Why Trevor Lawrence should take big gamble on the Jets

We know a thing or two in New York City about how quarterbacks can engineer their careers when they truly want to. Specifically, we have seen the machinations of the Manning family, one brother tap-dancing away from New York, one brother diving in.

Once upon a time, Peyton Manning decided to use the final year of his college eligibility to stay at Tennessee. He won neither the Heisman nor the national title for his troubles but did avoid the Jets, who were picking first in the 1997 draft. It’s hard to argue with how it worked out for him, two Super Bowls and almost 72,000 yards later.

Seven years later, Eli Manning decided to play hardball with the San Diego Chargers, who had the first pick of the 2004 draft, teaming with his dad, Archie, to warn the Chargers off picking him. They picked him anyway, then received a nice payout of draft picks from the Giants. It’s hard to argue with how that worked out for him, two Super Bowls and over 57,000 yards later.

(We can only assume that somehow, some way, if the Jets and Giants are still residing amid the NFL’s dregs in 2026 — and who’s betting against that? — that Arch Manning, son of Cooper, grandson of Archie, will figure out a way to toy with New York’s heartstrings again when he’s coming out of Ole Miss or LSU or whatever campus stopover he selects.)

So we know both sides of the game Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is playing now, whether he is doing so wittingly or not. There’s been a whole lot of speculating around here about the Jets and the No. 1 pick next spring, an inevitability when the Jets seem locked on cruise control toward 0-16.

Until now, it’s mostly been fun and games and speculation: we photo-shopped him in a Jets uniform the other day here at The Post. Some have urged Lawrence to do everything in his power to avoid the dystopian dysfunction that defines the Jets right now. Lawrence himself added a few kilos of kerosene to that Tuesday when he said on a Zoom call:

“My mindset has been that I’m going to move on. But who knows? There’s a lot of things that could happen.”

There is indeed a lot that could happen.

Here’s what should happen:

Lawrence should embrace the challenge of the Jets — and, make no mistake, it is a challenge of epic proportions. Right now, he has no idea who his coach would be here. It probably won’t be Adam Gase, but it sure seems like it might take an executive order to compel Christopher Johnson to actually make that move. The Jets are a mess, every bit as much of a tire fire as any team holding the precious commodity of a No. 1 overall pick has ever been.

But here’s the thing:

We keep trying to find the “next Joe Namath” among the parade of quarterbacks — young phenoms and washed-out veterans and every other iteration in between — who have come after Joe Willie since he last played for the Jets 44 years ago. We always look for the arm that will signal a true successor, or the colorful personality, or the embrace of fame and glitz. When we talk of Namath it is always in the context of stars.

We underplay his stones.

We always forget the courage it took for Namath to pick the Jets in the spring of 1965. Yes, they threw gobs of money at him. But the Jets of ’65 were every bit as pathetic as the present incarnation, unloved and virtually unwanted in their own city, a team that had never had a winning season, never sniffed a playoff game. Namath himself has said he always dreamed of playing in the NFL; the St. Louis Cardinals gave him that chance. He could easily have chosen the establishment. Easily could have taken that fortified path.

He chose New York instead. He chose Broadway. He chose to make something out of nothing in New York, and he became more than a success, more than a star — he became an icon. He was Bachelors III and “The Brady Bunch” and “C.C. & Company” with Ann-Margret as his co-star and Raquel Welch on his arm. He became an idol to generations of football fans. And, yes, he became a champion, too, and a Hall of Famer.

Would he have done that in St. Louis?

Would “Joplin Joe” have quite the same ring to it?

Look, there are plenty of reasons Lawrence should take Peyton Path instead of Eli Way, finagle his way away from New York, away from the Jets, away from the Johnson Brothers, and some of that logic might even make perfect sense. Or he could bet on himself, bet on his talent, bet on a city that is begging for a reason to baptize him with adoration.

Sure, it’s a gamble.

Fifty-five years ago, another star quarterback with equal parts gift and gumption took a similar spin of the wheel. And look how it worked out for him.

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