In team sports like football and hockey, the franchises with the most star power don’t always win.
Just look at the Los Angeles Rams who have two of the best players in the NFL on their defense, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, but have yet to win a Super Bowl. How about the Dallas Cowboys offense (Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper among others) or the Houston Texans when they paired Deshaun Watson with DeAndre Hopkins, not to mention J.J. Watt.
For the NHL fans out there, the perfect example right now would be the Edmonton Oilers. The Canadian organization houses two of the top three or four hockey players in the game right now on the same roster, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, yet they can’t seem to make it through the first round of the playoffs.
New York Jets offensive guard Greg Van Roten expounded on the power of a well-rounded roster and a strong system during his press conference on July 27, 2021, and his message explained why stars don’t always lead to championships.
ALL the latest Jets news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Jets newsletter here!
Islanders’ Blueprint Could Work for Jets
“If you are not from this market, very few people know a lot of the names on that team,” Van Roten told reporters when asked about his hometown team, the New York Islanders.
The right guard and Jets union representative organized multiple group outings at the Nassau Coliseum during the Islanders’ 2021 postseason run.
‘GVR’ referred to the team bonding exercise as “one of those intangible things,” adding that “it’s not really measurable.”
He continued: “It’s always fun to get to know your teammates, build friendships, and then rope them into something that [you] care about deeply.”
Who knew that the raucous affairs that featured offensive lineman Dan Feeney chugging beers and out-of-control towel-waving cheers would actually come with an important lesson at the end of it.
“One of my favorite things about the Islanders is they play within the system… I think it just shows that if you have a really good coach, you have a really good system and you have guys that work hard, you can go far,” Van Roten stated wisely.
The Islanders have made the NHL Stanley Cup semifinals (final four) in back-to-back years, despite owning a blue-collar vibe that usually comes with a lack of respect from opposing fans and analysts.
“You can take something from that, also being a professional athlete and say hey, you don’t need superstars to be successful, you need guys that play well within that system and then the superstars just kind of elevate you to that next level,” GVR concluded.
Gang Green doesn’t have a lot of household names right now either, but Van Roten doesn’t care. He’s witnessed first-hand that famous players don’t always equate to wins.
The Islanders roster is constructed with grit and backbone in a sport that bears similarities to football. Both take skill, but they also involve strength of will and determination. Most times, the team that wins is the one that gives that extra 10% effort.
As for his player comparison, GVR says that he “would like to think [he’s] Matt Martin,” the Isles’ fourth-line bruiser. “I love his game… he protects his teammates, he plays hard, he puts himself in good spots… I hope that I can be like Matt Martin in my game.”
Follow the Heavy On Jets Facebook page, where you can weigh in on all the latest NYJ-related daily content, analysis, features and more!
Saleh’s System Elevates Players
Many fans are worried about the youth and inexperience that makes up a large portion of this Jets roster, but maybe we shouldn’t be.
Head coach Robert Saleh and assistants like offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, offensive line coach John Benton and cornerbacks coach Tony Oden (among other staff members) all have a history of developing talent within their system.
For the cornerback room, in particular, Coach Oden told the media that he looks at the youth “as a positive,” elaborating, “we got young guys that we can kind of mold, that don’t have a lot of battle wounds and a lot of scars, or a lot of things you [have] to unteach.”
Oden continued: “It’s kind of like you’re starting with a mold of clay that hasn’t been fully shaped just yet, so we can put our hands on them and shape them the way we want them.”
Saleh’s defensive philosophy also puts a ton of emphasis on the trenches and the pass rushers. Their job is to get to the quarterback fast, which in turn helps alleviate the pressure that’s on the secondary to cover for long periods of time.
Ulbrich’s linebackers should also factor into Cover-3 zone coverages and blitz packages.
In terms of the offense, Van Roten noted that it seems that there will be more of an “emphasis” on the run in 2021. He also talked about how the offensive linemen are required to be pass-blockers and run-blockers in this scheme, saying: “That’s why the system is so important because everything needs to complement each other.”
When it all works in unison, it can be harmonious. That’s the point that the right guard was trying to make about the Islanders.
Last word from GVR: “Everyone knows their job but sometimes football reveals your character and you don’t want to find out too late that we have the wrong guys. I’ve been around a lot of coaches that say it doesn’t matter, we don’t need the [most talented] guys… you just need the right guys on the bus to play hard. You’re going to hit adversity… and we’ll see how we deal with adversity once it comes and it is coming because this is the NFL.”