Florham Park, N.J.: You will be hard pressed to find any Jets fan who would talk about Jerricho Cotchery in a negative manner. For seven seasons, the Jets wide receiver selected in the fourth-round of the 2004 draft quickly became a fan favorite, producing four seasons with over 50 receptions (including two over 80) and appearing in multiple playoff games for Gang Green.
It is hard to forget the tough yards after the catch, his success against the Patriots and him almost always being involved in the most crucial plays. Have you ever read an article about him complaining about touches, let alone anything?
Who can forget the diving catch against the Browns in overtime, which he completed after hurting his groin?
Cotchery is in his second season as part of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Jets next opponent. Today at Jets practice during a conference call, Cotchery let us in on how his tenure with the Jets ended, how close he came to returning to the Jets and the atmospheres in New York and Pittsburgh. To put the information in order, it will be in chronological order leading up to the current season.
A painful memory for fans is the ‘What could’ve been’ feeling, after the Jets couldn’t climb back from a 24-3 halftime deficit in Pittsburgh during the 2010 playoffs. “That was a tough loss, I thought we would’ve come out with more emotions and play with a little more sense of urgency,” said Cotchery. “Obviously Pittsburgh came out with more energy and more passion. That was a tough loss, it’s something you just have to live with for the rest of your life. The guys over here give me a lot of grief about that.”
The following offseason, Cotchery was released and was apparently unhappy with some of the personnel moves the Jets decided to make. They re-signed Santonio Holmes and brought in troubled wide receiver Plaxico Burress, fresh off his prison sentence. Cotchery felt like the odd man out.
“I mean everyone wants to finish their career out with the team that drafted them,” said Cotchery. “But that’s something that doesn’t really happen that much, you get a few guys that it happens to—I don’t have statistics or anything—but I feel like it doesn’t happen at all. The reality of it, I don’t think anyone really knows everything that transpired with the Jets. Everything in there is just between us. There isn’t anything to look back on and say I really regret anything.”
Cotchery moved on to Pittsburgh, where last year he found himself in one of the most unlikely upsets in NFL Playoff history. The Tim Tebow led Denver Broncos eliminated the Steelers in overtime, as one of the worst perceived throwers in the league shredded a top defense for over 300 yards and two touchdowns.
“It wasn’t stunning to me, because he’s a good football player,” said Cotchery of the game. “That’s what good football players do, they find a way to make plays and no matter how hard you critique the throwing motion or throwing accuracy or whatever it is, when the game is on the line and you continue to put the ball in a good football player’s hands, he’s going to find a way to make a play.”
As Tebow was advancing into the second round of the World’s greatest tournament, the Jets were having locker room turmoil after failing to reach the post season. Cotchery took notice of what was going on with his former club.
“As far as personality wise, I don’t want to say that caused the problems or whatever. I think anytime you lose a game, it’s hard to fight that urge to blame someone,” said Cotchery. “It’s just a naturally tendency to blame someone when times get hard. I really don’t know all that went in to it, but I just know anytime you lose your going to have that urge to want to talk.”
During this past offseason, when the Jets brought in heavy-hitter LaRon Landry, safety Yeremiah Bell and others, rumors of Cotchery signing back with the Jets were floating around.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it was close. I did talk to the Jets but, at the end of the day, Pittsburgh really wanted me back here and this is the place I wanted to come back to. Once you’re apart of this atmosphere, it’s hard to go somewhere else. That’s just the type of atmosphere it is. I wanted to come back, they really wanted me back and we found a way to get it done,” said Cotchery.
As Cotchery remained a Steeler, he is preparing for a defense that he knows well, but takes notice of one very important difference.
“We are seeing some of the same stuff with Rex, with the way he calls it, guys all over the place. I think the presence at safety, Landry, that’s something I really haven’t seen. He’s a physical presence, you have to find him. He’s an excellent player and he’s making a lot of plays for the defense,” said Cotchery.
Cotchery took the high road when asked to compare atmospheres between his old and new team, but ended with the classy answer you would expect from a highly respected player.
“I just know I had a lot of great teammates over the years when I was with the Jets. Starting from Day 1, meeting Chad Pennington and Curtis Martin, Kevin Mawae and all of those guys—all the way to guys like Brad Smith and Brandon Moore. True leaders that you knew had your back when you stepped out onto the field,” said Cotchery. “I have many friends and still do have many friends over there so I don’t really want to compare those guys or the atmosphere to these guys over here. I just know it’s ran like a family business. Everyone is held to a high standard and they put you back in line when you don’t hold up to their standards. It’s a great family atmosphere, the guys like going to work with one another and they lay it on the line once they get out on the field.”
To all the fond memories of Jerricho Cotchery.