Friday, January 2, 2009

The Real Team Obliterator

Skip Bayless often calls Terrell Owens "Team Obliterator" but this season we saw the real "Team Obliterator" in action: Brett Favre, the supposed savior of the New York Jets who instead led the NFL in interceptions as his team imploded down the stretch. It turns out that, contrary to what the media has tried to sell to the general public for years, Favre is not such a great teammate or such a beloved figure in the locker room (in contrast, when the media tried to stir up a hornet's nest against Owens in Dallas, players from both sides of the ball spoke up in defense of the beleaguered wide receiver).

The Jets got rid of Chad Pennington, who just two years earlier had led them to the playoffs, in favor of Favre; now Pennington has guided the Miami Dolphins to the AFC East title and outdueled Favre head to head in the final game of the season. Thomas Jones, the Jets running back who led the AFC in rushing, recently blasted Favre's performance in that game, declaring, "We're a team and we win together...but at the same time, you can't turn the ball over and expect to win. 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. If somebody is not playing well, they need to come out of the game. 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."

I do not generally put much stock in anonymous comments, because there is no way to verify who said what or to know what kind of agenda is being pushed by the reporter and/or the anonymous commenter but this Newsday story carries a mixture of attributed and anonymous statements about Favre and none of them are flattering. Safety Kerry Rhodes said, "If he's dedicated and he wants to come back and do this, and do it the right way...and be here when we're here in training camp and the minicamps and working out with us...then I'm fine with it. But don't come back if it's going to be halfhearted or he doesn't want to put the time in with us." That certainly seems to refer not only to the fact that Favre missed training camp but also suggests that Favre's effort seemed "halfhearted" after the Jets acquired him. Otherwise, why use that word at all? An anonymous player criticized Favre for being "distant" from his teammates and having a "me first" attitude; that player also said that now-fired Coach Eric Mangini rarely called out Favre after he made mistakes and several players agreed with his assessment that "Eric wasn't the reason that we didn't make the playoffs."

The Jets could have made the playoffs while being led by Pennington, a quarterback who is young enough to have several more good seasons. Instead, they shipped a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback to a division rival in order to go for broke with a 39 year old who annually pulls an Achilles in the tent routine about whether or not he really wants to go into battle. Well, the Jets went for broken and now they are broken: they missed the playoffs while strengthening a team that they will have to play two times a year and next season they will have to start over with a new coach and a new quarterback.

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