Well, it’s not like the Jets are being subtle about any of this. There is no ambiguity attached at all to what they are doing, and what they aspire to, and where they wish to go. No half-measures now. No innocent climb. No hedged bets.

The Jets are all-in. Period. End of story. End of argument. They reached a deal with Dalvin Cook on Monday, adding a few extra watts of star power — and more than a few extra dollops of controversy — to what is already a fascinatingly combustible — or is that combustibly fascinating? — assemblage of a roster.

Cook brings four straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons with him from Minnesota to New York. He also lugs dueling clouds of alleged domestic abuse charges and the alleged offer of $1 million to his accuser to keep the matter quiet. This is not a slip-him-in-through-the-side-door transaction. He is a big talent, undoubtedly; time will tell if he is also proven to be big trouble. The Jets now own all of that.

And they now also own exactly one chosen pathway where this can all seem even remotely worth it all: They have to win the Super Bowl.

It’s absurd, of course. And unprecedented. Think of the greatest teams of the Super Bowl era, any of them: the Steelers dynasty, the Niners dynasty, the Patriots dynasty, the ’72 Dolphins and the ’85 Bears and the ’86 Giants. All of those teams surely spent their summer believing they were good enough to win a championship. Did any of them truly break camp knowing they had no other choice to do it or else suffer calamitous consequence? Of course not.

With the Jets, there is no other choice.


Vikings
Dalvin Cook is signing with the Jets.
Getty Images

With the Jets, there’s no longer any room for a solid 10-7 season followed by a feisty wild-card game loss. There is no longer any room for a 12-5 cruise that ends with a hard-fought loss at Arrowhead Stadium in the AFC Championship game. Hell, there’s not even room for a 14-3 dream ride that culminates with a bruising Super Bowl loss to the Eagles.

It’s a title or bust. For better or for worse.

And of course all-in is different, much different, than shoo-in. A lot can happen to a team anyway between September and February in a sport where the twist of a shoulder or the snap of a leg can send everything careening into a ditch. Now add one of the 10 best quarterbacks of all time, who brings his own personality quirks to the locker room. And now Cook — who will be expected to pick up in East Rutherford where he left off in Minneapolis as a weekly source of production and dependability — who adds even more baggage to the team’s overhead bin.


Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers has another big offensive weapon in Dalvin Cook.
Noah K. Murray-NY Post

(And there will be plenty of time to fret over how much any of that will matter if the offensive line doesn’t keep making strides from now until Sept. 12 … )

And look: If the Jets can actually honor these expectations that they’ve foisted upon themselves, that will also be among the greatest football stories ever told. Just remember how hard it is to be the hunted every week. Remember how much swagger the ’07 Pats accumulated along the way for 18 straight wins … and even they weren’t good enough to run through the finish line.

And those Pats were already fully versed in the elements of expectation. These Jets? However much they may have individually accomplished in the face of scrutiny before, they’ve never done it as a group. This coaching staff certainly never has. And suddenly everyone is going to be graded against the ultimate prize in the sport. No learning curve. No half measures.


Jets head coach Robert Saleh
Jets head coach Robert Saleh
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

No hedged bets.

There is no place for a cute, loveable story here. Not anymore. The Jets have one bar to clear and it’s the most difficult one of all. Good luck to them. It’s going to be fascinating and combustible show week after week.