Stop us if you’ve heard this story before: Team has high hopes. Team collapses down stretch. Team fires coach, but players squabble amongst each other, looking to project responsibility on others.
Well, this year that exact storyline is emerging from the media circus inside the Big Apple (the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, to be exact). After clearing out his locker, Jets running back Thomas Jones wasted no time in blaming New York’s late-season collapse on quarterback/living legend/John Madden wet dream Brett Favre.
Here’s what Jones said in an interview on New York hip hop station HOT 97 FM:
“We’re a team and we win together … but at the same time, you can’t turn the ball over and expect to win,” Jones said in a taped studio interview. “The other day, the three interceptions really hurt us. I mean, that’s just reality. If I were to sit here and say, ‘Oh, man, it’s okay,’ that’s not reality. The reality is, you throw interceptions, I’m (ticked) off, I don’t like it. You know what I’m saying? I don’t like it, I know everybody else on the team doesn’t like it.”
Ouch. Not only is Jones throwing his quarterback under the bus, he’s doing so despite the fact that team ownership had already appointed its chosen scapegoat in coach Eric Mangini, the same Mangini who refrained from criticizing Favre a single time during his first season in New York, all in-game rolled eyes aside. But that didn’t stop Jones from going even farther: He thinks Favre should have been benched:
“If somebody is not playing well, they need to come out of the game,” Jones said. “You’re jeopardizing the whole team because you’re having a bad day. To me, that’s not fair to everybody else. You’re not the only one on the team.”
(Is this a guy who would throw you under the bus? Yes, yes it is.)
If that seems absurd to you, well, it probably is. Jones does have a point; Favre’s late season slump was undoubtedly one of the major factors in the team’s collapse and absence from the playoffs. He finished with 22 interceptions, the most for a Jets passer since Vinny Testaverde’s 25 in 2000 and the most in the league in 2008. A whopping nine of those came in the team’s final five games, during which the Jets went 1-4.
Making matters worse for Favre, according to an article in NEWSDAY, another Jets teammate called him “distant,” breeding self-inflicted isolation that created resentment.
But it’s not like the Jets had other options. Who was Mangini going to toss out there? Kellen Clemens? Rookie Eric Ainge? Give us a break. Either young quarterback would have been completely overwhelmed by the playoff-level pressure that hung over the AFC East. Besides, with Favre’s impeccable games-started streak, it’s not like Clemens or Ainge got significant time behind center with the Jets’ first team offense during the season.
So what happens now? Well, no one knows if Favre is planning to play in 2008. If he does come back — who are we kidding, he’ll just drag out the melodrama for three months and then agree to return with the Jets — then whoever comes in as the team’s new coach has a serious issue on his hands. Jones had a resurgent season running the ball, but Favre is clearly the team’s best chance to win now … and to sell gobs and gobs of tickets.
That’s probably a bad sign for Jones, who might be sent on his way — again (remember Chicago?) — unless Favre decides to reach out and proactively make peace with his fellow offensive catalyst. He might. After all, Favre has often seemed more realistic about his own shortcomings than most quarterbacks in the past.
But Favre is older now, he wants to be appreciated by everyone (he proved that with last year’s holdout and eventual training camp trade), and that may make keeping both Favre & Jones around an untenable proposition. If a decision has to be made, there’s not much doubt over who would be the player to go. Jets owner Woody Johnson loves Favre. It’s not apparent that he cares at all about Jones.
If Thomas is given a toodle-oo, he’ll be able to point back to one dumb interview, on a hip hop station, of all places, to chart his downfall from the Jets’ good graces.