The stare-down between the New York Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick continues, with Fitzpatrick, 33, wanting more money than any team is willing to pay him and with the Jets, well, not wanting to start Geno Smith or Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg.
If you’re the Jets, or any team, what do you do in this situation?
“Well, you really do have to be all-in,” Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I understand it’s a business and the business part of it, but what I would do is just say, ‘Here’s what we can pay you. Are you in or out? If you’re in, let’s go. Let’s let everybody know you’re our quarterback. If that’s not good enough and you’re not in, we need to move on.’”
Of course, that’s easier said than done with a backup offensive lineman than with, say, a starting quarterback.
“With some players and some positions, you can say, ‘Hey, this guy’s going to be here. Don’t worry about it. We’ll get the money straightened out and he’ll be here,’” Dungy said. “But with your quarterback, I think your team needs to know, ‘This is our leader. This is the guy we’re counting on and there are no question marks.’ I think it would be tough, at least for me as a head coach, to go to my team and say, ‘Well, we think this guy is going to be our guy. We’re pretty sure he’s going to be here, but don’t worry about the fact that he’s here right now.’ I just don’t think that sets a winning template. . . . I think that the Jets are really, really in a tough situation until they get this figured out and say, ‘Here’s our guy.’”
Dungy, who spent most of his head-coaching career with Peyton Manning, more or less avoided quarterback standoffs, but not every player he dealt with was drama-free. Some had baggage. In terms of drafting or not drafting those players, though, Dungy dealt with each on a case-by-case basis. He would ask, Is this a player who’s maturing and whose problems are behind him? Or will these problems continue to surface in the future?
Think Johnny Manziel.
Still, Dungy, who played for Pittsburgh as a rookie in 1977, remembers the first speech then-Steelers coach Chuck Noll gave the team: Gentlemen, welcome to the National Football League. You’re now being paid to play football, so that makes it your profession. But don’t make the mistake of thinking football is your life. Football cannot be your life. We’ve got to help you find your life’s work.
“That was Coach Noll’s first speech,” Dungy said. “And when I went to work for him as an assistant coach, he reiterated that: Your job is to help your players be the best they can be on the field and off the field as players and people. He believed that and he taught us that. So when I became a head coach, that was my mantra as well. ‘Hey, I’m here to help you be the best football player you can be, but if that’s all I do, I’m not really doing my job. I’ve got to help you be part of the community, help you be someone who’s going to be successful long after football.’”