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Parsing the Jets’ incredible dysfunction, plus Joel Embiid’s injury

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Good morning! The Jets, man.

While You Were Sleeping: Joel Embiid is hurt, and everyone loses

Defending MVP Joel Embiid collapsed late in the Sixers’ loss to the Warriors last night, clutching his left knee. A depressing moment, especially in context. Quickly: 

  • Embiid has been banged up lately, missing Philadelphia’s game in Denver over the weekend. He looked hobbled throughout last night’s game, too.
  • This comes at a time when pressure mounts on stars like Embiid due to the NBA’s new 65-game eligibility threshold for major awards. Earlier in the day, Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton bemoaned the “stupid” new rule, which could cost him more than $40 million if he misses three more games and becomes ineligible for All-NBA teams. 

And now Embiid — who is on pace to record one of the most impressive seasons in NBA history — could miss a number of games (an MRI should reveal about how many). Expect plenty of discussion today on the NBA’s new rule. 

See the full update on Embiid here.

J-E-T-S: ‘A f—ing mess’

Both inside and outside the Jets facility, this was the starry vision of New York’s Aaron Rodgers era: The aging superstar quarterback, slinging dimes and buoyed by an elite defense. That team is perfect for his last run at a ring — as well as success the franchise hasn’t known since 1968. 

According to a remarkable report today from Zack Rosenblatt and Dianna Russini, that image soured many during a largely disastrous 7-10 season. It festered and created divisions as Rodgers rehabbed a torn Achilles tendon suffered literally four plays into the season.

A few anecdotes that made my eyebrows raise: 

  • The entire Rodgers-ification of the organization produced intense workplace dysfunction, particularly among coaches. Head coach Robert Saleh turned Rodgers’ absence into a rationalization. No one wins when their star quarterback gets hurt. It was justification for bad results.
  • For offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, it was worse. In Rodgers, he had a “frat brother” to conduct his offense, meaning the QB seemed in charge most of the time. Multiple coaches and players described Hackett as “lacking in attention to detail.” Not a great look for the guy coming off of a failed debut as Denver’s head coach.
  • All the negativity blossomed while Rodgers was away from the team … though he stayed in the conversation plenty thanks to his weekly segments on “The Pat McAfee Show.” Losing hurts, and having your leader critique you from thousands of miles away doesn’t help. 

And yet, once Rodgers returned? Hope returned, too. Players say Rodgers was dicing them up as scout team quarterback when he started practicing again. They even voted Rodgers the team’s most inspirational player at the end of the season, which apparently almost made him cry. 

This might already be our most interesting NFL team for 2024, no matter the result. Everyone is returning, despite the 2023 mess. So: Perfect dream season? Ticking time bomb? It’s all on the table. 

Plenty more juicy details in the full story, which you can read here. Worth your time today.

News to Know

Hockey Canada names emerge
Four NHL players — Philadelphia Flyers goalie Carter Hart, Calgary Flames forward Dillon Dube and New Jersey Devils forward Michael McLeod and defenseman Cal Foote — were charged with sexual assault in connection to the now-infamous Hockey Canada scandal, lawyers for each player confirmed to The Athletic yesterday. The path forward in this case remains unclear, as does what punishment the NHL can levy. We’ll have more on this tomorrow.

Orioles sold
The Angelos family agreed to sell the Orioles to two private equity billionaires yesterday for $1.725 billion, which just about lines up with the $1.7 billion value Forbes listed for the team last year. The deal must still be approved by the 29 other MLB owners. See the full details of the agreement here. Ken Rosenthal says the deal should provide fresh hope for Orioles fans.

Two big-name OCs return
Both Houston’s Bobby Slowik and Detroit’s Ben Johnson are returning to their respective offensive coordinator roles, despite the pair receiving significant interest on the head coaching market this offseason. Johnson’s return is particularly surprising, in a league where these opportunities are scarce and continued success is never guaranteed. Both scenarios are huge wins for the Texans and Lions, though, two teams who enter next year with soaring aspirations.

More news

Watch This Game

NHL: Kings at Predators
7:30 p.m. ET on TNT
Teams are heading into the extended break, so catch some hockey while you can. Both of these teams are clinging to playoff contention while on a small slide down the power rankings.  

NBA: Suns at Nets
8:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Kevin Durant returns to Brooklyn with his Suns on an 8-2 hot streak, while the Nets are teetering. Ben Simmons did return to the lineup Monday night and looked great, though.

Pulse Picks

Diante Lee posted a new NFL mock draft yesterday, with some interesting shake-ups in the top 10 now that coaching vacancies are filled. 

A final word on the NFL conference championship games: Mike Sando hashed out Lamar Jackson’s legacy and Dan Campbell’s decisions in his Pick Six column here. Always worth a read. 

The men’s college basketball brackets are waiting for you. Peter Keating and Jordan Brenner identified nine potential high seeds that could be ripe for upset come March. 

What’s next for Liverpool? Plans are already in motion for what the club looks like post-Jurgen Klopp. The latest episode of The Athletic Football Podcast dove into that, and what could be next for Klopp.

Need to nerd out? Dive into Eno Sarris’ 2024 MLB starting pitcher fantasy rankings, which feature a host of supercharged analytics. I always find these instructive as season previews, too. 

On a broader scale, Mark Ross updates us on projected MLB win totals for this season, including picks for over/unders. Early winners: Tigers and Pirates.

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(Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

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