The most talked-about right tackle in the NFL is getting a vote of confidence from his head coach and general manager.
Wayne Hunter, the Jets right tackle who was already the subject of intense criticism in New York even before his terrible game last week against the Giants, is capable of playing “great football,” according to what Jets coach Rex Ryan and General Manager Mike Tannenbaum said this morning on Boomer & Carton. In fact, Ryan and Tannenbaum offered similar defenses of Hunter, sounding like they had prepared talking points in advance of the barrage of questions about the weak link on their offensive line.
“He played some great football for us,” Ryan said. “When you look at the first two years we were here, we had him basically as our sixth man, he fit everywhere, even tight end, tackle, guard, wherever. The guy was really valuable.”
A couple of hours later on the same show, Tannenbaum said, “Wayne’s played well for us in the past, at different positions, obviously at right tackle but at tight end. . . . There’s things about Wayne where we think he can be effective for us.”
Ryan added that he believes Hunter has proven himself a capable NFL player.
“Wayne Hunter, it’s not by accident the guy’s played 10 years in this league,” Ryan said. “It’s not like he’s a one-hit wonder. He’s played 10 years. Now, did Wayne have a great year last year? No. But he wasn’t the only one. There were a lot of guys who could have played better, who we were expecting better things from. It just seemed like we were a little off, and I don’t think we had a great year from top to bottom, starting with myself.”
Saying Hunter has played 10 years in the league is a bit misleading: It’s true that the 2012 season will be the 10th NFL season since Hunter was drafted in 2003, but Hunter never played at all as a rookie in 2003, never played at all in 2007, and played in just one game each in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Hunter didn’t become a regular until the Jets signed him in 2008, and he didn’t become a starter until last season.
Maybe the Jets need to accept that Hunter was never good enough to be an NFL starter, and that it was a mistake to make him one last year. The problem is that they’re running out of time to find someone better.