Todd Bowles called it a "business move," but behind closed doors, there were questions about Quinton Coples' passion for playing. The Jets waived the 2012 first-round pick Monday, ending a disappointing tenure that produced only 161/2 sacks.
Former Jets coach Rex Ryan and former general manager Mike Tannenbaum ignored criticism of Coples' work ethic because they loved his athleticism, but there were only flashes of that high upside in four seasons. Although the timing of Coples' release is surprising, the result wasn't. It was clear from his diminished playing time, including a season-low five snaps in Sunday's loss to the Texans, that he eventually would be a goner.
"It's not a fact of cutting a former first-round pick and trying to send a message," Bowles said on a conference call. "We're just trying to play good football players, to play guys that want to play and that are ready to play."
For all his physical gifts (6-6, 290 pounds) and quickness, Coples developed a reputation for playing football only because he was good at it, not because his heart was in it, sources said. That lack of passion was noticed inside the building, including by players, but Bowles said Coples' release was "nothing personal."
"He wanted to play," Bowles said. "I think Quinton still has a good future. He just wasn't playing with us. There were guys that were playing better.''
He said the Jets "have something in mind" to fill the roster spot but wouldn't say if they're seeking a new kick returner.
The Jets bypassed pass rushers Melvin Ingram (now a Charger) and Chandler Jones (now a Patriot) for Coples, whom Ryan likened to former Jets Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce. "He's probably athletic enough to stand up and play linebacker," Ryan said then. "[But] that's not what we brought him here to do. He's going to have his hand in the dirt."
Copies had 51/2 sacks as a rookie end, but in camp his second year, he learned his new role would be as a rushing outside linebacker. "Oh, yeah, I was put in a tough position," he told Newsday in August 2014.
With the arrival of Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan, he expected to be more productive at his original position. But Coples rarely played because he wasn't a good scheme fit, Bowles said.
"I think he was a better inside player than an outside player, but we have a slew of guys inside," he said. "He just got caught up in that 'tweener' status for us. That doesn't mean he still can't play. That just means he wasn't a fit for us.''
The roster move didn't surprise Jets defensive lineman Leger Douzable. "In this league,'' he said, "nobody's safe."