Whatever the New York Jets spent sending players to media training earlier this week would have been better spent on tackling dummies.
Put uniforms on a few and plant 'em strategically around the postgame locker room while the real-life tackling dummies hide in the showers and voila! — no matter the question, or how many times it gets asked, the answer is always the same. Better still, most reporters won't notice the difference, and after a few weeks, simply give up.
Reporter: "Another tough loss. What's the mood in the locker room?"
Reporter: "This is three in a row for you guys. Isn't it time for something to change?"
Reporter: "That's what you said last week."
Instead, the Jets followed the strategy every other NFL team employs according to league mandate in one form or another; namely, paying consultants or having their own PR staff teach players how to move their lips without really saying anything. For those who had trouble grasping even that simple concept, the Jets handed out flash cards with a dozen or so "bridge" phrases to get players out of tight spots.
Included are: "That's not my area of expertise, but ... Let me answer you by saying that ... Another thing to remember is ..." and so on.
All they do is buy the player some time. None get them off the hook because they still have to say something, which is generally where the trouble begins.
What the Jets really need are answers that cut off most lines of questioning after a loss, something they could manage as many as a dozen times this season.
The defense likely will be respectable, since coach Rex Ryan is so good on that side of the ball that he could probably cobble together a scheme using the aforementioned dummies. But scoring points is another matter altogether. The Jets still haven't settled on a starting quarterback, the receiving corps is thin and New York's running game will hinge on whether oft-injured Chris Ivory is good and-or durable enough to be a featured back.
So without further ado, here's a handful of tried-and-true alternatives:
— "We're not stupid. We just play that way sometimes."
The quote originated with former Bengals coach Sam Wyche. But imagine it coming out of the mouth of Ryan or even QB Mark Sanchez, especially if the Jets manage to recreate the hilarious "butt-fumble" that became the signature moment of last season's futility.
— "We've got to find a way to win. I'm willing to start cheating."
This one was uttered by former Pats tight end Marv Cook long before New England became a perennial contender. It has the whiff of desperation and heads off any questions about a player's commitment going forward. But it comes with one important caveat. No player with a previous suspension for violating the league's drug policy — this means you, Calvin Pace, and you, Santonio Holmes — should touch it.
— "Defensively, I think it's important for us to tackle."
Credit this one to Broncos linebacker Karl Mecklenburg just before Super Bowl XXIV. As noted above, the Jets won't need to make excuses on defense often. But we included it for the benefit of cornerback Antonio Cromartie, whose tackling style has been occasionally compared to that of famous matadors. Just in case.
— "This job is better than I could get if I used my college degree, which, at this point, I can't remember what it was in."
This all-purpose quote came from former Raiders tackle Mike Golic and suggests things have hit rock bottom. Plus, even if the questioner doesn't take pity on the interviewee, it doesn't easily lend itself to follow-ups.
— "We need more cohesion, rather than Stalinistic purges where you operate under a level of fear. We all need to join hands and sing, 'Kumbaya.' "
This one was hatched by Brian Williams of pro basketball's Denver Nuggets, but it's the go-to quote for teams falling apart at the end of the season. For starters, reporters will have to look up "Stalinistic purges," and then decide who in the Jets' front office is behind this latest sweeping-out. If nothing else, that should severely curtail their time for further questions.
And if those don't fit, well, there's always this gem from none other than Buddy Ryan, the former coach, mentor and father of the Jets' Rex Ryan, following an embarrassing loss.
"That's the first time I've ever been beaten by a team that looked like it was trying to die."
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.