With all the talk in and out of the New York Jets' locker room — of Rex Ryan losing the team, of Santonio Holmes sulking and giving less than his best, of Mark Sanchez being far less than the team expected, and of the front office's personnel decisions falling short — it wasn't until a rookie backup quarterback who was hurt all season and didn't even play in the regular season opened his mouth that we got a real sense of just how dysfunctional the Jets organization has become.
Former Alabama standout Greg McElroy told Birmingham's 97.3 The Zone just what went on in the Jets' utter disappointment of the 2011 season, and it's safe to say that all heck will break loose when McElroy's comments hit home.
"It's definitely not a fun place to be, I can assure you," McElroy said. "It's the first time I've ever been around extremely selfish individuals, and I think that's maybe the nature of the NFL. But there were people within our locker room that didn't care whether we won or lost, as long as they got their ... they really had good games individually. That's the disappointing thing, and it's going to take a lot to kind of come together."
McElroy was placed on injured reserve with a thumb injury before the season began, but he was in meetings all season and saw everything that went on. You could argue that McElroy was just a scrub, but in a way, that gives his testimony even more weight -- he has no equity in that team. He's a seventh-round pick and an easy cut if the Jets want to do that. Still, he felt compelled to talk about what he saw.
"I think the fact that we struggled at times this year really led to a really just corrupt mindset within the locker room. But I think we're going to regroup, and I know we're going to be a better team because of the trials and tribulations this year."
OK … sounds like a stretch there. What is the source of that hopefulness?
"Quite frankly, if you go down the roster this year, there is no reason why we shouldn't have made a Super Bowl run," McElroy said. "The talent top to bottom is pretty remarkable. It's a disappointing thing, is the fact that it doesn't matter how much talent you have, if you don't come together as a group, and kind of just figure things out, and try to withstand the difficulties of the season, then you are just never going to amount to anything.
"[Alabama] Coach [Nick] Saban preached that over and over again, and I think this is probably the first time that it ever really applied because you had people that refused to buy in. And I don't know if those people are going to be here next year."
In other words, there were players on a Jets team that was supposed to win a Super Bowl who were mentally weaker than a college team generally in the hunt for the national championship (though not so in 2010). Holmes was perhaps the most obvious personification of what ailed the Jets in 2011. Benched in the team's season-finale loss to the Miami Dolphins, the team captain (yes, he is) was taken to task by other players for his way of doing things.
"I'll tell you what, it's tough for guys to follow a captain that kind of behaves in that manner. You're a captain, guys looking at you. You've got to lead by example," LaDainian Tomlinson said of Holmes after that game. "You've got to play your tail off until the last play. And when that doesn't happen, you will have guys look at you in the way that captains shouldn't be looked at. You should always put yourself out there as a leader."
Lest you think the Jets' division opponents aren't engaging in a bit of schadenfreude after all that bragging and brio, here's what Tom Brady had to say about the team his Patriots swept on the way to the AFC's one-seed. From WEEI:
"Yeah, there's a few websites I like where they have all the New York papers. I read a few of those articles. I would be remiss not to. They had a tough year. I'm glad we beat them twice. That was a huge key to our season, that win against the Jets in the Meadowlands. We'll see them next year. They're not going anywhere. I'm sure they'll come back with just as much confidence next year."
Brady said that last part with quite a bit of sarcasm, as well he should. The Jets are now in a position where they have all the braggadocio in the world but with very few observers taking them seriously. And until they put the game before the talk again, that's how it will be.
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