A Fractured Culture
The Jets have more than a broken jaw to worry about. This is a fractured organizational culture. I focused on this very subject in my interview for their GM position a few years ago and seemed like I was speaking to a room full of Japanese tourists frantically searching through their translational dictionaries for directions to the nearest hotel. Never mind the endless gaffes and repeated guffaws that this organization continues to make, their problems lie at the very core of who they ARE.
Look across at the National Football League and closely examine the annual contenders for the Lombardi Trophy. But don’t say “Lombardi Trophy” too loud, because “They might hold you to that standard.” The perennial playoff participants are those with exceptional LEADERSHIP both on and off the field. That LEADERSHIP is personified starting from the top down within an organization.
The JETS thought cleaning house of the broken LEADERSHIP of John Idzik and Rex Ryan would put them on a new course in the AFC East. They hired a rookie head coach in Todd Bowles, widely respected for his long running resume in the NFL, but never the primary guy (interim in MIA ’11 for 3 games). Mike Maccagnan was tapped as GM, having prior served as the Houston Texans College Scouting Director for four seasons.
Both have received rave reviews from the New York and the national press for their offseason acquisitions and upbeat attitudes. The initial tendency for ANY new regime is to be received with a BIG HUG from the media and fans before ever facing a Week 1.
I would counter with this. Most unsuccessful NFL teams are not necessarily so solely based upon their lack of talent. If you go around the NFL you’ll find an amalgamation of All-Stars, albeit some a bit more than others. But the ones with true LEADERSHIP in key positions usually rise to the top. The JETS have been sorely lacking here.
I don’t know what transpired in the locker room that would leave one player with no other recourse than to punch out his starting QB. But having been in enough locker rooms to understand the dynamic interaction of players, I’d say Geno Smith was as much to blame or more than IK Enemkpali.
Descriptions of Smith’s “smug response” to Enemkpali after refusing to reimburse his teammate for travel expenses related to a prior commitment that he broke, are not indicative of what I would be looking for in the face of the franchise. I felt Smith, regardless of his talent displayed at West Virginia, was a character risk from the start. Remember the following?
Pro Football Weekly draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki delivered a scathing assessment of Smith’s skills this week, writing that the West Virginia quarterback is “not a student of the game,” “does not command respect from teammates and cannot inspire,” is “not committed or focused” and “cannot handle hard coaching.”
The JETS, like so many other clubs will do, put the need at the position over the prudence of picking a true LEADER.
Respect – earned, not given
In fairness, Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan inherited Smith. But how they’ve gone about handling the situation is up for personal interpretation. My own take is that Todd Bowles made a rather flippant remark immediately afterward, and I paraphrase, “Something 6th graders should have been able to handle,” masks a lack of deeper understanding in his team, and my guess is his team knows that.
Would a teammate of Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Ryan Flacco, or Aaron Rodgers ever even fathom of sucker punching their QB? I don’t have to answer that question, because you already know the answer. And I also bet you can give me the one or two primary reasons as to why not as well.
LEADERSHIP commands respect, but its respect that must be earned and not just frivolously handed out in an NFL locker room or from a podium mandate. No doubt Smith thought he held leverage over Enemkpali because of his “starting QB status.” Enemkpali’s “overhand right” quickly settled that inaccurate score.
Now the JETS enter the season with Ryan Fitzpatrick as their likely starter. Fitzpatrick is playing for his 6th team over an 11 year journeyman career, his 3rd in the past three seasons.
NFL.com’s Albert Breer feels this is a chance for Todd Bowles “to shine.” Bowles told Breer in a recent interview;
“They understand what I’m looking for, and I kinda got a feel for a lot of guys and what they do and what makes them tick,” he said. “We’re on an accountability system. That’s the one thing we’re trying to get accomplished — you are responsible for your job, your whereabouts, where you’re supposed to be and how you do things around here. It’s not a crack-the-whip type of thing. It’s treating them normal. This is what I want, this is what’s required; can you do this? And if you can’t, you’re not gonna be here.”
Then, boiling it down to three words, he said, “It’s on them.”
That understanding was underestimated by the first year head coach, and now he’s faced kicking off his vision for the Jets’ new program with a QB that has a 33-55-1 career record, and the eventual return of a broken mouthed Smith.
The wrong guy was waived on Wednesday (or at the very least two should have been), but that’s the NFL. A 2nd round starting QB will usually trump a 6th round special teams/backup linebacker in just about every scenario.
From experience I know there’s always a story behind the story that the fans and media never are made privy to. That story could very well be that RESPECT is razor thin in the JETS organization, and LEADERSHIP is still a rare commodity.