The New York Jets can’t seem to get out of their own way—throwing interceptions, missing kicks, and dropping passes at the most inopportune times. During their most recent flop, they proved they can’t get out of other people’s way either.
I was watching the New York Jets/Miami Dolphins game on Sunday afternoon when Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi stuck out his knee and made contact with Miami Dolphins special teams player Nolan Carroll as Carroll raced down the sideline, a couple of yards out of bounds, in pursuit of the Jets’ punt returner. At first, I didn’t believe it was intentional, as the announcer was suggesting.
When the postgame quotes became available and it became clear it was in fact intentional, I was appalled. How could you not be? This is a coach, on the sideline, interfering in a very dangerous way with a participating player. Carroll was sent flying to the turf and appeared to be injured, but he was able to return to the game. It could have been a lot worse.
Should that part—the fact that it didn’t cause a serious injury—or Alosi’s sincere apology have factored into his punishment? It was announced on Monday afternoon that Alosi would be suspended for the remainder of the season without pay and fined $25,000. This was the punishment the Jets chose after consulting with the NFL; the league will not discipline him further.
After discovering it was not an accident, my initial reaction was: This guy has to be fired. Had the Jets chosen that course of action, I would have supported it 100 percent. But after further consideration I do think this penalty is adequately severe.
Alosi’s apology may have saved him his job. Nobody can judge someone else’s emotions with absolute certainty, but it sure seemed like Alosi regretted his actions, and he appeared to be a man willing to lose his job over this. “It’s an honor and a privilege to work and coach every day in the National Football League,” Alosi said at a press conference on Monday. Later, he added: “Whatever the disciplinary actions are, I am willing to accept them and move forward from there.”
Asked twice why he did it, he first responded with “I wasn’t thinking,” and later said, “You’re asking me to give you a logical explanation for an illogical act. I can’t explain it.” I chalk it up to temporary insanity, the kind that ended the career of Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes when he punched an opposing player in the throat after he had intercepted a pass near the Buckeyes’ sideline. Hayes’ actions were far worse in many ways, and he offered no apology after the game (or any time before his death in 1987).
Alosi did apologize and did show remorse, but perhaps none of that should have mattered too much. None of it changes what he did—it was inexcusable and despicable, even if it was an act of momentary madness rather than a malicious one. Alosi could have very easily been fired and he knew that. Instead he gets to return to his job when the season ends, which could come earlier than expected if the Jets keep playing this poorly. It sure seems like he is extremely grateful for that opportunity, which is to be expected but sadly isn’t always the case in similar situations.
The 33-year-old Alosi is in his fourth season as the Jets’ head strength and conditioning coach. He got his start in the NFL as an intern with the team in 2002 and earned a full-time position the following year. He played linebacker at Hofstra and led the team in tackles his senior season. This was one tackle he won’t forget.
UPDATE, 12/15/10: I cut this out of my original post and of course now it’s extremely relevant. This is from the first draft of my article:
After watching the replay a few more times, I found it curious that not only did Alosi stand his ground before eventually leaning forward, but the rest of the guys standing alongside him didn’t move a muscle. Was this a display of toughness? Did they decide ahead of time they’d stand together and whoever the player came closest to would stick out his leg?
Although my toughness is questionable, especially for professional football standards, I know I’d have a hard time not flinching in that situation and, if nothing else, wouldn’t want to put my knee in front of a world-class athlete running at full speed.
The reason this is relevant is because Alosi has now been suspended indefinitely after the Jets learned, through their continued investigation, that he instructed others to form a wall on the sideline. The rest of the coaching staff is claiming they knew nothing about this, and that Alosi acted alone.
This story is starting to remind me of my favorite television series, 24, in which it was often discovered that a bad guy initially believed to be working alone was in fact ordered by a government official, who in turn was ordered by the President of the United States! For film fans, Alosi appears to be the equivalent of the two soldiers in A Few Good Men, with special teams coach Mike Westhoff or even head coach Rex Ryan playing the role of Jack Nicholson’s character.
If that is what happened—and it’s not hard to argue that Alosi had little reason to take this upon himself—the Jets likely won’t be able to handle the truth. Isn’t that how it always seems to work, though? Find a fall guy who is low enough on the totem pole for outsiders to dismiss it as the senseless action of one foolish individual as opposed to proof that the organization has serious issues.
In the case of the Jets, the evidence is piling up in that case, too.