As I detailed in an article in today’s Journal News, Lewis Edney is settling in as the new quarterback at New Rochelle. Nope, Jonny McGhee hasn’t come back to the team and, according to the coaches and players, it doesn’t seem like he’s going to.
I’ve said it before and I stand by it: Jonny McGhee would have been the best returning player in Section 1 this season. He started as a sophomore two years ago and had his team three minutes from the state championship game, only to guide them within a 26-yard field goal from the Dome last year. You know what happened from there.
The reason McGhee is no longer considered a part of the team centers around him not showing up to offseason workouts and arranged meetings in the spring and summer. As the starting quarterback, he was expected to be there. On most occasions, he was a no-show without warning. New Rochelle tried to convince him the importance of being with the team. Eventually, the Class AA champs had to move on.
That’s where Edney comes in. I spoke with the senior for a while last week. He seems ready to take over from a confidence standpoint. He just needs a little more time to develop physically and get a firmer grasp of the playbook. The next month, especially Champions Camp, will allow him to do that.
Until then, though, you have ask yourself one question: What if McGhee comes back? There are several other scenarios and issues involving McGhee, which I’ll detail below and give my thoughts. I’d love to hear yours in this very unique situation:
What if, on Aug. 21, he shows up?
It’s not out of the realm of possibility. August 21 is the first official day of fall practice. By rule, any workout a team has in the offseason up to that point is deemed voluntary. He technically didn’t HAVE to show up to those. August 21, by state rule, is the first day.
However, and many might disagree here, it’s well within the right of the coaches and players to award positions based on attendance. Maybe Edney would have earned the starting job even if McGhee was there. Who knows? But McGhee hurt his team by not showing up this spring and summer. Edney was there to help. So Edney being named the starting quarterback is totally valid.
But if McGhee shows up, passes the physical and New Rochelle has a no-cut policy for football, he HAS to be a member of the team. Case closed.
Do you allow him to take reps?
Before I even let him back on my practice field and put a helmet on, the first 20 minutes of practice will be a closed door meeting. It’s the coaches, the captains and McGhee. Nobody leaves the room until they’re satisfied with what McGhee says, whether he issues an explanation or an apology. Unless McGhee gets the blessing from them, you cannot move forward.
Then, he must speak to the team. Again, explanation, apology, whatever. You can’t have a distraction like this on your team, especially not when you’re aiming for your fourth straight sectional title. Then, he can step on the field.
If you have a two-time all-section quarterback who has lost one regular season game in two years on your team, do you necessarily have to play them?
Nope. Absolutely not. It might be uncomfortable, and you might have an unstoppable scout team, but if New Rochelle wants to play the kids who committed to the offseason workouts and reward them, I respect it.
McGhee has earned his spot back on the team, not just from a talent standpoint. This is more about trust. When you put on a uniform, every one of your teammates expects you to commit and work your hardest, whether you’re the starting quarterback or the fifth-string kicker. It’s the same with the kids who miss games in the spring with the prom. As a teammate, you expect the people around you to do what’s best for the team. New Rochelle expected that from McGhee. And if he’s going to be a member of the ’09 squad, they’ll expect it again. He’ll have to prove to them he’s committed.
Because, imagine this: What if McGhee proves how good of a player he still is and they put him at quarterback. Who’s to say that before the playoffs he might not lose his ambition to play and stop showing up again? Then what? You might think that’s extreme. But I can imagine nobody thought in the spring he would mysteriously stop showing up. So why can’t it happen again?
Can you turn McGhee away from the team?
I’m not in education. I don’t work in schools. And my contact with kids is limited to being around practices and games.
But, as an educator, how can you turn your back on a kid regardless of the situation?
I don’t think you can. It’s your job to help these kids. They’re 16, 17 and 18. They’re not adults. The adults in this situation have to recognize there was a problem here and do whatever it takes to help the student athlete. Tony DeMatteo once said at a clinic that you can never turn your back on a kid, no matter what. I couldn’t agree more.
Let’s not lose focus on what’s important here. It’s not about winning football games. Sports is a privilege, not a right. McGhee is in no way entitled to play football for New Rochelle this season. But if this can help steer away from trouble — whether he’s getting into trouble or not — it is worth some of the adults swallowing their pride and, once again, reaching out to help him.
1. He addresses the team and accepts comments and questions from those who have them, players or coaches.
2. He re-proves his commitment to football. The slack he might have received as a veteran, star player the last two years is totally lost. If he misses a single practice, or even shows up a minute late, he gets treated like a rookie and they withhold his reps at practice and his playing time.
3. No way can you allow him to play quarterback. It’s not fair to Edney, who busted his rear end all spring and summer. If McGhee played any other position in any sport, you could ease him back in. But not quarterback. No way. If you let McGhee play QB, you will lose the team.
Do you hold losing the last two Monroe-Woodbury games against him?
McGhee has been beaten up on this blog for what happened in the final minutes of those two games. Those two games, when put together, is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
Some feel that losing those two games has something to do with this. I can’t imagine it does. Honestly, in the 2007 game where he fumbled was not his fault. I question whether New Rochelle should have even been attempting to throw the ball on 2nd-and-long at its own 35 leading with with just over three minutes left. They put a lot of trust in McGhee in that spot, maybe more than any sophomore should ever have. McGhee, though, was so good that season that you forgot how old he was.
As for last year, I could not believe that any kid would call his own fake in a spot like that. But do I totally blame him? First, the snap, he felt, was a little high and the kick could have been blocked. Secondly, he pulled the snap twice before on extra-points in big spots — highlighted by his two-point conversion run in triple OT to beat John Jay — and it worked. Third, and it’s hard to write this, but I don’t think McGhee had any faith whatsoever that the kick would have been made. He felt he had the better chance of winning the game so he took it.
Now, he’s not a coach and that’s not his decision to make. If I were running New Rochelle and he was coming to every offseason workout, I’d probably suspend him for the first game of this season for defying the decision of a coach. But that’s a separate issue.
To me, McGhee lost those two games not because he choked in a big spot. He made two mistakes playing as hard as he could. You can’t ask more a kid than for him than to play his hardest. And, no matter how good of a coach you are — and right now Lou DiRienzo is the best — you’re always at the mercy of your kids in a game.
When it comes down to it, will he back back?
So many of you have speculated, quoting Facebook posts and rumors from friends. Personally, I don’t think this is over. In fact, I think today’s article might have only fueled the push some are trying to make to convince him to return.
Whether he goes into the office today, tomorrow or some time before August 21, he will be, even if for a day, again a member of the New Rochelle football team.
Again, I’m anxious to hear your thoughts and whether you agree or disagree with my perspective. I’ve thought about this issue for a long time, and pretty much avoided the discussion until we got closer to the season.
Champions Camp begins a week from today. The clock is ticking.