NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

Before he caught the game-winning touchdown for the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, wide receiver Mecole Hardman was a New York Jet. After spending the first four years of his career in Kansas City, Hardman signed a one-year, $6.5 million contract with the Jets last offseason, signing on to be one of the top passing-game options for Aaron Rodgers

Of course, things did not work out that way. Rodgers was injured just four snaps into the Jets' season, and Hardman did not have anything resembling a full-time role. In six games with New York, he played just 28 offensive snaps -- a 10% rate. By the time the Jets played the Chiefs in Week 4, Hardman had played just 16 snaps in three games, including zero in Week 1 against the Bills.

At that point, "I was so checked out, like, it was over with," Hardman said during an appearance on The Pivot podcast. "I had already talked to (Chiefs general manager Brett) Veach and Pat (Mahomes), like, 'Come get me.'" 

Two weeks later, the Chiefs did exactly that, sending a sixth-round pick to New York for Hardman and a seventh-rounder. As for why he wanted out of New York, Hardman said, "It's the lies and the way they handled me. I didn't like it at all."

Jets general manager Joe Douglas had the opportunity to get New York's side of the story on the record Wednesday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, and he framed Hardman's situation as having more to do with the emergence of others on the team like undrafted wideout Xavier Gipson. The rookie made a strong opening impression with a 65-yard, game-winning punt return touchdown that give Gang Green a 22-16 overtime win over the Bills in Week 1. 

"Look, not to get into any specifics on what Mecole said. I'll just say we were excited to sign Mecole, he was excited to join our team," Douglas said, via SportsNet New York. "It was a situation (where) Xavier Gipson really came on for us this year and he did an outstanding job for us. Ultimately we made the decision to move on from Mecole. Our process of that and Mecole, he was excited to be here and it just didn't work out. A lot of that has to do with Xavier."

Douglas declined to get into the specifics of if the Jets will ask the league to hit the Chiefs with tampering charges.

"I'll just say those are comments that definitely resonated with us," he said.

Apparently, Hardman thought he was headed for a larger role within the offense. He also ripped offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and the team's overall offensive plan, which crumbled in Rodgers' absence. 

"You just got a new (offensive) coaching staff that came in and there's no standard there. Everybody does what they want to do," Hardman said. "Granted, the defense has more of a stabilized standard with the coaching staff on that side, so the defense has a standard. But the offense is just like, 'We'll just figure it out. It's Aaron's show. Let Aaron do what Aaron does.' Then when Aaron goes down, it's like we don't know what to do."

It's hard to argue with Hardman's characterization of the Jets' offense, but given the talent level of the receivers on New York's roster, some blame for his lack of playing time has to be laid at his own feet. Garrett Wilson obviously had a (deservedly) guaranteed role and Allen Lazard signed a sizable contract to play with Rodgers, but Hardman being unable to beat out the rest of the wide receiver corps for snaps is on him. 

Even after he returned to the Chiefs, he didn't play anything close to the same complement of snaps (33%) that he did during his previous four years with the team (45-53%). He then played a maximum of 38% of snaps in the playoffs, but had just two catches during the AFC playoff run (and had two fumbles, including a massive lost fumble against the Bills) before his massive, three-catch, 57-yard, game-winning-touchdown performance against the 49ers in the Super Bowl.