44 years ago on January 12, 1969 Joe Namath led the Jets to their only Superbowl championship. Namath embodied New York because he was brash, bold, tough and never afraid to say what was on his mind. He owned New York then. Fast forward 44 years later and a near 70-year-old Namath is still making headlines. This week he threw his support to Mark Sanchez and said the Jets did not need to draft a quarterback. He blamed Sanchez’s issues on “major distractions” that would be a “focus breaker” for anyone. Obviously he is referencing Tim Tebow and the distraction he brings with him such as his rabid fan base as well as the intense media scrutiny. There are many different reasons for Sanchez’s failure last year ranging from Tebow to lack of quality receivers who couldn’t gain separation to a lack of confidence to not being able to handle the pressure or even a regressing skill set. People can choose to believe what they want and Joe Namath is no different. What Joe did was cause an unnecessary fire storm that Geno Smith (the quarterback that didn’t need to be drafted according to Namath), Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan have to put out. Also it got Namath’s name back in the headlines.
This is hardly the first time that Namath has used his opinions on the Jets to get himself back in the spotlight. April 25th of this year on “The Michael Kay Show”, Namath said he doesn’t think Rex Ryan will be back next year and that he doesn’t understand why he was brought back with a depleted roster. In November of 2012, Namath ripped Woody Johnson on an SNY Podcast saying,
“I think the focus is changed, subtly, it’s more toward grabbing headlines, and everything starts at the top. And you can go back to when the seat licenses were initiated, how we started conducting things. I don’t think winning has been put at the top of the board. Winning headlines has replaced that.”
Last March he once again backed Sanchez saying that Tebow trade “stinks” and was “a slap in the face to Mark Sanchez”. There is plenty more where this came from and that is just going back 12 months.
Joe Namath’s first prolonged return to the public eye following his bout with alcoholism coincided with the Jets success in 2009 and 2010. With the Jets being close to a Super Bowl berth, Namath became a frequent radio and television guest and he parlayed that into his own website broadwayjoe.tv as well as a weekly radio spot on “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN Radio.
Whether you agree with Namath’s opinions or not it is hard to ignore that all of the headlines begin with his name. The same brash, headline-grabbing behavior that people loved 44 years ago is starting to wear thin. I will always appreciate what Joe Namath has done and meant to the franchise but now is a time for him to fade away. It will be great to see him at the stadium or at charity functions for the team but when asked about the team he should defer to the decision makers or learn two words foreign to him “no comment”.