FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Jamal Adams got his first taste last year of what it’s like to be a star in New York, and it was mostly an enjoyable ride for the first-round safety. A promising young player with plenty of charisma, there was a lot to like about a guy the Jets hope can be a cornerstone player for a long time.
But with fame comes responsibility, and Adams now has a decision to make: He either accepts the reality that what he says and does will be magnified, both good and bad. And if he’s going to enjoy the high when things are good, then he’s got to be willing to show up and take the heat when it’s bad.
You can’t have it both ways in a market this big and this influential.
Adams got himself in hot water with a poor choice of words during his weekly WFAN spot on Tuesday, when he suggested the Jets’ defense wasn’t prepared when Baker Mayfield replaced the injured Tyrod Taylor.
“We had to be open to knowing that Baker could come in, but we were prepared for Tyrod,” Adams said. “When Baker came in, obviously we didn’t have a game plan for him.”
Adams may not have intended to second-guess the coaches with that line, but that’s how it came out. Coach Todd Bowles was none too happy about it and said as much Wednesday in his news conference.
“He’s still a young player. He’s going to make mistakes,” Bowles said. “This won’t be the last one he makes going forward.”
Bowles said he had a talk with Adams, and ironed things out. Adams then told reporters he believed his remarks were misconstrued, and that he wasn’t calling out his coaches.
“If you listen to the interview, it tells you everything I said,” Adams said. “I simply said we prepared for Tyrod . . . I did not say that the coaching staff never had us prepared for two quarterbacks.”
Adams has to know that his words carry more weight than others in the Jets’ locker room, and if he’s going to be a reliable leader, he needs to do a better job of saying exactly what he means. He’s a fiery, intense competitor who plays hard and has the respect of his teammates. But he’s in an equally fiery, intensely competitive market in New York, and needs to show the accountability that is demanded of him.
This isn’t the first time his words have become an issue. Adams said in an interview with Bleacher Report that was published over the summer that many players from last year’s team were “used to losing” and “it was like everybody wanted to do the bare minimum.” He criticized players for not knowing the plays, missing assignments and not being sufficiently motivated.
Kudos to him for calling out under-performing teammates, but Adams needs to make sure his own game is up to snuff when he calls out others. He’s off to a solid start with 19 tackles, one sack and an interception, and he was terrific early on against the Browns. But he was a non-factor after Mayfield replaced Taylor, so he isn’t without blame for Cleveland’s comeback win.
Adams didn’t do himself any favors after the game either. He gave an interview to SNY but declined to speak to beat reporters. Fans may not care whether players talk to the press, but it’s those players who take the heat in those situations who earn more respect over the long term. Eli Manning has been through plenty of ups and downs in his career and has never failed to show up to explain himself. It makes a difference, whether Adams likes it or not.
If he needs a more personal example of how a player should comport himself in New York, he should look at his father. George Adams was a first-round pick of the Giants who faced plenty of adversity during his career, which was cut short by injuries, but he always showed up.
Like it or not, Jamal Adams has taken on a leadership role in the Jets’ locker room, and he’s therefore held to a higher standard. He has to make sure he lives up to that standard or else face the criticism that comes if he doesn’t.