Surprise hero Greg McElroy described himself as an even keeled player to reporters after the Jets 7-6 comeback win over Arizona. During a post game press room scene that rarely calls for the thoughts of any third string quarterback. With second stringer Tim Tebow out nursing broken ribs, and embattled starter Mark Sanchez floundering late in the third quarter, head coach Rex Ryan finally felt the time was right to make a change. McElroy then delivered a sense of calm to a club in dire need of some no nonsense guidance.
Since the Jets last embarrassed themselves, on national television November 22nd against their hated rivals the Patriots 49-19, in a game symbolized by Sanchez crashing into guard Brandon Moore’s backside during a wild :52 second, three score storm that engulfed the Jets, the wings had begun to come off the plane.
Soon after the Thanksgiving thrashing, drama unfolded surrounding whether Tim Tebow should have suited up with broken ribs, and when exactly the club first knew about the injury. Fireman Ed then stepped down as King “Superfan” after being harassed by his own Jet faithful for wearing a Sanchez jersey in support of the struggling star. Days later a video showing Jets fans verbally abusing the team as they entered the tunnel down 35-3 at halftime, went viral. Sparking LB Bart Scott to respond by attacking the same fans who Scott said, probably didn’t even get picked in dodgeball as kids.
These incidents provide a sample size of what has been a season full of unpredictable events that officially began back in March. When QB Drew Stanton was signed to back up Sanchez, as the team secretly chased Peyton Manning. Only to end up instead with a motivated Tebow, jettisoned by Denver as Manning signed with the Broncos, not the Jets. Stanton soon angrily exited.
The week long insanity leaving the world’s most polarizing sports figure in America, just one play away from taking over the starting job. As the unassuming McElroy quietly worked on his arm strength and prepared to earn a job behind Tebow in training camp.
When McElroy began warming up on the sidelines yesterday after yet another tipped pass incompletion thrown by Sanchez helped grow the boos for Sanchez to a deafening level, MetLife Stadium grew energized for the first time since week one’s 48-28 defeat of the Bills. It didn’t take long for McElroy, the “most popular player” on the field to deliver some level headed decision making to a team only behind 3-0, and not known for the trait.
First McElroy shrewdly drew illegal contact from an oncoming Cardinal defender out of bounds. Forcing a 15 yard late hit penalty on the Arizona defense, clearly anxious to welcome the new guy with a shot to remember. A few clutch third down completions later, McElroy rolled out on the goal line and waited for the right time to lob a TD pass to Jeff Cumberland. In a play that became the game winner.
The 5-7-29 yards stat line was beyond modest. The limited tasks asked off him were less complicated than even the ones given to Sanchez during his first two game n the ones given to Sanchez during his first two game managing seasons as a Jet. What Greg McElroy contributed the most during his brief work had to do with disposition, not numbers.
Finally the Jets had a leader on the field, whose only history of drama on a team that seemingly finds one daily, took place when he publicly called out of the Jets locker room as dysfunctional after the team’s 2011 crash. Aside from that incident, the second year pro’s contributions to the Jets circus has been as nothing more than as an observer.
Ryan’s decision to turn to McElroy, the only healthy backup available, gave the Jets offense a chance to simply focus on making plays without the hoopla that surrounds the other two GQ quarterbacks. The ground game kicked into another gear when McElroy was calling the shots. Receivers better known for dropping balls began hanging onto them. Lineman appeared to be getting off the ball faster. The home crowd started to sound like one, after weeks of being rendered lifeless thanks to the poor execution the home team was displaying on the field.
Winning teams have field generals who lessen the overall anxiety and can forget mistakes instantaneously. McElroy’s success in leading the Jets away from what would have been a second straight disaster, may not help to anoint him as the franchise starter from this point on. The relaxed nature of his relief effort though, should be a wake up call for the Jets. An organization that better start to understand that hype and media attention can only be part of the equation provided that the on field pilot of the plane owns a steady hand and unfettered mind. One that features a short memory, and the ability to move beyond mistakes rather than compound them