Sports Illustrated and New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis recreating the iconic Broadway Joe Namath cover 50 years later is a dope concept. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the sight of Revis on the cover didn’t conjure up ill thoughts of the famed SI cover curse. With all of the hype surrounding Revis returning “home” and how he never wanted to leave in the first place, it all sounds a little too good to be true. But, I’m going to do something that’s extremely difficult for most Jets fans. Keep it positive. And also hope that the marvelous reunion between Revis and the Jets has the greatest fairytale story ending ever told.
While much has been made about the best cover man in the NFL covering SI, the 50th anniversary issue (sort of) has a lot to offer beyond that. Peep a few things I learned about Revis including his motivation for getting paid, what President Obama said to him during his emotional White House visit, how he plans to live life post-retirement, the business lesson we can all apply and tons more.
1. Revis never wanted to leave the New York Jets.
“I feel like I’ve been on the road the last two years,” Revis says. “I never wanted to leave. “I’m coming home.”
2. Revis strongly dislikes being viewed as a money hungry mercenary.
Revis hates the “mercenary” label. In his mind, people who call him that believe that he plays only for money.
3. Prior to the interview, Revis intercepted quarterback Geno Smith during practice. Was that Geno being Geno? Or Revis being Revis?
He’s in town for the Floyd Mayweather — Manny Pacquiao fight in early May, having arrived on a private plane with new teammate Brandon Marshall and a few other close friends not long after closing a Jets practice with an interception of Geno Smith.
4. It’s impossible to ignore that Revis is about his money, but I didn’t realize to what extent he’s an anomaly.
Since the Jets traded himto Tampa Bay in April 2013, Revis has signed three contracts with three teams for $68 million in guaranteed salary. He earned $17 million in ’13 ($1 million from the Jets, the rest from the Buccaneers) and $12 million in ’14 (from the Patriots), and he will accrue at least $39 million in his latest deal with New York. Should he play all five seasons of this pact, he would push his career earnings to $155 million. That’s quarterback money — and it doesn’t even count for endorsements with the lies of Nike and Bose. Through eight seasons Revis has banked $85 million. He’s earned more than all but two players in his 2007 draft class: Calvin Johnson and Joe Thomas, who play two of the highest-paid positions in football, receiver and left tackle. Three-time All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson has made $13 million less.
5. When it comes to Revis navigating the business side of the NFL, there’s a lesson in here for all of us about recognizing your value and demanding to be paid what you think you’re worth.
If Revis were a lawyer, an entrepreneur or a hedge-fund manager, he would be lauded for his business acumen and negotiating skills. But in the world of pro football he’s seen as someone who refuses hometown discounts and holds teams hostage to boost his salary. Depending on who’s talking, he’s a genius or an All-Pro for hire (there’s that mercenary thing again” or simply an outlier — sometimes all three at once.
Revis wrestles with the logic of NFL economics. Teams will cut underperforming players or tear up contracts after poor seasons, but when those same players exceed expectations, teams ask them to honor whatever agreement they signed. Franchises that win the most (see: Patriots, New England) ask their best performers to play for less money so they can sign even more top talent and continue to win and continue to sign more players…at a discount…to win more games. “We’re fighting against 32 billionaires,” Revis says. “A lot of guys are brainwashed, feeding into the system. It’s genius how the NFL did it.”
Revis sees the NFL as he does any other business. It’s a fallacy that all anyone wants to do is win. Everyone wants to win, but also to cash in — and not necessarily in that order. He knows that sounds selfish. He doesn’t expect sympathy. The NFL Players Association, he points out, bargained for the current labor agreement, one that Revis has worked to his advantage the way few non-QBs have.
6. Revis wasn’t the first person in his family to holdout. He learned his savvy ways from his uncle and former NFL player, Sean Gilbert — the main brain in the Revis camp, or Revis Mafia, as it’s referred to in the article.
In 1997, when he was 12, Revis lived in Aliquippa, Pa., a depressed former steel-mill town outside Pittsburgh. His uncle, Sean Gilber, was in town that fall, which was strange because Gilbert was a Pro Bowl defensive tackle who’d been taken with the third pick in the ’92 draft. Gilbert would play 11 NFL seasons, but not one snap in 1997. He staged a holdout against the Redskins that year before signing a seven-year, $47 million deal with the Panthers. Revis’s approach to football finance too shape right then, based on two concepts that his uncle employed: leverage and pressure. Gilbert’s talent produced leverage; his willingness to withhold that talent applied pressure. “Most players, the shield blinds them,” Gilbert says. “They feel privileged to play this game. They don’t realize they’ve been building their their resume. They’re qualified. This is their job. They’re assets.”
7. Revis was a basketball player first and received a full ride to on a basketball scholarship to Western Kentucky.
Later, he played basketball well enough that Western Kentucky offered a full ride.
8. His holdout ritual sounds like an extremely good time.
He’s even developed what can best be described as a holdout ritual: He heads to Florida, walks the beach and rides Jet Skis like some real-life Kenny Powers. “It’s peaceful,” he says. “Out in the ocean. Water crashing on the shore. Seagulls. Fish. “That’s how I dealt with all of it.”
9. He’s definitely not blinded to the fact that Geno Smith ain’t got it.
After Revis sat up front at Ryan’s initial press conference, they together made consecutive trips to the AFC championship game, losing both. At one point during his tour of New York, Revis mentions how this year’s Jets will have to win the same way those past New York teams did, with defense and an unproven quarterback, now Geno Smith.
10. A Tampa exec may have one of the trillest autographed jerseys of all time.
Revis never fit in Tampa. By his own admission his knee wasn’t healthy. The Bucs started 0-8. Their Cover Two defensive scheme meant that Revis blanketed portions of the field more often than he did elite receivrs, as had been his forte in New York. His lost season can best be summarized by the Jersey Revis signed for one Tampa exec on the way out. “Thanks for letting me leave,” he wrote.
11. Revis knew the chances of the Pats picking up his second-year/$20 mil option was a longshot.
Two teams wanted to take on the contract Tampa had given Revis, but he scuttled both deals because he didn’t think either club could contend. Instead, he signed a one-year free-agent deal with the Patriots that included a team option for a second season at $20 million. No one, not even Revis, expected New England to pick up that option, a demonstration of how deceiving NFL contracts can be on the surface. “I hope the world knows the option was never going to happen,” Revis says.
12. After signing with the Jets, Revis was nervous to visit the White House and see his old teammates.
In April, he joined his rivals-turned-teammates-turned-rivals-again as they traveled from Foxborough to their White House visit. He was nervous, but they embraced him. President Obama greeted him like an old friend. “Hey, Revis Island,” Obama joked.
13. When Revis holdsout, he’s doing it for his culture.
He believes every time he holds out for a bigger contract, he’s making more money for the next guy at his position, for the next superstar locked an impasse with some team.
14. Revis has negotiated with teams so often, he’s lost count.
“Money is not the focal point,” he says. “People get it misconstrued because of what I’ve done [with contracts]. I think this is my fifth deal. Fifth or six. I don’t know — one of them. I done lost count.”
15. When Revis decided to leave New England, more than half the league expressed interest and he chose the 4-12 New York Jets. That’s really love.
About two dozen team reached out after Revis became available this off-season, including the Chiefs, Packers, Ravens, and Steelers.
16. The exact amount of Revis’s annual payout has personal significance.
The Jets made the average yearly salary of Revis’s contract $14,024,212 — 24 for his jersey number, 212 for Manhattan’s area code. And with that, Revis once again became the highest-paid cornerback in professional football.
17. Now that he’s paid, Revis ain’t worried about nothing, but ballin’.
For Revis, it’s all about football now. “Look,” he says, “if you caught a pass on me right now, I’d rip your shirt up. It’s like that. I’m passionate. I want to win. Don’t get it twisted. I’m with a new team now, I’m back home, where I belong. All the negotiations and the other crazy stuff is behind me.”
18. Revis intends to maintain a low profile post-retirement.
“When I retire, I’m going to be a ghost,” he says. “I won’t ride off in a convertible, because I don’ have no hair. But I’ll ride off into the sunset.”
It took Namath three years after this cover shoot to deliver a Super Bowl championship to the New York Jets. Hopefully history repeats itself, but in a more timely manner. The NFL season is 49 days away. #LEGGO
photos via SI