No wonder some refer to it as the No Fun League.
The New York Jets had captured lightning in a bottle, stumbling into the best story of the NFL preseason in the form of Grey Cup champion and former Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Chris Streveler.
Brought to training camp to be nothing more than an extra warm body, the fourth man on the pivot depth chart looked more like the second coming of Joe Namath. Three games. Three thrilling comeback victories.
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Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Chris Streveler.
Streveler threw for five touchdowns, 277 yards, had just one pick and led the team in rushing. Short of donning a cape and fighting crime in Gotham City, I can’t imagine anything else the undrafted Illinois product could have done to impress.
Jets coach Robert Saleh dubbed it “one of the great preseasons in the history of football,” while CBS broadcaster Ian Eagle shouted “Streveler owns August!”” after he tossed a pair of fourth-quarter majors in last Sunday’s 31-27 triumph over the rival New York Giants, including the go-ahead score with 22 seconds remaining.
He won the hearts of long-suffering Jets supporters, who haven’t seen their sad-sack squad make the playoffs since 2010. He won the support of teammates, who were clearly thrilled by this breath of fresh air and chanted his name in the raucous locker room. And he won millions of new fans who were being exposed to his unique arsenal and vibrant personality for the very first time, while also bringing plenty of pride and a wee bit of bragging rights to all those who previously cheered him on in the CFL.
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New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh.
The only thing Streveler didn’t win was a job.
“Tough business,” the 27-year-old posted on his Twitter account Tuesday after being shown the door by the Jets, who somehow couldn’t find room for him on their 53-man roster. “So thankful for the opportunities this preseason. This is just another step in the journey. The work and the mindset don’t change!”
While it’s true every NFL team currently has an identical record of 0-0 with the new season set to kick off next week, you can already give the Jets a great big ‘L’ for the way they fumbled a golden opportunity that was staring them in the face.
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“I wouldn’t say I’m retired from the Blue Bombers,” Chris Streveler told Cleburne Railroaders play-by-play man Carter Woodiel in June when he appeared on the American Association broadcast of a game involving the Winnipeg Goldeyes in June.
It’s a fool’s game to put a whole lot of stock into exhibition game statistics, so I’m not suggesting a Streveler statue was going to be erected outside MetLife Stadum based on a trio of terrific outings. He was essentially in mop-up duty mode, appearing late in games when the third- and fourth-stringers (just like him) were seeing similar duty — the majority of which has now joined him on the unemployment line.
Streveler was never going to supplant starter Zach Wilson (a college phenom drafted second-overall in 2021) or even backup Joe Flacco, a proven veteran arm who had sustained success as the top dog in Baltimore. But he soundly outplayed journeyman Mike White, the current No. 3 for the Jets. Any offensive co-ordinator worth their weight could surely have drawn up a game plan each week that tapped into Streveler’s strengths and found a way to incorporate him into the offence.
Put it this way: there will not be a rush to purchase Jets jerseys with White’s name and number on the back. There certainly would have been if Streveler was the one holding the clipboard on the sidelines, occasionally hitting the field to take a snap or two.
You would think an organization that has racked up six consecutive losing seasons — with a combined record of 27-70 in that span — would be looking for ANY signs of life and hope to cling to. But you would apparently be wrong.
It certainly didn’t look like that would be the case earlier in the day Monday when the team’s Twitter account posted the infamous picture of Streveler from the 2019 Grey Cup parade in Winnipeg wearing a fur coat with no shirt and chomping on a cigar while sporting a cowboy hat and holding the trophy in frigid conditions. It’s the lasting image of him around here, one that cemented his legacy as an all-time favourite. The cheeky caption, which they attributed to NFL fans watching Streveler in the preseason, said, “I owe you an apology. I wasn’t really familiar with your game.”
Hours later came word he was being released. Tough business, indeed. I’d suggest it’s the Jets who should now be apologizing to Streveler, for not giving him a fair shake.
New York’s loss should surely be someone else’s gain. Streveler, who took his talents south after two years in Winnipeg, has had brief stops in Arizona (parts of two seasons as the No. 3 quarterback where he went a combined 17-for-25 for 141 yards, one touchdown, one interception and 21 yards rushing on seven carries) and Baltimore (on the practice squad for a couple months last year). Miami signed him this past February and released him a few months later, and now the Jets have done the same for… reasons?
It’s possible he ultimately gets added to New York’s practice squad if nobody else comes calling, and that wouldn’t be the worst move considering the club has a horrible recent history of keeping quarterbacks healthy. (It’s been seven years since a pivot, Ryan Fitzpatrick, started every game in a season). A little patience and he could rapidly climb up the depth chart.
I suppose there’s always a return to the Great White North, which would be a great boost for a league in which quarterbacking isn’t exactly a strong suit right now. Aside from Zach Collaros, the now-injured Nathan Rourke in British Columbia and the emerging Jake Maier in Calgary, there’s been a whole lot of “meh” and “blah” across the three-down loop this year. No doubt Streveler would be in high demand, although I suspect one team in particular would have the inside track.
“I wouldn’t say I’m retired from the Blue Bombers,” Streveler told Cleburne Railroaders play-by-play man Carter Woodiel in June when he appeared on the American Association broadcast of a game involving the Winnipeg Goldeyes in June. He had just been released from the Dolphins and had yet to sign with the Jets.
“I’m kind of just figuring out what the next move is right now. Still getting some bites from NFL teams, I’ve definitely talked to some CFL teams as well. The CFL’s most definitely still on my radar and it’s always been something in the back of my mind since I left. I’ve got a lot of love for that league and a lot of people up there.”
The Streveler story is a compelling one, and this latest chapter in New York looked to be on its way to a best-seller before an unexpected plot twist. Given the main character involved — and he is a character — you can bet on it continuing to be a real page-turner.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
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