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Jets Landing New Veteran QB: How Can The NY Media Learn From The Past & Not Hamper QB Play

How The New York Media Ruins Jets Quarterbacks: Several Case Studies

Bettmann. Getty Images.

I. Introduction

The New York Jets were among the first NFL teams to win the Super Bowl after the AFL-NFL merger. Since then, the Jets have had several decades of mediocrity or downright terrible seasons. Since Joe Namath won the Jets a Super Bowl in 1968, they have only made the playoffs in 13 out of 53 seasons. They have made it to three conference championship games and lost all of them. Throughout these seasons, one main denominator seems to be bad quarterback play. This paper will explore the reasons why quarterback play seems to be subpar compared to other positions on the team, as well as throughout the league. 

B. Research question

Why do quarterbacks often seem to perform better after leaving the New York franchise, and how does the media's coverage of them in New York potentially hinder their performance while on the team?

C. Thesis statement

The New York media sensationalizes quarterbacks' performances to gain clicks and remain competitive in the big media market. The amplification of negative news and critiques elicits greater responses from consumers, leading to a lack of confidence in the fanbase, ultimately resulting in a destructive impact on the team and the quarterbacks' confidence in the given situation.

II. Literature Review

When Do Outside CEOs Underperform? From a CEO-Centric to a Stakeholder-Centric Perspective of Post-Succession Performance

This piece will be used to demonstrate how Media scrutiny can be counterintuitive in another theatre than sports 

Why Nobody Should Want to Play for New York

This piece will be used to show how the media is different in New York compared to other markets across the U.S. and how athletes have more exposure to fans. 

New York Post

This one newspaper will be used as the gauge the criticism of New York Media. 

Mario Tama. Getty Images.

A. The New York Media 

New York has long been considered the media capital of the world. Two major national newspapers, such as The New York Times or Wall Street Journal, and major tabloids such as the New York Post (founded by Alexander Hamilton) or the New York Daily News are also based there. Additionally, almost every mainstream cable news channel, including MSNBC, NBC, FOX, CBS, ABC, and CNN, has a presence in NYC. Furthermore, New York City boasts the largest number of major league sports teams out of any city in North America, with 11 teams. The large market that is New York City used to attract the biggest names in sports with the promise of large contracts and large fan bases. However, that same environment that once attracted athletes has self-cannibalized by creating an almost toxic environment. 

B. How does this affect Quarterback Play

In American football, the quarterback is the face of the offense. He touches the ball on almost every play and plays a larger role than most players in commanding the field and executing plays as the coaches require. He is the closest thing to a coach on the field and acts as the Chief Executive Officer of the offense. His coaches are his board, and fans are his shareholders. New York has continually had good defenses because a defense is a much more multifaceted group composed of a unit rather than individuals. The quarterback is a lightning rod for both admiration and praise, as well as negativity and criticism. This same phenomenon is discussed in a renowned paper titled "When Do Outside CEOs Underperform?" (Keil, Lavie, Pavicevic). 

As much as media coverage shapes status, reputation and celebrity, it also desseminates negative stake holder sentiment. Media Coverage serves as an infomediary and as an agent of external corporate governance and thus it is consequential for CEOs. 

This paper has demonstrated how CEOs of larger, more well-known institutions have greater turnover and poorer performance due to the pressure that both the media exerts on its board of directors and the stress the board itself feels over the media's reaction. The only conclusion to be drawn from this is that the CEO is unable to operate to their fullest ability due to these pressures. This applies directly to quarterback play. The large New York market is different from any other city in America. It has nothing to do with the quality of media reporting, but rather the quantity. Will Leitch wrote about this idea in a New Yorker article titled "Why Nobody Should Want to Play for New York." 

I do not believe members of the New York City media — television, radio, print, website, newsletter, sea scroll, whatever — are more obnoxious, deceptive, or immoral than any other city’s sports scribes: We’re all snakes, after all. But there are more snakes in New York. A lot more.

The larger quantity of "Snakes" and the competition between them means that, in order to stand out, one needs to have a unique reaction. What ends up happening is that many take a negative outlook when there is a positive outcome, for example, "Jets Win, But Testaverde Struggles." There is always a way to critique QB play, not only in a loss but also in a win. What ends up happening is that even in winning, there are critics as in losses. Any positive criteria in a loss is negated by the QB's loss. It is the quarterback's job to win the game, not just to play well. On top of that, because there are more eyes to turnover almost every leaf looking for a story, it can be far more distracting to the athlete. To reference Will Leitch once again. 

Mike Piazza once felt the need to call a press conference to say that he was not gay — he had a live press conference about it! — solely because a “Page Six” editor got a random blind item and did a terrible job vetting it. Safe to say, that’s not happening in Kansas City.

In smaller markets, there are more interpersonal relationships between the media and athletes. They get more facetime with athletes and develop a rapport. Outlandish stories arise in the absence of interaction. When there is a solid rapport between a smaller group of media members, it's easier to get the story straight. With the largest group of media out of any city in the world, a lot of stories are going out there and become a distraction.

Now, many may wonder, "Why don’t they just not pay attention to the media?" because the media determines how fans interface with athletes.

C. The relationship between the media and fan expectations

The relationship between the media and fan expectations is unique in New York City compared to other American cities. It was one of the few cities that developed before the invention of motor cars, causing driving and parking to be inefficient ways to navigate much of the city. Even though the Meadowlands and Metlife are in New Jersey, many of the players live there and hit the big city as young men like to do. Athletes are more likely to interface with the public and fans navigating New York City than in other cities in America. Even if athletes try not to read the media, the fans will echo many of the sentiments they consume from the media. On top of that, with the development of social media and camera phones, anyone is essentially the media. 

If you ever go out for a night on the town, know that not only you will be a target for drunk idiots (which happens everywhere), but that if you so much as smirk at one of them, you’ll be in “Page Six” the next day. The celebrity media is an added burden here. 

This is a different environment than any other city in America. It wears on any athlete, especially the face of the New York Jets. The thing is, not even winning can save you from scrutiny. Only a couple of New York athletes have ever made it to the point where they are universally beloved. Once more, quoting Will Leitch, 

Here are New York City athletes who have won a title in this city: Alex Rodriguez. Robinson Canó. Eli Manning. Tom Coughlin. Plaxico Burress. Statues weren’t built for these men. Every single one of them, in fact, was run out of town, disgraced by scandal, lack of production, or both. Sure, if you’re Lawrence Taylor or Mark Messier or Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera, yeah, winning in New York City gives you a lifetime pass. (Though I’m not sure those four wouldn’t have earned just as much eternal love had they won in any other city.) But for everybody else, all winning does for you is buy you a few months until fans demand you win it all again. Someone once asked George Carlin what “doing cocaine felt like.” He said, “It makes you feel like doing more cocaine.” That’s what winning in New York City feels like: like there’s never enough.

Even winning cannot shield you from the scrutiny of the New York media. The level of scrutiny is so intense that every individual eventually gets forced out of town. Even Eli Manning, who won two Super Bowls for the Giants, was not exempt from this fate. His wins were not solely due to consistent good QB play throughout the season, as he barely made the playoffs at times and went on runs. The Jets have had similar runs but have not had the same fortune as the Giants. Consistent winning is akin to consistent good QB play, which as we have discussed, is subject to constant scrutiny and turmoil caused by the multifaceted pressures of the large market.  

III. Methodology

A. Selection criteria for case studies

This paper chose 5 Quarterbacks from the social media age in order to determine if there is a common denominator in their inability to produce on the field. 

B. Data collection and analysis techniques

New York Post Articles provided the best place to isolate headlines and media reactions to each case study. 

C. Limitations and ethical considerations

This is all qualitative data except statistics related to the QBs. This was not tested with any sort of statistical analysis and is all based on an angry Jets fan blaming the lack of Super Bowls from the New York Jets on the media because it's easier than accepting reality. 

Mike Stobe. Getty Images.

III. Case Study #1 Brett Favre

Brett Favre came out of retirement to play for the New York Jets. He won his first game and had an 8-3 record through 11 games. He almost beat the NFL passing record with 6 touchdowns against the Cardinals. Favre played through an injury but unfortunately missed the playoffs after losing to the Dolphins, ending the season above .500 with a 9-7 record. Overall, it was a steady improvement from the previous year when the Jets went 4-12. These are some of the headlines that were run during this improvement in the Jets' QB position. 

"BRETT’S LOW POINT? TAKE YOUR ‘PICK’"

This is one of the many negative articles that assigned the narrative that Brett Favre was washed up and a bad fit for the Jets, when in reality, he was an improvement at the position and brought the Jets closer to the playoffs than they had been the previous season. Not only was the focus on his bad play, but they also embroiled him in controversy. 

Favre denies wrongdoing

Today was the kind of day when Brett Favre probably wishes he stayed retired.

In the wake of the Foxsports.com report that he helped Lions coaches with information about the Packers the week before Detroit played Green Bay in Week 2, Favre was grilled about it in his weekly news conference today.

The bottom line, according to Favre was this: He was called by then Lions president Matt Millen, a friend of his, and spoke to him for what he described as 15 to 20 minutes.

Favre said he gave Millen no inside information that couldn’t already be figured out by watching film.

Favre was clearly annoyed that this story has gained so much traction for a couple of reasons:

"He was persecuted regarding a possible conversation with Lions coaches that held no real basis and distracted from his play and positive momentum. He was run out of town, and the media across the board had the fanbase convinced that Favre should be in retirement.

In stark contrast to what the NY media thought, Favre brought the Vikings to the playoffs and lost in the divisional round, playing much better down the stretch than he did with the Jets.

What does this indicate? The media was wrong, and the constant negativity more than likely affected the perception and perceived ability to perform. The media seems to direct unwanted hate to every Jets quarterback; Favre, in return, showed them a little too much-unwanted love and didn't care where he threw his "pics"."

Case Study #2 Mark Sanchez

2 times to the AFC championship game

ButtFumble 

enough said

Elsa. Getty Images.

Case Study #3: Geno Smith

Geno Smith was riddled with controversy from the second he was drafted by the new york press. His playoff guarantee after being drafted was met with hate. 

Smith says he got 'in trouble' with Jets for playoff guarantee following draft selection

He was constantly barraged by the press and had to answer for things he didn't have to. 

Jets rookie QB Smith: 'Jay-Z didn't recruit me'

Questioning and creating false narratives about almost everything.

Why you should resist the temptation of Geno Smith

They are even telling you to hate Geno Smith still, even when he is playing well. It's almost like the press is trying to sabotage the Jets. 

Jets QB Geno kicked off plane over cell phone

They also placed the blame on Geno for an obviously racist flight attendant, which they then cleared up.

Airline apologizes to Geno for 'misunderstanding'

Geno's time on the Jets was tumultuous but that doesn't explain how he has had so much success since leaving. 

Jets move on Vick shows they still don't trust Geno

I mean, all of these headlines are negative and would not by any means be productive when trying to foster good quarterback play. The fact that Geno Smith has had success in Seattle after leaving the Jets and led them to a Wild Card game while they were in a "rebuilding" period should indicate there was something geographic going on and not necessarily skill related. 

Adam Glanzman. Getty Images.

Case Study #4: Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold, like Mark Sanchez, was drafted out of USC to be the face of the Jets franchise. However, as is typical with Jets QBs, he was immediately compared to Joe Namath. Despite showing statistical improvement from 2018-2019 and picking up three more wins, the media always spun a negative narrative around him. A plethora of articles tore him down, making it nearly impossible for anyone to succeed in this city with such negativity being constantly pumped out to the fanbase. 

Our last hope looks lost as the Jets and Sam Darnold get dominated

Sam Darnold sounds cold alarms that even the Vikings noticed

This Sam Darnold failure really stings

Doctor: Why Sam Darnold's mono bout is a 'big deal'

Sam Darnold can't save these Jets

Sam Darnold isn't a Jets cure-all

Jets demolished in ultimate Sam Darnold nightmare

Sam Darnold's amateur Jets hour is scarier than any 'ghost'

The media criticized Sam Darnold for a sideline comment that he never expected to be broadcasted to the masses. The "Ghost" comments were the final straw for Darnold's time with the Jets. The environment under Gase's leadership made it almost impossible to succeed. After being traded to the Panthers, he even managed to beat the New York Jets while playing for his new team. While his record and statistics in Carolina may not fully tell the story, it's clear that Darnold is playing much better than he did during his time with the Jets. Despite facing injury and competition with Baker Mayfield, he has fought his way back into the starting position. It's evident that the circus surrounding Darnold, including his bout with mono and the "ghosts" comment, had an impact on his play. Moving to a smaller market has undoubtedly helped him perform to the best of his abilities, unlike in New York City. 

Adam Hunger. Shutterstock Images.

Case Study #5: Zach Wilson

Zach Wilson has been under intense scrutiny from the media ever since he was drafted, and it's still unclear how his story will end. Despite this, the media seems to have already written him off. It's hard to understand why, as his entire life has been put under a microscope, which is not uncommon for NFL players. However, the headlines that have been written about him are particularly brutal and gossipy, and it's clear that the media is not giving him a fair chance to prove himself. 

Who is Jets QB Zach Wilson's mom? Meet Instagram star Lisa Wilson

WFAN host asks Jets QB about his 'really hot' mom, and listeners are livid

There are actually MANY NFL players with mothers who are hot AND sisters. It's not like they had to bring up his mom's looks, but they did. There are NFL players with sisters who have huge Instagram following and may even be beauty queens, so it's not like they want to be out of the spotlight but other media RESPECT the players. Zach Wilson's had distractions from before he even stepped foot in NJ. It's not like Zach Wilson could have avoided this; Craig Carton legit said it to his face. These QBs have no escape from the circus.

Sam Darnold Making Zach Wilson's Rocky Jets Start Feel Worse

Yes, Zach Wilson has played his first two seasons badly but remember, he has had the most buzz about off-the-field activities. Let's be realistic here. Has Zach done more off the field than other rookie quarterbacks? He has gone on dates, a rumor an ex posted gained tons of traction, but his off-the-field stuff got so much scrutiny. I also believe in this age of social media, Zach Wilson has gotten the most scrutiny out of any of the QBs we have ever covered. I mean, check out all these headlines as examples. 

Zach Wilson's ex accuses him of sleeping with his mom's BFF

This just isn't good enough from Zach Wilson

Zach Wilson became turnover machine in Jets' loss to Patriots

Jets Have Quarterback Problem After Zach Wilson Disaster

Zach Wilson Only Made Things Worse After Brutal Jets Game

Jets Can't Survive With This Zach Wilson

Robert Saleh must bench Zach Wilson as rest of Jets deserve better

Mike Francesa destroys Zach Wilson: 'Has no idea how to play the position'

Corrected: I mean, history will show whether Zach Wilson will end up succeeding if he leaves the Jets or not, but this problem will persist unless some sort of change is made so these guys can start winning. Imagine if Zach Wilson gets picked up sometime in the future and ends up having any sort of success. There is no denying the media has had zero effect on any of these QB performances. Would Zach Wilson respond to the media on whether he let his team down with a confrontational answer if he hadn't been hammered all year? Realistically, the Jets were at one point with Zach Wilson winning games while starting, and the media still hammered him for bad play. I don't understand how anyone can deal with all that pressure of almost every single one of his moves being dissected. Compared to Justin Herbert, who avoids all media, and there aren't any actual Rams fans in LA to care about how Zach Wilson, who never made any concerted effort with the media, and you will see the root of all this hypocrisy. 

Drawing Conclusions

So, what can we draw from this? With free agency currently taking place and names like Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, Derek Carr (who just signed with the Saints), or Jimmy Garoppolo floating around, we really need to consider whether anyone could succeed in this town. Maybe even going with a quarterback who would be the least criticized would be better than someone who is so vocal in the media, like Aaron Rodgers. Derek Carr's personality is one that could easily be targeted by the New York media. His singing "God's Plan" at the podium after a loss won't cut it for the media, who would rather listen to Drake's version. Aaron Rodgers might even enjoy the circus because he can have more stuff to talk about on his weekly radio spots. He may be the first quarterback with enough accomplishments and personality to flip the script on the "mainstream media" and be immune to all of it because he doesn't think a single thing they say is true. Lamar Jackson is another name that is probably the complete opposite of Aaron Rodgers in that I can't remember a single soundbite of his that has ever been controversial. Like, I think the most controversial thing he has done has been in a Kodak Black music video (and he had to delete a tweet real quick). 

Powerpoint

Works Cited

  • “Media in New York City.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Feb. 2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_in_New_York_City.

  • Leitch, Will. “Why Nobody Should Want to Play for New York.” Intelligencer, 16 Nov. 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/11/why-nobody-should-want-to-play-for-new-york.html.

  • "Our last hope looks lost as Jets and Sam Darnold get dominated." New York Post, 21 Oct. 2018, https://nypost.com/2018/10/21/our-last-hope-looks-lost-as-jets-and-sam-darnold-get-dominated/.

  • "Patriots demolish Jets in Sam Darnold nightmare." New York Post, 21 Oct. 2019, https://nypost.com/2019/10/21/patriots-demolish-jets-in-sam-darnold-nightmare/.

  • "Sam Darnold isn't a Jets cure-all." New York Post, 9 Oct. 2019, https://nypost.com/2019/10/09/sam-darnold-isnt-a-jets-cure-all/.

  • "Sam Darnold's amateur Jets hour is scarier than any ghost." New York Post, 21 Oct. 2019, https://nypost.com/2019/10/21/sam-darnolds-amateur-jets-hour-is-scarier-than-any-ghost/.

  • "Medical reasons why Sam Darnold will be out for a long time." New York Post, 12 Sept. 2019, https://nypost.com/2019/09/12/medical-reasons-why-sam-darnold-will-be-out-for-a-long-time/.

  • "Why you should resist the temptation of Geno Smith." New York Post, 30 Dec. 2013, https://nypost.com/2013/12/30/why-you-should-resist-the-temptation-of-geno-smith/.

  • "Jets rookie QB Smith: Jay-Z didn't recruit me." New York Post, 30 May 2013, https://nypost.com/2013/05/30/jets-rookie-qb-smith-jay-z-didnt-recruit-me/.

  • "Jets QB Geno Smith escorted off plane at LAX by cops: report." New York Post, 17 Jan. 2014, https://nypost.com/2014/01/17/jets-qb-geno-smith-escorted-off-plane-at-lax-by-cops-report/.

  • "Airline apologizes to Geno for misunderstanding." New York Post, 23 Jan. 2014, https://nypost.com/2014/01/23/airline-apologizes-to-geno-for-misunderstanding/.

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