Young leadership needed for regular season
By Bobby Kirschenbaum
As the New York Jets prepare for a rough season ahead, they will need some of their younger players to step up and provide leadership to be competitive.
In order for a general manager to successfully piece together a winning team, several factors are taken into account: skills, affordability, and, perhaps most important, leadership. One of the reasons several teams do not thrive is due to off-field issues and players drawing negative media to its team. This offseason, the New York Jets kicked things off by releasing a multitude of their older veterans, opening up several roster spots for the new draft picks. They parted ways with Quarterback
They parted ways with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, cornerback Darrelle Revis, long-time kicker Nick Folk, offensive lineman Breno Giacomini, Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold, and wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The Jets will certainly be a team that depends heavily on the maturity and growth of the younger guys. During this offseason, perhaps it’s worth taking a look around the other New York teams and how their young players helped their teams thrive.
It’s currently May, and since the New York hockey and basketball teams are not in the Finals for their respective sports, it is baseball season, with all eyes on the Yankees and Mets. And no player on the Yankees, perhaps not even in the entire MLB, is having as big of an impact at such a young age as Aaron Judge, the 6’7 outfielder, playing in his first full season as a Yankee.
Not only has he made splashes on Sportscenter as a superb hitter and excellent fielder, but he’s helping this Yankees team tremendously in the locker room, as well. “Judge is such a great teammate,’’ CC Sabathia said, per Kevin Kernan of the New York Post. Look at what else was said by Sabathia about Judge’s presence on the team:
“He always gets the dugout going. He gets me going. His energy rubs off on everybody. He’ll come to me and say, ‘Let’s go, C!’ And I start yelling. For him to do that and be comfortable enough to be that kind of emotional leader for us as a rookie, that’s great.’’
Judge is only 25 years old, so his ability to lead both verbally and by example are one of the primary reasons why this Yankees team is in first place. Similar to the Jets, the Yankees lost several veterans last year, such as Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez, but have actually been superior to last year’s team due to guys like Judge.
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In hockey, although their season concluded in disappointing fashion in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the New York Rangers watched the younger players take over the team and breakout, which shows tremendous promise for the future. In particular, defenseman Brady Skjei, only 23 years old, skated out there as poised as can be, confident as a veteran, and helped this team win games.
Other players, like the Harvard student Jimmy Vesey, also 23, went all out for the team, diving for pucks and skating hard to give the team a chance. In a league where speed is a necessity, the Rangers watched their veterans struggle mightily, paving the way for a maturity outbreak for the younger guys on the team. And just like the Jets, the Rangers faced the same situation; it’s just a matter of whether the Jets’ rookies and younger players are up for the challenge.
Finally, in the NBA, it would be an understatement to say the Knicks and Nets struggled mightily, both finishing well below .500 and far from playoff contention. However, through the darkest of times, both teams had the ability to explore many young players for the future, and both teams had players that stepped up to help the team win some games.
Guys like Caris LeVert for Brooklyn, 22 years of age, played big minutes and produced mightily down the stretch of the season. Willy HernanGomez of the Knicks did a lot of the same, rebounding and playing hard in the paint following the injuries that plagued the Knicks.
Even Ron Baker, a late draft pick who didn’t have a high ceiling heading into his NBA career, played with pride and passion at all times and was a force for the Knicks to conclude the season. Even if the Jets produced players that played with half as much energy as Baker and Hernangomez did, they would be a successful team this year.
It isn’t easy to lead a team, especially in the grueling NFL season, and particularly when the league gives a team minimal chance at success in a division that has Tom Brady. But there is certainly no excuse for the team to not play with 100 percent energy and to fight for every second, despite the record or the scoreboard.
The season will tell a lot about the future of the Jets whether they are 16-0, 0-16 or somewhere in between. Last year’s season was chaos both on and off the field and the young guys will be expected to mature and lead the team.
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Guys like Muhammad Wilkerson, known for his off-field issues, will be depended heavily on. Rookie Jamal Adams will be thrown onto the field, ready to go and to produce. And last year’s pick, Darron Lee, is expected to take a gigantic leap and help the team produce more on the field. The team needs to take a step back, watch some of the other teams as to how they did it, and follow their path in order to set the tone for the future of the franchise.