Cowboys, Chargers, Jets all in denial

Jets backup quarterback Greg McElroy did something incredibly stupid recently. He told the truth, and not the happy "we had problems, we’ll be back" version NFL teams love to tell this time of year.

He dropped what the kids like to call "the real." How do I know what the kids are saying? Because I live by a university and love to eavesdrop on college student conversations which are basically like a live performance of an all-female, English tele-novella, only more angst-y.

"Do you think he’ll propose?"

"I’m going to give you the real. No."

The girl did not take this well, as I predicted.

I felt for random sorority girl because the truth has a way of sucking. It is why so many people lie. What McElroy dropped was an even harsher level of “the real” with his takedown of his Jets, talking of "being around extremely selfish individuals," and "people within our locker room that didn’t care whether we won or lost as long as they had good games individually," and "if you go down the roster this year, there’s no reason we shouldn’t have made a Super Bowl."

I am not using quotations for effect. He actually said these things. Out loud. To a radio station.

This went over about like you might expect the ugly truth coming out of the mouth of a rookie quarterback who did nothing except get hurt this season talking about a Jets team that is under the misleading impression that a fluke — and possibly Santonio Holmes — derailed them, and all they need to be contenders in 2012 is to show up.

The mistake McElroy made was pointing out the ugly naked guy in the room when company policy is screaming really loud about “How do you like this guy?” and “We will win a Super Bowl.”

I do not mind the loud, obnoxious braggart as long as he does not mind facing harsher criticism when he fails to deliver what he loudly and obnoxiously had been selling.

NFL teams fall into three categories this time of year: Playoff teams. Rebuilding teams. And those proving Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

And so while New England prepares for yet another playoff run and Indianapolis tears it down in hopes of building it back up, the Jets, Cowboys and Chargers are operating like what they are doing is killing it.

Which is funny because they were all hot messes in 2011.

It was slightly expected for San Diego. No team has done less with more as consistently than Norv Turner’s Chargers. They do it differently every year — playoff meltdowns, slow starts or this season’s almost year-long mediocrity. And the powers that be in San Diego decided the proper response to all of this underachievement was to get the band back together, well, except for the defensive coordinator. He got fired because he obviously had been dragging Norv down.

The Jets, too, have decided to march forward with the key elements of GM, coach and QB in place like the only problem with the 2011 team was that Holmes was a big gaping problem child. I am guessing they will have the good sense to extricate Holmes from the locker room and pretend this solves their talent-evaluation problem, their chemistry problem and their offensive line-Mark Sanchez problem (depending on what side of that debate you come down on).

This is a copy-cat move in a copy-cat league because nobody in the NFL can act blissfully unaware of a problem better than the Dallas Cowboys.

Standard operating procedure in Dallas is for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to go running around all football naked and yet have everybody tell him what a great job he is doing.

The Cowboys were again moderately disappointing, which is to say as disappointing as a team who is .500 since last winning a Super Bowl 16 years ago can be. This disappointment was spearheaded by another loud, obnoxious, trash-talking Ryan — Rex’s brother Rob, the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator — who failed to deliver on fixing the Dallas defense, the biggest offender of which was cornerback Terence Newman.

I have known Newman forever. He is a good dude. He also played so abysmally bad in the season finale against the New York Giants that it is almost physically impossible to return to the NFL. The game was like a retirement party, and to return would be all Brett Favre-ish.

The problem with Newman was he never lived up to expectations, expectations caused by a gigantic extension given to him by GM Jerry. He was the second highest paid player on the team.

In fact, the biggest offenders of "stupid and overpaid and can’t-play" on this Cowboys roster — Doug Free, Gerald Sensabaugh — were also the most recent recipients of Jerry largesse. They both were given extensions a year ago that their play suggests were unmitigated failures. I would name more but the other guys he had recently lavished with big money (Marion Barber, Roy Williams) were dumped for failure to do anything associated with the jobs they were hired for.

This is the guy who after the Cowboys season ended with a butt whipping in the Meadowlands talked about how close they are, how they need to stay the course and how they have the right group in place.

What is comical is not that he said it but that anybody believes it. This is a team in need of a McElroy truth bullet.

Of course, nobody will.

And just you wait, next season, if the Jets fail again, McElroy will say something about how close they were and how the right pieces are in place and ignore the naked hot mess in the locker room. It is company policy.

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