Jets’ culture change started on facility’s redecorated walls
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The mission statement greets every New York Jets player as soon as he reaches the big glass doors to enter the team’s facility.
”One Team” is printed in bold, white letters on the left side just above the metal handle – and directly below the team’s logo – while ”One Goal” adorns the right.
That’s the message coach Todd Bowles has been preaching to his team since early in the offseason. And there’s no ignoring it, with reminders painted in several places in the redecorated hallways and rooms that players use to work out, practice, eat meals and hold meetings.
”It’s daily motivation,” Bowles recently told The Associated Press. ”When you feel sorry for yourselves and think you can’t go the extra mile, that’s the goal we’re trying to get to: `One Team, One Goal.”’
In what is shaping up as a rebuilding year for the franchise and is off to an 0-1 start, Bowles is trying to make sure the focus for his players is on the task at hand – and not on the gloom-and-doom predictions from many fans and media.
The roster was drastically reshaped during the offseason as several veterans with big contracts were released. Meanwhile, Bowles went to work on changing the look of things inside the facility.
He and assistant Jackie Lovett started the process in February, perusing designs, photos and motivational messages. Once owner Woody Johnson gave his blessing, the renovations to the team’s culture began – from one wall to the next.
”I love it, man,” safety Rontez Miles said. ”It’s good because we’re trying to change our identity here. We’re not just trying to change the color scheme or what shoes we wear. We’re trying to change how we’re perceived. We want to be taken seriously.”
The Lombardi Trophy from the franchise’s only Super Bowl appearance in 1969 is displayed a few feet away from the entrance, right next to a mannequin decked out in a Joe Namath No. 12 jersey.
The trophy had previously been displayed at the team’s business entrance on the other side of the building, but the players asked during the offseason to move it to their side.
”You see it, and it’s like, `Damn, it’s right there,”’ Miles said. ”It’s that close.”
On the right side of the entrance is that familiar ”One Team” slogan with a jumbo-sized photo of the Lombardi set against an action shot of that Super Bowl-winning team.
Around the corner, plastered on the doors leading into the locker room is the stern message: ”If you are not prepared to put the team first, turn around.”
Perhaps the most noticeable change is in the 100-yard hallway that stretches from the locker room to the business lobby, which once featured random shots of Jets fans rooting on their team from their stadium seats. Now, there are life-sized action shots of 26 current and former Jets along with former coach Weeb Ewbank – hand-picked by Bowles, from Mo Lewis on one end to Curtis Martin on the other – highlighting a path down team history.
Of course, Namath is there, right next to defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who along with receiver Quincy Enunwa are the only current players featured.
”They had good action shots,” Bowles said with a grin.
Don Maynard is up there, too, as are the likes of Wayne Chrebet, Vinny Testaverde, Chad Pennington, Al Toon, Kevin Mawae, and the Sack Exchange, of course, with Joe Klecko, Mark Gastineau, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam.
”Walking down the hallway, I think the players, a lot of them are so young that they need to be reminded who was here before them and the history of the New York Jets and how tough and gritty those guys were and what they stood for and how they played,” Bowles said. ”I think that gets forgotten.
”In order to change some of the culture here and go back to how we were, you have to put up some of those pictures and show that type of atmosphere.”
Every day during training camp, Bowles gave his players pop quizzes on the wall while they were stretching.
”He was really trying to change our mindset, to try to be champions or just being great, like those guys were,” cornerback Marcus Williams said. ”It would be things like, `Where did this guy go to school?’ Or something like, `How many of these guys were first-rounders, or what round were they picked?”’
Williams said he and fellow cornerback Darryl Roberts routinely wander down the hallway and study the images.
”Coach Bowles would come up with crazy questions, like, `How many guys have white shoes? How many have on green pants?”’ Williams said. ”Then, we’d go do research on these guys so we knew their names, what school they went to and how long they played here. It goes from generation to generation of winners on there and that’s our mindset, we’re trying to win and not wait until next year.”
In the business lobby is a glass display case that includes jerseys of Martin, Klecko and Namath, next to the names of the 17 men in the team’s ring of honor. Hanging from the ceiling above that, and overlooking the main cafeteria, are banners of the Jets’ five retired numbers and another honoring Ewbank.
”You look and try to find different things,” Bowles said, ”some to motivate, some that look nice in the locker room that the players can understand and get inspired from.”
After successfully completing such a massive redecorating project, the coach was asked if he might consider trying his hand at making some changes around his own house next offseason.
”Nah, I’d like to keep my day job,” Bowles said with a big laugh. ”I don’t want to go into (home) renovations.”
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