Joe Namath isn’t surprised that the world does not think much of the 2017 Jets.
“You have to earn respect and that’s by going out and winning some games, showing something, getting some teams wary of you,” the Hall of Fame quarterback said Tuesday at the United Way of New York City’s 24th annual Gridiron Gala in Manhattan. “Right now, I don’t think there are many teams that are wary of the Jets coming in. It’s easy to say ‘We have to play with confidence, guys! We have to play with confidence!’ You gotta earn that confidence, you gotta play well. Until they start to play well, who’s going to respect them?”
Namath did say he thinks the Jets have the talent to improve on last year’s 5-11 record.
“They’re good players,” he said. “It’s a matter of working together, don’t beat yourselves, go out there and perform. They got talent, there’s no doubt about it. Coordinating the talent . . . playing smart, keeping your poise, learning what you’re supposed to do, learning your assignments, this all comes into play.”
Of course, it shouldn’t be too hard to better last season.
“What we saw last year with the breakdowns defensively, what are they doing?” Namath said. “We expect to see a better performance this year.”
Mo Wilkerson even took a page from Namath’s playbook, saying at the same event Tuesday that he “guarantees” the Jets will improve on last year’s 5-11 record.
“The team will definitely be positive and do more things better than we did last year, I guarantee that,” Wilkerson said. “We’ll have more wins than we did last year, that’s a fact.”
Wilkerson pointed to a new vibe in the locker room and on the field this offseason.
“The way the guys are preparing right now during the offseason shows that we will definitely be successful during the regular season,” Wilkerson said. “I’m pretty sure I speak for most of my teammates, we don’t care what anybody says outside the building. It’s about us, the Jets organization, everybody who is down on Jets Drive. That’s all that matters.”
Notes & quotes: Namath said he’d like to see Christian Hackenberg emerge as the Jets’ starting quarterback. “I would like to see Hackenberg get in there because I think we need somebody for the future and I think he’d get some polish,” Namath said. “I know you want to win as you go along, and there is negativity about his ability to lead them to wins, but I would use him. Again, this is no reflection on Josh [McCown] taking the job. He’s a proven veteran and he brings a lot to the team, to a lot of teams. But realistically, you want to make the playoffs and you want to win a Super Bowl. We have to get the guy who can do that.” . . . Namath chuckled when asked to comment on Jets owner Woody Johnson’s remark last week that the 2017 team should not be judged by wins and losses but by progress. “You started that thing out with a name that I don’t want to get into a thing with here,” Namath said, a sign that the relationship between owner and icon has not thawed much over the years . . . Namath said he has no doubt Eli Manning will handle having rookie Davis Webb on the roster. “I can only guess that Eli is in a solid place, that he didn’t mind, and he doesn’t worry about things he doesn’t need to worry about,” Namath said. “He’s focused on what he’s doing, like he always has been.”