Why Wayne Hunter Had to Be Benched:The Mental Side


July 28, 2012; Cortland, NY, USA; New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) jumps into teammate New York Jets tackle Wayne Hunter (78) after practice as the New York Jets practice during day 2 of training camp at SUNY Cortland. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE

On it’s face, the title seems very obvious. I know. We all have watched Wayne Hunter play, both last year, and in the Giants game last weekend. The poor play was clear, and wasn’t getting any better. Whether he was hurt, as I talked about earlier in the week, or his play just deteriorated, he had to be taken out of the lineup. For Mark Sanchez’s and Tim Tebow’s safety, he had to come out.

But, there is another side to why Hunter had to be benched. Athletes play badly, it happens all the time. Wayne Hunter is far from the first guy ever to have a bad day/night. The key is the confidence that you have to bounce back. Your belief in yourself is what brings you back.

Wayne Hunter has no such confidence. He is a beaten man, and a beaten man HAS to come out. With no confidence, he won’t get any better. Take a look at what he had to say, and you’ll see.

For example, here is what Wayne had to say yesterday when asked if he was surprised by coach Ryan’s decision:

No, it wasn’t a surprise. Everybody knows, the whole New York City knows that I’ve been struggling the last year and the last game I didn’t do much better. So, I wasn’t surprised. I was waiting for it to be honest with you. I knew I was struggling. Everything was kind of going south for me, but at the same time I still wanted to help the team in any way possible. I love the Jets. I love this organization. So again, moving to this position is the best thing for me right now and the guys.

Here’s Hunter and his reply when asked if being judged so harshly after only playing in one preseason game is fair:

Is it fair? It’s a preseason game, it doesn’t matter what’s fair or what’s not fair. It’s a preseason game. That’s all it is. They’re making the decision off everything, not just this past game, off of everything. This goes back to last year. If I don’t show signs of improvement when the bullets are flying, they have to make a choice. They have to pick the best 11 guys to go on the field and right now, my best role is as a tight end.

Finally, take a look at this last response. Wayne was asked if he fought with coach Ryan about the decision to bench him. He could have responded by saying, “Of course I did. I want to play. I am going to do everything I can to get better and earn my spot back.” He didn’t say that. Instead, he said:

I’ve always been fighting for my job, now or last year. I’ve always felt like I’ve been fighting for my job because I haven’t proven consistently that I’m that guy for the right tackle spot, hence the move that they’re making right now. I always feel like I’m going to prove myself in the future. It’s just the way it is.

The last page and a half do not reflect the words of a fighter. Hunter does not sound like a guy who is driven to be the starter, and who is going to prove the world wrong by earning his job back. No, he sounds like a beaten man. He sounds like a guy that feels like he deserves to be benched. He knows he isn’t good, and doesn’t sound like he is going to get any better.

When you are a beaten athlete mentally, you have to come off the field. It’s a good thing that Hunter did.