By Ernie Palladino
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You watched the Jets stumble and bumble for nine games and you just wondered when it had to start — the backbiting, the anonymous grumbles from within.
It happens with all losers. The record goes to 3-6, the playoffs sail further and further into the horizon, and players begin stepping forward, though not out of the shadows, to question everything from front-office decisions to coaching strategy to the color of toilet paper in the men’s room. It happens to just about every team, in every sport, which sees its season going down the tubes.
It becomes especially prominent with the Jets, however. They are perennially the big winners in the offseason Super Bowl. They sign a Brett Favre and it blows up in their faces, and unnamed sectors call him a selfish, secretive player.
This year, they signed Tim Tebow. Big win. Big news to knock that other team in town — the one that actually wins real Lombardi Trophies — from any kind of newsworthiness.
So is it any wonder that Wednesday, as the Jets struggle to right their Titanic of a season, more than a dozen players and team personnel told the Daily News that Tebow is nothing more than a gimmick, and not a particularly successful one at that.
Of course, those who bothered noticing how Tebow has performed under the bland plans of Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano can readily see that this likeable young man is a total bust of an acquisition. The brain trust uses him unwisely, and when called upon he produces little. Ryan said Wednesday that he’s a most willing participant to whatever little roles the two have for him, be it at quarterback, Wildcat runner, or receiving decoy. But the fact is, Tebow simply hasn’t given his two bosses anything to think about.
And now the choir, mostly safe in the dark corners of the loft, has begun its Gregorian chant, begging for a redeemer in its soft, secretive tones.
At least Matt Slauson was man enough to put his name to a backhanded critique when he was asked to pick sides. He preferred Mark Sanchez, and said, “We don’t really have a choice.”
By that, he meant that third-stringer Greg McElroy is far from ready for prime time. And Tebow? Could the Jets win with Tebow as a starting quarterback?
“Do I have to answer that question?” Slauson said, his head shaking.
That’s enough of an answer right there. Would it were that all the other folks the newspaper spoke to went that far and put their names to it. At least then, poor Tebow would know where he stood in the locker room.
The criticism has begun, and if history holds true the next target will be Ryan himself. It won’t be a surprise, either. Players love to go after losing coaches. It happened with the Jets before, and with the Giants during bad times. The anonymous griping grew so intense in 1992 that Ray Handley and his assistants basically barricaded themselves in their offices to avoid their disgruntled players.
Of that group, only the beefy guard, William Roberts, stood up to be publicly counted. Respect for Handley had eroded so badly that Roberts didn’t give a second thought to sitting down with a reporter for 15 minutes to rip him up and down.
When reminded that he hadn’t proclaimed his comments off the record, Roberts looked the reporter straight in the eye and said, “I don’t care. Go ahead, print it.”
Slauson’s comments don’t quite approach that brazenness. At least he stood behind whatever words he did say.
One should now wonder how long it will be before players get fed up with Ryan for the peripatetic use of a quarterback who doesn’t throw well, but might run well if not for the coaching staff announcing his presence — and their plans — by using him in a confined, obvious, and toothless Wildcat role.
The long knives have come out. If the Jets don’t beat the Rams Sunday, the voices will only grow louder and the knives sharper.
That’s what happens with losing teams. Right now, the Jets stand deep in that list.
Your thoughts on the anonymous griping? Be heard in the comments below…