During the lockout, teams can’t talk to current players. But they can talk about former players. And since there’s not much for us to talk about, a team talking about a former player can provide the foundation for a blurb.
Tim Graham of ESPN.com posted on Friday an item regarding comments made by Jets coach Rex Ryan regarding former linebacker/defensive end Vernon Gholston last month at the league meetings. Graham characterizes Ryan as “a little defensive” regarding his inability to craft Gholston into a good player.
When Ryan became the Jets head coach a year after Gholston arrived via the sixth pick in the 2008 draft, Ryan compared the player to Ravens linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs, who struggled at first after being taken high in the draft, but who eventually flourished under Ryan. That same change didn’t happen for Gholston.
“I think Vernon improved,” Ryan told Graham. “Last year, I thought he gained strides. Unfortunately, I never knew this when we picked up Trevor [Pryce] and he played well for us, but that took a little away from Vernon. We had Shaun Ellis, so it was kind of hard to get [Gholston] more reps.
“But the guy is an excellent teammate. He did what was asked and he got better.”
Of course, the Jets wouldn’t have been so willing to pounce on Pryce if Gholston had been showing promise. And for all the positive things Ryan said, it didn’t keep the Jets from dumping Gholston.
Asked whether Ryan failed in making Gholston into a good player, Ryan said, “Well, then I failed as far as the numbers go. But I thought he got better, though. We’ll see what happens to him. He’s not done playing.”
And so it seems that Ryan is rooting for Gholston to turn it around, even if it means that the improvement will come with, say, the Patriots, the team we firmly believe duped the Jets into taking Gholston at a time when the two teams had back-to-back picks.
G.M. Mike Tannenbaum also seems to be hoping that Gholston will turn it around, while still acknowledging that it was a mistake to take him so high.
“I think Vernon still has the chance to have a productive NFL career,” Tannenbaum told Graham at the league meetings. “Obviously, he didn’t play to the level of the sixth pick in the draft, but he’s a great kid. His career is far from over. . . . We’ll have to look at our scouting process and have to see what we can learn from that experience.”
Given that Gholston was drafted three years ago and given that it was obvious fairly quickly that he wasn’t as good as advertised, you’d think the Jets would have done that right away, as in before the next draft.
Multiple factors seemed to contribute to Gholston’s struggles. As Ryan pointed out to Graham, the shift from 4-3 defensive end to the 3-4 system contributed to Gholston’s inability to excel. But deeper problems existed. Gholston was the proverbial workout warrior, wowing scouts with his chiseled physique and T-shirts-and-shorts exploits but not showing consistent domination on film from his time at Ohio State. Also, we’ve heard Gil Brandt on Sirius NFL Radio explain that Gholston didn’t seem to be a guy with the passion to play pro football at the highest level, explaining that the University of Michigan didn’t recruit the Detroit native due to concerns that he wasn’t fully committed to the sport.
The Jets nevertheless were infatuated with Gholston, perhaps because they believed that the Patriots were, too. The grift will be completed if the Patriots indeed give Gholston a second chance and turn him into a great player, like they did last year with former Jet Danny Woodhead.