Woody Johnson, you have been put on notice. “Fireman Ed,” one of the most visible and long-standing superfans of the New York Jets, has hung up his helmet.
In a story by the Associated Press and published in the National Post, former firefighter Ed Anzalone has decided he’s had enough of the derision he faces from other fans at MetLife Stadium and will no longer attend Jets’ home games as his “Fireman Ed” character. A season-ticket holder since 1976, Anzalone will continue to go to games and wear the No. 6 jersey of quarterback Mark Sanchez, but will keep a lower profile.
Anzalone says “confrontations” between himself and other fans “have become more common” since Gang Green traded for Tim Tebow. As the Jets continue their slide in the AFC standings — they’ve lost four of their last five games and currently sport a 4-7 record — the calls grow louder for the team to replace Sanchez with Tebow as the starting QB. The situation has created a split among supporters of the two players, and the tension has led to Anzalone’s decision to stop leading the crowd in the familiar “J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! JETS!” chants.
Among those who may be calling for change is Johnson, the team owner, rumored to have pushed general manager Mike Tannenbaum to make the deal with the Denver Broncos in the first place. This is nothing new for the Jets, which has acquired a reputation as a “quarterback graveyard.”
Certainly Sanchez appears to be on life support. The fourth-year signal-caller has struggled mightily this season: he’s 30th of 35 in quarterback rating (75.6) with the second-lowest pass-completion percentage in the league at 55.4, tied for tops in forced fumbles and second-worst in lost fumbles. It has been compounded by season-ending injuries to wide receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Despite the poor play, head coach Rex Ryan has steadfastly stood by his beleaguered pivot. In addition, Ryan has used Tebow sparingly and predictably, usually in short-yardage third-down conversion attempts which opposing teams have had little trouble shutting down. The dissension has spread to the locker room, with several players anonymously criticizing Tebow’s ability.
There’s no way to sugar-coat it: the New York Jets are a walking disaster for the second straight season. Anyone who saw their Thanksgiving Day debacle against their ex-rival New England Patriots knows it — Fireman Ed walked out of that game at halftime. Anyone who anticipated this outcome after trading for Tebow knows it. Answers? Good luck with that. While the speculation has grown about the team looking at firing Ryan, the problems here go deeper than that.