Sport

Trevor Lawrence could break the Jets’ hearts so easily

Mick Jagger sang it in 1966, and it rings true in 2020: “Kids are different today.”

Trevor Lawrence is a junior at Clemson. By all appearances, he enjoys his status as the quarterback for the perennially awesome Tigers, enjoys being a perennial Heisman Trophy candidate, enjoys his BMOC status. Life is never better than when you are the quarterback hero of a great team.

Still, he is eligible to enter next spring’s NFL draft. And that means he not only gets to start earning a king’s ransom, he gets to start the clock on when he can possibly command the kind of windfall Patrick Mahomes earned from the Chiefs a couple of months ago, a number that could well be half a billion — with a “B” — dollars before he’s done.

So while you could certainly understand the appeal if Lawrence wanted to spend his Saturdays next autumn singing the Clemson fight song another 14 or 15 times … well, kids are different today. I hear every mother say. You have to believe Lawrence will be hard-pressed to pass up the chance to get paid. And that means whichever team winds up with the 1-1 slot in the draft will have that to look forward to.

If he comes out. And he’ll almost certainly come out.

But, then, 23 years ago, Peyton Manning was almost certainly going to come out after his junior year at Tennessee. He was like Lawrence is now: a can’t-miss prospect. And the Jets had finished 1-15 in 1996 and earned the 1-1 for the second year in a row. In 1996 they’d picked Keyshawn Johnson. Now, with Bill Parcells freshly hired, they were in position to draft the man who would feed Keyshawn the damned ball for the next 10-12 years.

Except … well, you know.

Back page of The Post, March 6, 1997: “PEYTON MOURNING.”

Subhead: “Manning jilts Jets, decides to stay at Tennessee.”

There was a grim-looking picture of Parcells. There was a picture of Peyton declaring his loyalties to the orange and white, choosing Knoxville over Fun City.

Parcells said all the right things that day.

“The common feeling in this country today,” he said, “is everybody sells out for money and opportunity. I would say I admire that decision. I think it took some courage to make it.”

Our man Steve Serby had this to say: “You cannot knock a kid for following his heart. You have only one chance to be a college senior. One chance to be forever young. One chance to be Big Man on Campus. One last chance to get away with the panty raids.”

And, look: it worked out. For Peyton there was no national championship with the Volunteers and no Heisman Trophy, but there would be two Super Bowl titles for him, one in Indianapolis and one in Denver, there were 71,940 passing yards, 539 touchdowns, a certain space in the Hall of Fame, status as one of the best to ever play the position.

And it worked out OK for the Jets for a while, too. Vinny Testaverde came here in 1998. Parcells turned the Jets from 1-15 to 9-7 to 12-4 and the AFC Championship game.

Still …

Manning as a Jet would have been a game-changer in many ways, for so many reasons. The possibilities are endless, beyond the Lombardi Trophies he might have added to the Jets’ lonely collection: sharing the same division with Tom Brady most of the way. Sharing New York City with his brother for a good chunk of the way. As it was, even based mostly in Indiana, Peyton became a Madison Avenue staple. How much more of him would there have been?

It’s an old lament.

But it surely has to be at least a fissure in the minds of anyone who seeks solace from the possibility — or probability — if an 0-16 or 1-15 season for one (or both) of the locals. Kids are different today. Lawrence will probably come out. Check back again in January.

Vac’s Whacks

Watching Washington’s Alex Smith on a football field last week — and, maybe, Sunday at MetLife Stadium — is at once incredibly inspiring and amazingly terrifying.

Watching anniversary highlights of Game 3 of the ’69 World Series this week — aka the Tommie Agee Game — conjures memories of bulldog Gary Gentry, who won 13 games that year, started that game and combined with Nolan Ryan on a 5-0 shutout, but who was unable to attend the 50th-anniversary celebrations last year as a result of three recent strokes. Thoughts to Gentry, now living in his native Arizona.

2020 has been a miserable slog … but the fact Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” was back and high up on the Billboard charts this week thanks to the many skateboard/Ocean Spray memes? That makes me smile.

“When New York Was One,” Aaron Cohen’s terrific documentary of the 2000 Subway Series, is a must-view no matter where you sit on the great divide. It premiered late after NLCS Game 4 Thursday, but is worth investigating on Fox and Fox Sports whenever it appears on the schedule again. It is some terrific work, and includes interviews with many participants, notably Mike Piazza and Roger Clemens.

Whack Back at Vac

Dave Ornauer: Where is Weeb Ewbank when you need him? Or at least Walt Michaels? Vote Gase out!

Vac: I think if Walt Michaels could know he is fondly remembered by even one Jets fan that would have warmed his big, gracious heart.

William Dancosse: Is it true that Nostradamus predicted that New York City football teams would go 0-32 in 2020, or was his account hacked?

Vac: I know this will offer little comfort to those who closely follow my predictions … but I suspect New York will be 1-11 after Sunday’s games.

@PeterStarkey6: I’ve been a Bills fan since 1964 so I’m very familiar with poorly managed football teams. I feel for the hardcore Jets fans who are suffering through this season and watching the destruction of Sam Darnold’s career. Jets fans deserve better!

@MikeVacc: I’m not saying drawing sympathy from fans of a bitter 60-year division rival is necessarily rock bottom for a team … but it’s damn close.

Alan Hirschberg: Why can’t Mike Trout choose his own teammates the way LeBron does?

Vac: Who says he can’t? Flex a little, Mike!

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