- Jets WR Wayne Chrebet had a tough decision to make after the 2003 season. Chrebet missed the majority of the 2003 season with post-concussion syndrome and had to decide if he wanted to come back for a 10th NFL season. If Chrebet had retired, no one would have blamed him as he already etched his name into the Jets record books. After a lot of thinking, Chrebet decided he wanted to return this year. Chrebet had to accept a lesser role this season and has been relatively quiet, catching 25 passes for 328 yards and one touchdown.
Jets head coach Herman Edwards said Chrebet has done a great job accepting his role.
“He never batted an eye when we said you're going to be the third receiver, you come in on third down,” Edwards said. “He's been a professional about it.”
Ten years ago, the Jets took a chance on Chrebet as an undrafted free agent out of Hofstra. During his four-year college career, Chrebet caught 150 passes for 2,297 yards and 31 touchdowns. Chrebet set school records for TD in a game (five), season (16), and career (31) and the single-game yardage mark (245).
The Jets decided to bring in Chrebet as a rookie free agent. It wasn’t uncommon for Hofstra players to be brought in for training camp as Hofstra head football coach Joe Gardi was an assistant coach with the Jets from 1976-1984.
Chrebet worked hard in training camp and through injuries to other wide receivers worked his way up the depth chart and made the team.
He has made up for his small stature by making big plays when called upon and for that, he has earned the nickname “Mr. Clutch” for his ability. He also has been one of the most consistent Jets.
Chrebet is second on the Jets all-time receptions list with 559 behind Don Maynard and third on the all-time receiving list with 7,143 yards and 41 touchdowns.
Chrebet, the longest current tenured Jet, has outlasted every wide receiver drafted in 1995 except for Tampa Bay’s Joey Galloway.
“He can still catch the ball and he still has the ability to get open inside,” Edwards said about Chrebet. “He’s a very crafty guy. He’s a competitor. That’s how Wayne plays, (as) a competitive, overachieving football player. That’s what makes him so good.”
Chrebet has only missed 16 games in his career, nine of those last year as he was placed on injured reserve on November 12 with post-concussion syndrome. Chrebet talked about whether he thought about retiring in the off-season.
“It is not even to where I was in the right frame of mind to really decide on something like that,” Chrebet said. “I really couldn’t decide where I would go to dinner. I was kind of a big mush for a couple of months. I kind of just went with the flow for the while. Once I got a clear head and started thinking right, I weighed the pros and cons of it but my heart tells me to come back out there and get back on that horse.”
Working hard in the off-season workouts, Chrebet came back healthy and excited as he was as a rookie.
But Chrebet injured his hamstring in training camp this past summer and missed all of the pre-season. Chrebet played in the team’s opener against Cincinnati and talked about the crowd reaction after his first catch.
“It is actually a weird thing,” Chrebet said. “I tried explaining it to my wife on why I needed to go back out there and why I loved to be out there. After that play (his first reception that gave the Jets a first down), I talked with her after the game and she said, ‘I finally get it. I get why you are out there and why you needed to be out there.’ It was an emotional thing for me and I am glad everybody responded the way they did.”
In the Jets 17-14 win over Buffalo on October 10, Chrebet caught eight passes for 90 yards. It was his best game since December 23, 2001 against Indianapolis. But over the last nine games, Chrebet has only caught 11 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown.
One of the reasons Chrebet isn’t as effective as in the past is teams know QB Chad Pennington is going to throw to him on third down. In the Jets 13-7 loss to the Patriots on October 24, the Jets were driving late in the game with a chance to take the lead but the Patriots knew the pass on third down would be thrown to Chrebet and covered him well as the pass fell incomplete.
Another reason Chrebet isn’t putting up the same numbers he has in the past is because the team traded their second-round draft pick to the Titans for WR Justin McCareins. McCareins is the number one option with WR Santana Moss number two and Chrebet the third option.
Chrebet talked about his role as the number three receiver.
“You know you are going to get your reps, but it is a different role,” Chrebet said. “But, it is a different situation coming in this year. I don’t necessarily care about starting a game; I just would like to be in there during the crucial parts of the game when I am needed. At this point, I just want what is best for the team and whatever is going to help us get there, I will do it.”
Chrebet enjoys the competition with the other wide receivers.
“Every year we have drafted guys since I have been here and guys have gone out for your spot,” Chrebet said. “That is good, it has only made me better over the years. We have drafted Laveranues (Coles), Santana (Moss), Alex Van Dyke, and Keyshawn (Johnson) and we brought in Jeff Graham and Webster Slaughter-I like the healthy competition. If there is a situation with the team came to me and says, ‘he’s the starter,’ you know what? I am going to work as hard as I ever have and hopefully that amounts to the same amount of plays.”
Chrebet talked about his role as a mentor to the younger wide receivers like Jerricho Cotchery, who the Jets drafted in the fourth round this year.
“The young guys are asking a lot of questions and are trying to learn,” Chrebet said. “And I like that about them. I am just trying to pass on my knowledge and make some plays.”
Moss, whose locker is right next to Chrebet, talked about their relationship.
“He tells me, ‘Aw, I’m an old man.’ (I say back), ‘You aren’t old.’ That is just him being humble and just saying he is having fun and being able to go out there and play the time he is getting. When you see him step up like that, you know you never forget it. You never forget how to be out there and be a player.”
After his career nearly ending last year, Chrebet appreciates still being able to perform at the pro level.
“That is one of the things I think about when I am home,” Chrebet said. “I mean, it’s still kind of a ‘pinch me’ thing 10 years later that this is what I do for a living. Now it is getting a little more special because I think my son is starting to understand a little bit and that is fun. Just being back makes me appreciate the ability I have been given and the teammates and the franchise I play for.”
Asked to reflect on his time as a Jet, Chrebet said, “I wouldn’t want to be any other place these last 10 years.”
No doubt that Chrebet will be crucial to the Jets playoff chances over the final three weeks of the regular season and when it’s third down, don’t be surprised to see #80 coming up with the catch.