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Why New York Jets shouldn’t give up on Jermaine Kearse

Jermaine Kearse’s best moment as a professional football player came at MetLife Stadium, where he won Super Bowl XLVIII as a member of the Seahawks.

This season, some of his most frustrating moments have come there.

The Jets wide receiver has had a season to forget at one of the worst times for a professional athlete — in a contract year. Kearse has caught 33 passes for 316 yards and one touchdown this season. His struggles have been surprising because he posted career highs in 2017, his first season with the Jets.

“Does it keep me up at night? No, but do I think about it? I do, especially coming off my best year and going into my contract year,” Kearse told The Post on Wednesday. “Some things changed and things didn’t go quite as I thought they would. You just have to find ways to deal with it and do the best you can and stay in it, stay mentally in it. It’s something I’ve been kind of battling. I’m sure I’m not the only one.”

Kearse chose his words carefully and never referred to offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates by name, but clearly what has changed with the Jets from last year to this is the switch from John Morton to Bates. Kearse has been less of a focal point of the offense. Some weeks it is like he is an afterthought. He has two games this season with zero catches.

Through it all, Kearse has remained a professional. That is why the Jets wanted him in the Sheldon Richardson trade with the Seahawks before last season. The second-round pick the Jets received was the main ingredient, but Kearse was more than just a throw-in. The Jets needed an adult in the receivers room after losing Quincy Enunwa to a neck injury.

Kearse has been a pro’s pro since coming to the Jets, helping the younger receivers learn how to do their jobs. This season, his locker has been next to rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, and no one has been a bigger advocate for the 21-year-old, who Kearse said he believes is going to be a star.

The 28-year-old receiver will be a free agent in March. It seems unlikely the Jets will bring him back after this disappointing season. But they should consider a one-year deal to see if Kearse can rebound with a different coordinator.

Kearse has proven himself in this league. With the Seahawks, he made one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, but it has been largely forgotten because of Malcolm Butler’s interception two plays later that handed Seattle a loss. Kearse caught the go-ahead touchdown in Seattle’s NFC Championship wins following the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He has a Super Bowl touchdown, too.

It isn’t like Kearse can’t play. So, the Jets should take a closer look and see if this season has an explanation.

As a group, the receivers have had a disappointing year. Some of that can be attributed to playing with a rookie quarterback for most of the year. But some of it has to do with the scheme the offense has used.

“We had really high expectations for ourselves,” Kearse said. “We didn’t pay attention to any of the noise or what people thought of us. We’ve got ballplayers. I know I can play in this league and play efficiently or I would not have been in this league for seven years.
Quincy can do the same thing and Robby [Anderson] as well, any guy in our room. It’s definitely been frustrating for us.”

Kearse is one of the most accountable Jets. He sits at his locker after every loss and takes questions from the media. He has had to answer about 1,000 “what’s wrong with this offense?” questions this season and has not bristled at having to take them.

“At the end of the day, I’ve got to hold myself accountable and make the most of the cards dealt,” Kearse said. “I hold myself accountable out there as much as anyone.”

Kearse is the type of locker-room presence the team needs as it tries to get on the winning path. The Jets should think about keeping him this offseason and giving him the chance to have a few more big moments at MetLife in their uniform.

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