After Quinton Coples was let go, GGN member Traveling Man had an interesting take in the comments section.
Jimmy Johnson was noted for cutting players to give his team a wake-up call. He usually cut someone who had made a bonehead play in the previous game, and the player usually was a marginal one to begin with, but it sent a message.
It is true. Johnson did cut players to send a message. There was one famous episode where a linebacker named John Roper fell asleep in a meeting and was cut.
Johnson was later asked what he would have done if it was star quarterback Troy Aikman who fell asleep in the meeting instead. Johnson honestly answered, "I'd go over and whisper, 'Wake up, Troy.'"
This might strike you as a double standard. It might be a double standard, but that is the way the NFL works. Star players get more leeway than average guys. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar business. You cannot expect coaches who need wins to be heavy handed with top players they need to win games. You might say it shouldn't be that way. You might be right, but it is that way. Coaches had better hope their stars are model citizens on their own and/or that the coach can find some way to reach them in a more gentle way.
Dealing with the rest of the roster leaves more options on the table. With that in mind, I appreciate the message Todd Bowles sent to the roster yesterday when Quinton Coples was let go. Even if it was not the primary motivation behind the move, anybody who isn't a star is going to look at a move like this and realize they might be next. If you are a depth piece, the message is clear. You need to bring it every day in practice because this team might be looking for my replacement if you show any signs of weakness. You are an average player. If you don't go out and do everything within your power to help the team, we can find an average player who can.
For me this was one of the great frustrations near the end of the Rex Ryan Era. Players have openly talked about a lack of accountability on the team during that time.
After the IK Enemkpali-Geno Smith incident in preseason, the Jets promptly dumped Enemkpali. It was an obvious move to make because it sent a crystal clear message. There will be zero tolerance for this type of behavior. At that time, I thought to myself that Rex Ryan might not have cut Enemkpali. The way Rex ran things, there might have been some slap on the wrist with Rex defending him to the press saying something like, "This is my guy. He just made a mistake." I then laughed it off thinking I was being too hard on Rex. Even he would make this obvious move.
Rex subsequently proved my first instinct correct by claiming Enemkpali off waivers and admitting he had done so before even speaking with the player to see how remorseful IK was. The message was clear. When you are Rex's boy, there are no consequences for anything. We saw how well that worked for the Jets the last few years.
You don't need to cut every underperforming player. You don't need to bench every player in a slump. Every now and then, though, I think you do need to send a reminder there is accountability on the roster. With that in mind, I view yesterday's move as a cultural message as much as anything. We can talk about how much money the Jets spent over the offseason, but this is year one of a new regime. The most important part of this season might be installing a new culture.
This is but one aspect of good coaching. It will not guarantee success, but I think these messages like these are important all the same.