he’s really knocking through 60-yarders with ease, then he may have a legitimate shot at being an NFL kicker. More important to the position, though, is grace under pressure — nailing 55-yarders with one shot. If trick shots were the same as on-field performance, Johnny McEntee would have won the Heisman. Then again, Rugland could represent the new mode of scouting players in a globalized world. If he makes the transition to the NFL well, could he represent the new mode of scouting players in a globalized world? Are the Jets ever going to end their quest for headline fodder?