We’ve talked to plenty of league sources and insiders this week regarding the incident that occurred on Sunday in the Meadowlands, when Jets strength coach Sal Alosi, standing in formation with five others, stuck out a knee and tripped Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll.
And no one with whom we’ve spoken — no one — believes that Jets coach Rex Ryan and/or Jets special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff didn’t know what Alosi was doing.
Most have spoken about it off the record. On Thursday, one of Ryan’s former bosses in Baltimore was blunt.
“Of course Rex knew about this,” former Ravens coach Brian Billick told ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning. Ryan worked for Billick for nine years, so we’ll defer to Billick’s knowledge and opinions in this regard.
Though no one (to our knowledge) has said on the record that Westhoff knew, we continue to hear from a reliable source (as opposed to our usual unreliable sources) that Westhoff knew, too, despite Westhoff’s denials.
How couldn’t Ryan and Westhoff know? As we’ve said before, watch the video. Rex Ryan is standing with the Alosi alignment in plain sight.
As to Westhoff, we continue to be befuddled by his belief that the Patriots and other teams are engaging in similar tactics and in Westhoff’s view it’s no big deal, while Westhoff insists that he’d never engage in such behavior, even though he thinks it’s no big deal. Then there’s the fact that Westhoff claimed as of Wednesday to have knowledge about other teams’ behavior in this regard, but that “before this happened I never really looked at anybody’s sideline in all my years.”
Thus, we are to believe that, with the team mired in a two-game losing streak, Westhoff spent significant time on Monday and Tuesday reviewing enough tape of multiple other teams to detect for the first time in his 29-year pro coaching career that multiple teams use non-players as roadblocks for gunners. And he’s OK with that, even though he has never done it once. In 29 years.
What of the reality that Alosi and others were doing this in plain view of anyone on the sidelines? We realize that things can get hectic during a game, but to believe that this had been happening on a consistent basis right under Ryan’s and Westhoff’s noses means that they knew about it and they’re now covering it up — or that they’re too incompetent to have noticed.
Speaking of a cover up, we’ll continue to be suspicious that Alosi is taking the fall for others as long as his employment with the Jets continues. As we pointed out the other day, Alosi’s wrongdoing assumed a higher level of culpability when he lied to the team and the media on Monday about not instructing others to stand on the edge of the white stripe in the hopes of limiting Carroll’s ability to run out of bounds. Most employers will immediately fire an employee who lies within the confines of an internal investigation.
If Alosi isn’t fired, we’ll assume that his ultimate punishment for stupidly sticking out his knee while otherwise doing what he was told to do will be assuming the public blame for telling others to stand there. If he instead ends up leaving the team, it likely will come after he has signed a document that states unequivocally that no one else told him to do it — along with a document that gives him a severance package in exchange for a waiver of all claims and, more importantly for the Jets, a commitment to never talk about the situation publicly or privately.
As one league insider explained it to us, strength coaches simply aren’t involved in on-field tactics. On game days, they’re not really “coaches” at all. Their work is done. Strength coaches aren’t typically going to think of strategies for helping the on-field interests of the team, and if in the rare case a strength coach does indeed have an epiphany about something that could benefit the cause, he’s not going to implement it without telling the head coach or the special-teams coordinator.
Then there’s the fact that the Jets have trotted out tight end Jeff Cumberland to publicly place all the blame on Alosi.
“He never really just gave a reason,” Cumberland said, per ESPN. “He just said during punt return, ‘You just stand right here by this line, everybody just stand right here.’ There wasn’t really a reason why. But we kinda figured just in case somebody ran over here.”
As Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com reports, the league is now actively investigating the Jets for using inactive players to form a sideline wall during punts, and for Westhoff’s decision to publicly accuse the Patriots of doing the same thing.
Plenty of league insiders are now rolling their eyes, given the widespread belief that the league office tends to look the other way when it comes to the Jets. One league source says that at least five owners firmly believe that, for whatever reason, the league office is inclined to go easy on the Jets.
The league office currently has an opportunity to debunk that perception — or to solidify it.
And while the reality remains that other teams have indeed done the same thing, the Jets’ apparent failure to come clean from the get go has given this thing legs (other than Alosi’s), once again proving the adage that the cover up is always worse than the crime.