Chemistry Lessons - Quarterback Controversy
Originally Published - October 2012
New York Jets Greg McElroy is in the middle of controversy
When it came to winning, former Dragon standout Greg McElroy knew no other way. Following in the rather sizeable footsteps of eventual Heisman candidate Chase Daniel at quarterback, Greg didn’t take the field as a starter until his senior season in 2005. Following in the great tradition of Southlake signal callers he threw for 4,636 yards and 56 touchdowns leading the team to a 16-0 record and a 5A state championship. Arguably the best statistical season of any Dragon quarterback McElroy’s single season passing numbers still rank him sixth in yardage and fifth in touchdowns in all of Texas high school football.
McElroy, the 2005 Texas 5A Player of the year, was also an excellent student who accepted a scholarship to play for the Crimson Tide of Alabama. Starting his first games as a junior, McElroy carried on his undefeated streak as Alabama defeated the Texas Longhorns in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game. Tallying just three loses as a starter from high school through his college years McElroy graduated from the University of Alabama with a 3.86 GPA and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a National Football Foundation scholar-athlete. Immediately following his collegiate career he was drafted by the New York Jets in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
As a rookie, Greg was sidelined with a thumb injury and relegated to watching from the sidelines in plain clothes. The few losses that took him a lifetime to achieve as an amateur were equaled within the first five weeks of his professional career as the Jets opened up the 2011 season with a 2-3 record. They finished the season on a particularly rough note with three consecutive losses and finished with an 8-8 record.
After the season McElroy put himself in the middle of controversy opening up to Birmingham, Alabama radio station 97.3 The Zone about the state of the Jets locker room; “It’s definitely not a fun place to be, I can assure you. It’s the first time I’ve ever been around extremely selfish individuals. I think that’s maybe the nature of the NFL, but there were people within our locker room that didn’t care whether we won or lost as long as they…had really good games individually.”
A popular opinion albeit from an unlikely source, many in the NFL and particularly within the Jets organization felt the untested rookie quarterback spoke out of turn. New to the NFL, but not new to winning, others would argue that McElroy’s stellar record and smarts (43/50 on the NFL’s Wonderlic Test) afforded him the opportunity to voice his opinion on the behavior of a successful locker room.
For McElroy, the Jets 2012 training camp started just how the 2011 season ended- in the middle of controversy- a quarterback controversy. In May, the Jets signed perhaps the most provocative and popular backup quarterback of all time, in media darling and ex-Bronco Tim Tebow. Since then it has been one debate after another about who will be the starting quarterback for the New York Jets.
In any sport, especially in the injury-prone NFL, depth is important at every position and with Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Greg McElory vying for snaps the Jets are as deep as any team.
Entering camp, Sanchez the Jets starter since 2009, has the most experienced arm with 782 career completions and 55 passing touchdowns. However, with 51 interceptions, a career passer rating of just 73.2 and the off-season signing of Tebow his window of opportunity in New York may be closing in as fast as the Giants defensive line did in a recent preseason game.
According to most every team report and media outlet the ultra-athletic Tebow will be Sanchez’s backup and will also get time in the multi-dimensional Wildcat offensive spreads. With the Broncos starting the 2011 season with a 1-4 record the controversial Tebow got his first NFL start on October 23, versus the Miami Dolphins. Tebow led the Broncos to an 18-15 overtime victory and started a streak that saw the team win seven of their first eight games with him under center. Despite showing immense leadership and sparking a run for the ages, Tebow’s controversial mechanics, combined with a 46.5 percent completion ratio helped the Bronco’s brass in their decision to trade him to the Jets thus making room for future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning.
McElroy currently stands third on the Jets depth chart and once again finds himself waiting for the opportunity to shine. The least experienced of the three, the Dragon alum has more than passed the bar at every level of competition. In addition to high school and collegiate championships, he was as efficient a quarterback as the SEC has ever seen. He helped lead the Crimson Tide to a BCS championship as a junior. As a senior, his numbers only got better as he completed 71 percent of his passes for a school record 2,987 yards and 20 touchdowns while finishing the 2010 campaign as one of the nation’s best with a passer rating of 169.0.
Following the lead of their starting quarterback this past summer, McElroy teamed up with Tebow and a host of other Jets skill position players at Sanchez’s annual “Jets West” passing camp at Mission Viejo High in Southern California. The private five-day camp has been held the past two off seasons to help build chemistry between Sanchez and his teammates leading into the Jets official training camps.
Helping to enhance timing and rhythm with his receivers and backs a positive secondary outcome of the mini camp would come in building a little camaraderie before the bright lights of the NFL season shine upon them.
Although Sanchez was forthright in inviting Tebow into his hometown, the two didn’t spend as much time together during the media patrolled Jets camp in Cortland, New York. According to reports from ESPN New York’s Rich Cimini the two didn’t room together. Tebow roomed with a wide receiver while Sanchez shared space with McElroy. On his rooming assignment Sanchez joked with reporters, “I have to make sure he doesn’t pop off,” a clear shot to McElroy’s post-season comments.
In the early going of the 2012 season it may be Sanchez’s experience and Tebow’s athleticism that is the talk of the town. But it just might be the heady play, trademark efficiency and gutsy leadership of the young gun from Carroll that eventually makes the grade in New York.