Curtis Martin was in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria last Wednesday to be honored by the March of Dimes as Sportsman of the Year.
But after Thanksgiving night, it was hard to ignore another room, some 40 miles to the west on Jets Drive in Florham Park, N.J.
“The locker room is a very interesting place,” Martin told reporters. “I do think locker rooms win games, even more so than talent. The camaraderie that’s formed there is really important. I think it’s unfortunate some of the things that have come out of the (Jets’) locker room.”
Unfortunate – a good word to describe the 2012 Jets season. From the offseason acquisitions gone wrong, to the injuries, to the anonymous quotes sniping at the backup quarterback in the Daily News – the entire Jets season could be deemed unfortunate. Nothing this season, though, has been worse than the self-induced shellacking the Jets suffered on Thanksgiving night at the hands of their biggest rivals.
It was a loss bad enough to both divide and unite (in anger) an entire fan base. It was a loss that has many wondering if the Jets have quit on their head coach.
“You know something, nine times out of 10, in the NFL or in most professional sports, it’s poor execution that looks like bad luck and that looks like a team quits,” Martin told TheJetsBlog. “But most of us by the time we’ve reached this level, we have so much pride in what we do that there’s really no quitting in football. Every once in a while you may see it, but it’s more rare than what the outside, you know from a fan’s perspective.”
The fans’ perspective was clear after a YouTube video surfaced showing some Jets fans taunting the team entering the locker room for halftime. Martin said he hadn’t seen it, but acknowledged as a former player how much that treatment from fans can sting.
“That hurts more than fumbling the ball or throwing an interception or being benched because when you’re out there on that field, you realize you are playing to win at all times and by any legal means,” Martin told TheJetsBlog. “When you’re not playing well, and the fans that support you are against you, it’s a very disheartening place for a player and a team to be in.”
But that’s the thing about a 49-19 loss at home to the Patriots; it raises questions as much as it raises ire. Questions that need answering -- Especially when fans, media and the general public were witness to the most embarrassing 52 seconds in the history of this franchise.
Questions like is Rex Ryan’s job in jeopardy after a loss like that? Martin didn’t think so, calling Ryan “a really good coach.”
“If you think about it, he’s had two championship years. That’s something no coach has done in the Jets history – going to the championship game two years in a row,” Martin told TheJetsBlog. “You can’t go to the championship game every single year. You’re gonna have years like this, but years like this make you stronger.”
But the biggest question facing the Jets revolves around the quarterback position. Should Ryan bench the butt fumbling Mark Sanchez for unproven Greg McElroy or an injured Tim Tebow?
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” the Hall of Fame running back told reporters. “I think if they see that as being something that’s fitting for this situation, then it’ll happen. I’ve always said with a guy like Tebow in New York and with Mark Sanchez, it’s gonna be one way or the other. Either Mark is gonna have the best year of his career or eventually Tebow will probably play.”
Jets fans know how it’s gone so far. At 4-7, the team is teetering on the very edge of the playoff picture and more importantly has become the laughing stock of the NFL. Still, Martin believes the Jets can turn the season around.
He thinks the leaders in the Jets locker room probably held a private meeting to make sure things got back on track, because that’s what he would do when he played.
“They’ve been in circumstances like this before where they make it to the playoffs by the skin of their teeth and next thing you know they’re playing the championship game to go to the Super Bowl,” Martin told reporters. “Will that happen this year? I don’t know, but the NFL is very unpredictable.”