‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.
The Twitter accounts of media and fans grew hot with reaction to backup quarterback Greg McElroy’s illuminating account of life in the Jets’ 2011 locker room, as related in a Birmingham, Al. radio interview.
Some, even in the media, called him an “entitled brat” for spilling the beans over the dissension that tore at the team throughout the season. The rookie watched it all from the injured reserve list, the result of preseason thumb surgery.
Others supported him, calling him as brave as future Hall-of-Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, the only other Jet to go on the record about Santonio Holmes’ disgraceful behavior against Miami, which marked only the apex of the toxicity level in Rex Ryan’s locker room.
Although the team’s eminent general manager Mike Tannenbaum might disagree, he and Ryan should pin a medal on both men for their openness. Tannenbaum, of course, said in a radio interview with WFAN Wednesday that he didn’t think the problem was all that bad, which basically puts him in the same windowless stable as Ryan.
Be that as it may, there is little doubt that the Jets had a problem. And there is far lesser reason to doubt McElroy than there is to believe Tannenbaum.
This, McElroy basically said, is a sick team in need of a 12-step program.
The first step to any 12-step program is admission that one has a problem in the first place.
That’s all Tomlinson and McElroy did. They shed light on the problem in a very public way. For that, they should be praised, not vilified.
Think of it this way. What if all this had come to light right after the 45-19 loss to Philadelphia, about the time numerous anonymous Jets said Holmes had basically checked out on the season? Ryan, who undoubtedly reads everything even if he never stepped into the daily locker room to check the pulse of HIS team, might have had an inkling that all was not well.
He might have made his impassioned plea before the last two games, not after, reminding his team that the playoffs were still within reach if they just beat the Giants.
The “corrupt” mindset, as McElroy termed it, might have turned temporarily.
Well, that didn’t happen, of course. Everybody kept their mouths shut. After it all collapsed, McElroy and Tomlinson came forward.
Now it’s a question of whether those two will simply be the messengers of the mess, or whether they’ll become part of the solution next season. Tomlinson could head off into retirement. How the Jets will deal with McElroy is still up in the air.
Even the quarterback admitted there will be many changes, probably to the troublemakers as Tannenbaum and Ryan ferret them out. But the ancient Greeks also used to kill the messenger of bad news, too, a tradition the Jets could well uphold as they deal with McElroy down the road.
Trading him or releasing him in a punitive action would be a mistake. He apparently has the talent to push Mark Sanchez, something the Jets need as much as a chemical peel.
Ryan and Tannenbaum should give him that opportunity, and maybe a raise for doing the Jets a real service.
He shed light on a major problem.
Now, all Ryan and Tannenbaum have to do is admit to having one. No soft-soaping. No equivocation.
It’s the first step in turning things around.
Should McElroy be praised or criticized for speaking out?