Jets benched Milliner to keep Pats from crushing his spirit

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The Jets gave first-round pick Dee Milliner a starting job from the moment he walked in the door.

Then they took it away from him, because they’re hoping he is able to get it back and keep it for the long haul.

Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman admitted they were afraid the Patriots were going to target the rookie cornerback before he was pulled last Thursday, and that there were concerns about what that would do to his confidence.

“With Dee, it wasn’t that we were unhappy with what we were seeing. It’s just that the situation for us called for, OK, they’re getting ready to take some shots at this kid,” Thurman said, via Michael Fensom of the Newark Star-Ledger. “Rather than have him in a situation where he can get himself deflated, we decided to make the move and get a more experienced guy in there. And we did. We felt like it was the right thing to do.

“We’re not down on him at all. He’s got a chance to be a hell of a football player. And we don’t want a rookie to go out there and get shell-shocked and not be able to come back. And we were concerned about that.”

The Jets may have made that mistake in the past with Kyle Wilson, who was thrown into the deep end while he was still learning to dog-paddle in the NFL.

“You learn from your experiences, Thurman said. “Young corners, young nickels, when they’re out there they become big targets. And you get an experienced offensive coordinator, like they have in New England, with an experienced quarterback, they’re not dumb. They’re looking to score points.

“In any situation like that, you expect a guy to go out and perform, but if you see an opportunity to make sure his confidence doesn’t get shattered and he’s gotta fight back — if we can ward that off we’re gonna do that.”

Now the responsibility is on Milliner learning and growing from it. They’re going to continue to use him, even if he’s not starting. But at some point, the training wheels have to come off.

39 responses to “Jets benched Milliner to keep Pats from crushing his spirit

  1. Ummm…what? The Pats offense was terrible against the Jets. Yes the Jets defense had something to do with that, but I would think a kid would tend to lose confidence more against a good offense than my team’s, which isn’t close to good yet. Did Thurman time warp back to last year or something? 😀

  2. No harm letting the young man watch a few games but then you need to get him out there.

    Jets aren’t going anywhere this year anyway…

  3. I don’t understand this thinking at all. If you gave the kid the starting position the games before, let him start. Are the Jets just totally afraid of the Patriots? Every offensive coordinator in the NFL is good and will target a rookie CB until he shows on film he is good. Great corners get burnt and get right back up and make a great play the next snap.

    You don’t learn that sitting on the bench.

  4. The headline to this story is beautiful, and represents everything I love about sports.

    When you’re a real winner, that’s how you play – to win. To crush the spirit and all hope of competition from your opponent. Jordan, Bird, Brady, Patton, Halsey, from sports to war to it’s all about spirit and the will to win.

  5. If you get your spirit crushed from playing against UFA’s you don’t deserve to be a first round pick.

  6. It happened to my Houston Texans with CB Kareem Jackson. His first rookie year he was totally thrown to the sharks. His play was horrible. My town was calling for his head!!! His confidence was murdered.

  7. .

    Excellent coaching…… Many players have benefited from patience. Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers are examples.


  8. Wow. That is a startling admission. So they’re saying the kid isn’t emotionally mature enough to handle the job? That speaks volumes to me.

  9. DBs absolutely cannot screw up on a play. If Milliner’s confidence wasn’t there or he just wasn’t producing, then Rex needed to put someone out there that could cover. Considering the way the Jets D played, it’s hard to criticize the decision. Justifying it this way to the media though seems like a recipe for trouble though.

  10. Makes sense, but it would be more credible if they had sat him for the game, rather than pull him after he got beat on a play action pass that resulted in the easiest touchdown of the year, by another rookie, catching his first NFL pass.

  11. How insulting is that to Josh Freeman? He’ll let Milliner start against the Bucs and their much better receivers, but against the Patriots and the no names they had playing last week, he wants to protect Milliner.

    Brady is a HOFer. Freeman is a backup.

  12. 6ball says: Sep 20, 2013 9:42 AM

    Many players have benefited from patience. Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers are examples.


    Good point, bad examples. Brady and Rogers were development projects playing behind established starters. What the Jets did was the equivalent of starting Brady and Rogers in game one, then benching them during game 2 after a first quarter interception thrown to an established cornerback.

  13. I remember that Kyle Wilson game. Beat like a rented mule for 60 minutes.

    Still, this guy is gonna take his lumps sooner or later. If he’s as good as advertised, he would have been out there. Rex held him out because he wanted to field his A squad to beat the Pats and keep his job, now he’s backpedaling and making excuses.

  14. Is it not better to see what he can do and if he gets beat a couple of times use it as a teaching experience? Seems to me you have to learn at some point and the best way is trial by error. Especially in a league where you don’t only get the learning experience during the game but also a ton of film to review where every little tendency can be dissected with a goal of correcting the error.

    Also, as a Patriots fan maybe I was watching the wrong game because you only needed one defensive back to cover Edelman as whenever the ball was thrown to any once else I could picture John Madden saying; “That just doinked off his hands.”

  15. They should have benched geno too. Looked like he lost his confidence in the fourth quarter with all the sacks and INTs.

  16. Who cares? “You play to win the game.” Walls did a better job relieving Milliner. Keep DM in and the Pats could have put up a much bigger score, in which the Jets would have had NO shot to win the game.

    Good coaching decision in my opinion.

    People cried that Rex baby’d Sanchez, and now that he’s being “critical” of his players, its bad?

    Rex can’t win with you guys…

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