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From: Barry Petchesky
To: Daniel Engber, Seth Stevenson
Nobody does offseason talk-radio bullshit quite like the New York Jets. And nobody does shit-stirring quite like the New York tabloids. So when the Daily News devotes front and back covers to a malcontent locker room flinging repressed resentment at the hapless Mark Sanchez, we get out the popcorn. This spectacle is going to be bloodier and more martyrly than any Filipino self-flagellation ritual.
It is worth noting two things before we dive in. First, this is the same schizophrenic newspaper that last week was heaping as much blame as it could on Santonio Holmes, while painting Sanchez as the tragic hero. Apparently, the cancer has spread. Second, all the anonymous sources sound like nothing so much as talk radio callers, reducing legitimate sports debate to glib soundbites to be delivered before Mike Francesa cuts them off. Everyone in the Jets locker room is Ira from Staten Island.
"We have to bring in another quarterback that will make him work at practice," said one player. "He's lazy and content because he knows he's not going to be benched."
"Come on. That's a no-brainer," a Jets source said. "If you have a chance to get a healthy 36-year-old Peyton Manning and you don't do it, then you're stupid. If I could get a healthy 36-year-old Peyton Manning, then, hell yeah, I would trade Sanchez."
"We already have his coach - Tom Moore," one well-respected player said. "Plus, he's a field general and will get everyone lined up. He will get his playmakers the ball. We can win a Super Bowl with Peyton."
"How can we [win] when he's not improving at all?" one of Sanchez's teammates said. "He thinks he is, but he's not. He has shown us what he's capable of."
"So many games, he looked defeated before he ever took the field," a team source said. "He didn't have much confidence in what he was about to go do. You could tell throughout the week in practice. He never felt comfortable with some of the things we were doing. It was too much for him."
"They don't want to be truthful with him," one prominent player said of the way that the organization has handled Sanchez. "They treat him like a baby instead of a man. He goes in a hole when someone tells him the truth."
A Jets spokesman declined to make Sanchez available for this story. A source close to the team pointed out that Sanchez's inability to handle mounting criticism prompted him to unfollow every Jets beat writer on Twitter earlier this season.
"So that should tell you everything," the source said. "He just doesn't have the mental toughness to be great... especially in New York."
"They see the organization babying him," said a Jets source. "They see him with a sense of entitlement. He's been given all this and hasn't done anything. They call him ‘San-chise.' They make him the face of the organization. They gave him the captain tag. He's not a captain. He should have never been a captain."
None of the players who spoke to the Daily News for this story agreed with Ryan's decision to anoint Sanchez as a captain.
Sanchez! Leadership: bad at it. Football: bad at it. Being a grown man: bad at it. So sayeth "several" sources on the roster and in the organization, who for all we know could be just disgruntled Bart Scott and Santonio Holmes scorching the earth and Brian Schottenheimer covering his ass.
But these quotes are amazing. They are moralizing and provocative and dismissive without a single anecdote to back them up. The Jets are doing their best to put deskbound columnists out of business—what could Lupica sermonize that hasn't already appeared in quotes? We're now dealing with a generation of athletes raised on yelly-screamy pundits and all-caps message board rants, so we shouldn't wonder where they learned to speak in print-ready platitudes. Football players are not GMs, so we will forgive them for thinking it's feasible or desirable to have Peyton Manning backing up Mark Sanchez next year. You know, just to light a fire under Sanchez. But this venting of frustration is untethered from reality and belongs on WFAN or a blog comment section—Sign Manning! Trade away Sanchez for a pass rush and run defense and pass protection and two first round picks!—and usurps what used to be the sole bailiwick of unaccountable fans. Can we still float stupid shit if the players do it first?