The Jets kick off a second half of a season full of uncertainty on Sunday, and the team known for flapping its gums is talking about Vernon Gholston. For some reason, someone with the Jets chose this week to level blame for Gholston's selection with the sixth pick of the 2008 draft at the not-so-dearly departed Eric Mangini.
Rich Cimini of the Daily Newsgot the scoop, which contradicts the previously held belief that the Jets took Gholston before the Patriots had a chance to take him with the seventh overall pick. The Pentagon Papers it ain't, but it does serve a purpose for the current Jets regime.
Gholston's lack of progress isn't surprising to some in the organization. Now we're hearing he wasn't a popular choice to begin with. Opinions in the draft room were mixed on Gholston, but the Jets picked him because then-coach Eric Mangini lobbied hard, according to multiple sources.
"That one's on Eric," one source said.
One can only assume that the leak was sent via a path that includes G.M. Mike Tannenbaum or someone whose job relies on Tannenbaum keeping his because it reeks of blaming the dog for a bout of flatulence around the dinner table. Tannenbaum's job is probably secure beyond this season, but if the team were to fall apart in the second half it behooves him to starting foisting blame for failed moves anywhere he can before anything hits the fan.
It may be true, but the personnel buck didn't stop with Mangini. If, as the story goes, the scouting department was so convinced that Gholston wasn't going to be a good player, what does it say about Tannenbaum that he went with the choice of a guy who was, presumably, more occupied with watching the NFL than the Big Ten during the 2007 football season?
That intrigue aside, it's also clear that this is the beginning of the end for Gholston in a Jets uniform. Barring a last-minute deal between the players union and the league, we're looking at a 2010 season without a salary cap. That means the Jets can dump Gholston and his remaining monies without hindering their chances at adding players who can consistently get on the field and play well when they get there. In 2010, anyway. The money would still hurt them during the next capped year, but these Jets don't usually show much concern for the long-term.
The second stage of Operation Gholston Overboard came Wednesday when he was held out of practice because of a curiously well-timed hamstring injury. The combination of the injury and the Mangini story will make it easy for the Jets to simply stop dressing Gholston for games until the time comes for them to send him on his way with $20-odd million in parting gifts. It would normally be embarrassing to sit such a high draft pick, but the Jets need Gholston's roster spot after the dreadful special teams performance against the Dolphins. This gives them cover to hide him away.
He's young, and there's always a fear that you'll cut the cord before the light goes on but Cimini's piece goes on to puncture that balloon. He spoke to a Jets player who said that Gholston is "reverting back" because he's neither athletic nor passionate enough to play at this level.
The best part of all for the Jets is that no one will even notice that he's getting chopped if they can go out and play well down the stretch this season. If they flop, though, it will be held up as another sign that the puppetmasters don't know what they're doing and no amount of finger pointing will be able to stop that chattering.