Back in the spring of 2005, former Major League Baseball outfielder Jose Canseco generated a lot of headlines by writing a book and later testifying in front of Congress about a rampant culture of steriods in baseball and accusing former friends and teammates of steriod use. Canseco was roundly criticized for his actions. They came off as self-serving. He was out to make a quick buck and get publicity for himself at the expense of others. This was all true. Canseco's behavior was extremely self-serving. That did not discredit the substance of what he was saying, however. In the years since, the substance of Canseco's comments has been vindicated. Most of what he said proved to be deadly accurate.
When we talk about Manish Mehta's controversial article in yesterday's Daily News, there are a couple of issues at hand. One is whether teammates should express a lack of confidence in their quarterback to the press. It is pretty obvious this is the wrong way to conduct business. There is a difference, however, between being critical of the way somebody expresses a viewpoint and saying that viewpoint is invalid.
It is true that the feelings expressed by the anonymous sources never should have made it to the newspaper. The fact the feelings exist, though, is noteworthy. Respect is something earned by a quarterback, not demanded. This story is big news. It is a big deal when the entire locker room does not support its quarterback. We can talk about all kinds of internal division. Few things are as divisive in the locker room as people lacking respect for the most important player on the field. The best reporter covering the Jets said a "consensus"
wanting a different man at the position do not think Sanchez is good enough to simply be handed the starting job.
Manish Mehta is an extremely credible journalist. He has been during his entire time covering the Jets with two different publications. His Saturday features on certain people within the organization are proof of how thorough he is and the deep connections he has made within the organization. We found out last week the Jets were promoting an intern named Mike Smith to outside linebackers coach. Mehta had done a profile on the anonymous intern weeks before going into detail the work he put in with Aaron Maybin. Manish is not somebody who prints things for shock value. He is not Florio. He is not even Cimini. His track record does not suggest he is just talking to one malcontent and then framing it as gospel to manufacture a crisis and get himself publicity.
It is great to see Nick Mangold and others rush to the defense of a teammate facing public scrutiny, but he nor any of the others is in any position to comment on the validity of the article. He might feel a certain way, but he has no idea what others said to the reporter.
This might be nonsense, but it also might not be. True, you only heard positives about Sanchez's work ethic over the past three years, but nobody really knows. The team had plenty of incentive to pump up the reputation of the guy it risked and invested so much in. People change over time. Some guys might stop working or develop attitude problems suddenly. Many have remarked about Sanchez's bad body language on the field and his defeated demeanor going back to Week 4 against Baltimore. Sanchez might have taken a lot of hits because of bad offensive line play, but that comes with the territory. That doesn't make him a hero. His job when dropping back requires the knowledge he might get hit. Late in the year, there were plenty of times he shied away from a big hit and missed throws by not stepping all the way into throws when putting enough on the pass to complete it required taking a shot from an oncoming rusher. At some point, when you combine stuff like this with the comments of former teammates like Kris Jenkins and the Christmas report of the Jets considering other options, it is really starting to feel like there is an awful lot of smoke if there is no fire regarding real questions about his makeup.
Very few had a problem when even more vocal anonymous criticisms of Santonio Holmes got leaked to the media last week. Those were just as disconcerting. Given Holmes' public behavior all year, I think the reason nobody got upset is obvious. The accusations of selfishness match our perceptions of a guy who ripped his teammates in public, took a stupid and selfish penalty against the Eagles, and got himself benched on the last drive of the season. What we see in public is not the entire story, though. We do not know what happens behind the scenes. Neither does the press. The only ones who do are members of the team and its staff. Some seem to think Sanchez is not showing the stuff he needs to show. That might be true, but the troubling thing is that it shows not everybody is 100% behind the quarterback. Don't expect a cohesive unit until that happens. We all want to believe Sanchez is the answer and has the right makeup, but people in the fold who do not see this are not necessarily wrong.
I think this might end up being a good thing. This next year is going to show what Sanchez is made of. He is facing adversity. He needs to win over his locker room. Every excuse is now off the table. He has over 50 games of starting experience. The raw, young quarterback excuse is played out. So is the Schottenheimer excuse. We are about to find out whether or not Sanchez has the work ethic, the talent, and the attitude it will take to become this team's franchise quarterback. Guys who are really good tend to rise in times of adversity when they need to step up. Guys who are not tend to fade.