FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Joe Douglas had a pretty uneventful trading deadline day. After all, he didn't do anything. His big move - the Leonard Williams trade - came the day before.
That should've been the story, and it would've been the story, except for one important thing: Douglas made it clear that he was willing to listen to anyone about almost everyone. If the phone rang, he was going to answer it. If someone had an offer to make, he would listen, just in case it was an offer he couldn't refuse.
And once those conversations started to leak, that left the impression that he was conducting a firesale, or that he was tearing down the Jets to rebuild them again. That left a weary fanbase angry and confused. It hurt the feelings of one of his star players. And it put Douglas in the position of getting ripped both for his actions and inactions at the same time.
The truth, though, is the 42-year-old Douglas shouldn't be criticized at all. He did exactly what good general managers are supposed to do.
"We fielded a lot of calls on a lot of players," Douglas explained. "One thing I will say on the players that leaked out today, those weren't players we were shopping. But what I was taught, when a team calls you should always listen to what they have to say."
Yes, he should. He absolutely should. All GMs should, but especially GMs of the Jets. Because this is Douglas' reality: He inherited a team that isn't nearly as good as so many expected, and only some of that can be blamed on injury, illness, and bad luck. The Jets are 1-6. In some games they've barely been competitive. They're on their way to their ninth straight year of watching the playoffs at home.
So why would anyone on this team be untouchable? Outside of quarterback Sam Darnold, none of them are indispensable. The Jets have a ton of work to do, with holes to fill all over the roster. So of course Douglas should listen to see if any team is desperate enough to overpay for one of his players. Of course he should spend a few minutes on the phone trying to turn someone's interest into a steal of a deal.
And that's exactly what he did, no matter how people spin it, or how hurt any player's feelings are. Take the Jamal Adams trade talks for example, since that appeared to be the biggest deal on the table - or at least the one that came the closest to happening, even though in the end it may not have been very close at all.
The Cowboys made it clear in the days before the deadline that they wanted to add a safety. They knew that Adams had been expressing his frustration in the locker room, and on Instagram too. So they called, according to multiple sources, and Douglas listened. And he told them a price that was absurd. He wanted a first round pick, plus, the source said. Asked if Douglas wanted two first-round picks, the source said "pretty close." ESPN later reported the asking price was one first rounder and two seconds.
As good as Adams is, that's an enormous haul. That's three possible starters, or enough ammunition to move up in the first round for another star. Would any of them be as good as Adams? Who knows? It's a risk. But with the team struggling as bad as the Jets are, sometimes risks have to be considered.
He did the same with Le'Veon Bell -- asking for at least a first rounder, according to a source. And he did the same about Robby Anderson, setting the price at a second rounder, another source said. If he really wanted to deal those players, Douglas would've set the price lower, and he probably would've gotten it.
But that wasn't part of Douglas's plan.
"As far as 'willing to trade if the price was right,' that's not something that it got to," Douglas said later in an interview on ESPN Radio. "For me, I'll just say where I'm from, you listen to every call that comes in on every player, unless it's a franchise quarterback. We listened to those calls. There wasn't any crazy demands made. It wasn't like 'Hey, we're expecting to get this or nothing.' It was 'What's your best offer?'"
Again: Why not listen? Why not ask? The Cowboys built a dynasty in the 1990s because the Minnesota Vikings were crazy enough to trade three first-round picks and three-second round picks (and more) for Herschel Walker. Mike Ditka once sent his entire draft to Washington for the right to draft Ricky Williams. There's no telling just how wild and desperate other GMs are going to be.
"There was no firesale, there was no garage sale going on with these players," Douglas said. "We value these players a lot. The value that was offered didn't equal the value that we have for them in the organization."
Now, because all those talks leaked, Douglas does have some fence-mending to do, particularly with Adams who vented on Twitter, accusing Douglas of going "behind my back" - as if Douglas somehow needed Adams' permission for anything. That's now a situation to watch, since Adams is the Jets emotional leader - the "heartbeat" of the team, as Douglas called him.
But really, Adams needs to get over it and understand that the NFL is a business and everyone in a losing franchise tends to be expendable. How could he possibly fault Douglas for considering any possibility to make this team better? Isn't that exactly what he'd want his GM to do?
And good for Douglas for doing it, for showing the intelligence to listen, signaling a willingness to be bold, and an openness to ideas that maybe he hadn't previously considered. Maybe some team was ready to offer him the deal of the century for an overrated or overpriced player.
The only way to find out, as smart general managers understand, is to pick up the phone.