Should former Falcons and Seahawks coach Jim Mora ever get another NFL job, it is safe to say that he won't be rushing to add Mike Jenkins to his secondary. Mora, now an analyst for the NFL Network, had a pretty strong reaction to Jenkins's decision to simply stand and watch James Jones waltz into the end zone on Sunday night.
"To me, this is high treason," Mora said. "An NFL football player does not turn down a play like that. And if I'm Jason Garrett, the first thing that I'm doing when I take over as the head coach of this team, is I'm getting guys like that -- No. 21, who absolutely committed treason, let his team down by passing up a tackle and let the ball get in the end zone -- I'm taking him and I'm getting him out of my locker room."
Mora is totally right about NFL football players not turning down plays like that. Jenkins simply quit on a play that was right in front of him and, more importantly, a play that didn't have to end up as a touchdown. That's not a blown coverage or even a pass interference penalty, it's an odious symbol of apathy that runs counter to every thing we know about what it takes to succeed in football.
Mora's also wrong, however. As bad as that play was, Jenkins is still a player with great talent that made the Pro Bowl in 2009, which means he'd still bring you back something in a trade if you wanted to get rid of him. Antonio Cromartie made a similarly atrocious play in the playoffs against the Jets last season, and the Jets traded a third-round pick that could move up to a second rounder for the rights for his services.
That's not the only place where Mora is wrong, though. He's wrong about the play being in the Benedict Arnold class, because for something to be treasonous it would have to be an affront to the system of beliefs established by Jenkins's team. Under Wade Phillips, the 2010 Dallas Cowboys did not believe in trying hard, they did not believe in making the extra effort and they did not believe in disciplining players who refused to do their jobs. You can't accuse of Jenkins of doing something equivalent to turning his back on his country when his country applauded everything he did on a regular basis.
Depressing, perhaps, but true and that's why winning is second on Jason Garrett's to-do list over the next eight games. He has to make it clear that there will be no further acceptance of the kind of lackadaisacal shoulder shrugging that's at the root of this year's disaster. He can do that in several ways, but the most obvious is by actually taking punitive measures against players when they cross the line the way Jenkins did on Sunday night. That doesn't mean cutting him, as Mora suggested, but it does mean benching him or even deactivating him for a week.
Only when you change the culture around the team can you actually condemn a man for living up to the meager expectations created for him. Until Garrett makes that change, Jenkins isn't the entire problem. He's just part of it.
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