Current Chicago Bears and former New York Jets defensive end Vernon Gholston wasn't content with having a bad enough day after the New York Giants beat the Bears in a 41-13 thrashing. After the game, Gholston had a few pops for Jets head coach Rex Ryan, a man whom Gholston believes never gave him a fair shake.
"I heard how he was perceiving me before the  draft, before he knew me, and I was the same way -- I wasn't hoping for him to be [my] first coach of the Jets when I was there, either," Gholston said.
Selected sixth overall in the 2008 NFL draft out of Ohio State in the Jets' pre-Ryan administration, Gholston has been one of the biggest draft busts in recent NFL history; he has never recorded a sack in his NFL career, he has just five starts in three seasons, and according to Football Outsiders' metrics, he was involved in just nine total defensive plays last season. That's not per-snap participation, mind you — that's the number of plays in 2010 in which Gholston actually made any sort of impact. Nine.
Add in the fact that Gholston was inactive for all three of the Jets' postseason games in the 2010 season, and it was not a surprise that the Jets released him in early March. Gholston signed with the Bears in late July.
And according to Gholston, that series of moves was more about Ryan failing to see his talent than anything else.
Saying that his departure from the Jets was a "needed move," Gholston sounded quite entitled when discussing his status under Ryan. "Being a first-round pick, you would have hoped for more [of a chance]," he said. "Rex made a comment to me when he first came in that he thought I wasn't liked by the guys on the team, then once he got there he saw that wasn't the case. Those perceptions kind of determine the outcome, and it's sad to say.
"Teams are always looking for talent, and to say I don't have talent is a far stretch," he continued. "It's all about getting a fair shot and time in the system. With the Jets, it was constant position change and coaching change. There was no stability. I never really had that with the Jets."
Hmm. Well, that's one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is that Gholston came out of Ohio State as a freakish athlete and a very underdeveloped football player. He never got the hang of the NFL, and while it's true of some players that they need a better scheme fit for their talents before they can turn it on, it's the rare player who washes out in a Rex Ryan defense and goes on to succeed elsewhere.
Gholston's more personal comments about Ryan are another matter, because Ryan had put a lot of thought into the player's future when he took the Jets' head-coaching position before the 2010 season. From his May 2011 book, Play Like You Mean It:
It's like how I've been dealing with Vernon Gholston … people were thinking it would be easy for me to get rid of him. Truth be told, I didn't like the kid coming out of college. He's a good athlete and a smart guy, but I thought he was a phony. We had him come to Baltimore, and I just didn't believe in him. I even told [former Jets coach Eric] Mangini not to draft him. Well, suddenly he was on my team, and I was going to have to work with him. I was not just going to give up on him — that's too easy. I thought, "He's one of my guys now, and I'll be damned if he's going to feel like that. He's going to know that I'm in his corner and I'm trying like hell to get him to play better."
I want him to see everything I'm about, so all those pictures I painted of him in 2008 — you know what I'm going to do? The same thing I did with the paint over the window in my office. I'm taking it down.
Ryan also talked about improving the on-field environment for Gholston:
Two guys I dumped in a hurry were tight end Chris Baker and linebacker Eric Barton … [Barton's] idea of trying to motivate Vernon Gholston was to rip the guy, yelling at him all the time that he wasn't giving enough effort, that he wasn't playing hard, that he wasn't measuring up. That's not showing respect. Those guys never respected the guys they played with.
Whatever you may or may not like about Rex Ryan, there is one absolutely true thing about the man. He connects with his players — indeed, any players — in a rare fashion. I remember hearing at the 2010 scouting combine that several of the draft prospects were asked which NFL coach they'd most like to play for … and Ryan won in a landslide. In addition, you have to look at Ryan's particular genius for extracting the best out of defensive players with his complex and aggressive schemes.
If Gholston didn't buy what Ryan was selling, he was in the minority — that's pretty clear. If he couldn't make it there, can he make it anywhere?
- Vernon Gholston
- New York Jets