The NY Jets initially promised the speedy Mecole Hardman a larger role when he signed with the team in the offseason. Hardman had played over 50 percent of snaps for the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in each of the past two seasons, but the Jets clearly had big plans for him in New York.
Unfortunately, just six weeks into the season, Hardman was shipped back to Kansas City after playing just 28 offensive snaps. The supposed "larger role" quickly became no role at all as Hardman was left on the bench and even rendered a healthy scratch.
Just like that, the Jets essentially flushed $4 million down the drain. All the while, they continue to play arguably the worst wide receiver (if not the worst overall player) in the NFL on half of their offensive snaps.
What happened? Why did the Jets even sign Hardman in the first place? Why didn't they give him an opportunity, especially when his replacement, Randall Cobb, has been struggling? There isn't a great answer to all of those questions, but there is some degree of an explanation that can be offered.
Why did the NY Jets trade Mecole Hardman?
The Jets legitimately did have plans for Hardman when they signed him this offseason. They envisioned him as providing a much-needed field-stretching presence to their offense, while also providing the team with a boost on special teams.
Two things changed significantly since that signing, however. For starters, Aaron Rodgers got hurt. The Rodgers injury completely changed the complexion of the Jets' offense.
No longer could the Jets regularly play 3-4 wide receivers. Instead, the team relied on two/three tight end sets. Fullback Nick Bawden received an increase in playing time. Bawden and the tight ends significantly ate into the snaps that were initially intended for Hardman.
The second part of this confusing equation pertains to the emergence of undrafted rookie Xavier Gipson. Gipson essentially stole Hardman's job this summer.
The Stephen F. Austin product earned the primary return man job in the summer and has even carved out a role on offense as a motion-heavy speed threat. That was the role the Jets likely planned for Hardman in a post-Rodgers world. Instead, Gipson has been taking those snaps.
For whatever reason, the Jets don't see a way to get Gipson and Hardman on the field together. One would think that benching the entirely useless Randall Cobb would be an ideal way for this to happen, but this is Nathaniel Hackett we're talking about.
Cobb is a Hackett (and Rodgers) favorite. He's going to have a role in this offense despite how much it continues to hurt the team.
A combination of a change in offensive philosophy, the emergence of a rookie, and a coach's stubbornness is why Hardman was shipped to Kansas City for virtually nothing on Wednesday.
It's a frustrating situation for Hardman and Jets fans, seeing as the former Pro Bowler likely could have provided value to the team. Unfortunately, the Jets never really gave him a chance.
Hardman should find success again with the Chiefs, while the Jets should likely explore the trade market in the coming weeks. Randall Cobb isn't cutting it.