TJ Rosenthal was fortunate enough to sit down for a lengthy interview with Connie Carberg, the NFL’s first female scout. We are going to run the interview in two parts. Today she talks about her career with the New York Jets and tomorrow she and TJ discuss the 2012 Jets roster. Enjoy and make sure to follow both TJ and Connie on Twitter –
For Connie Carberg the NFL’s first female scout, the New York Jets have always been family. Literally. From growing up the daughter of a team doctor to becoming a scout, from 1974-1980 (the one who found Mark Gastineau) few if any bleed the Green and White more than Connie. We truly thank her for taking the time to go through some of her personal Jets history with us while giving us a look through a professional’s eyes on how the NFL has changed. As well as giving us some thoughts on the current 2012 New York Jets –
1974-80: Growing up a Jet:
You experienced so much as a scout for the Jets from 1974-80. Mark Gastineau. You found him. How did that process take place from your initial sighting of him to the Jets selection of him in 1979?
Walt Michaels was coaching. North team on Senior Bowl, Mike Stensrud was injured and my boss Mike Hickey asked me to find somebody, watched tapes of all 6, read reports, and made phone calls. Gastineau was in perfect shape and had the same passion off the field as he did on. He wasn’t an act. He had total enthusiasm, and I suggested we take him, and he became the defensive MVP of the game. We drafted in him in the 2nd round after we took Marty Lyons first.
Wow, what a 1-2 by the staff that year. Now you grew up as a kid in the Jets family. So were players house guests who would come over and raid the fridge? Who were the ones you knew and or liked the best growing up? Pre scouting days..
I have been part of the Jets family since I was 12 years old when my dad Dr. Cal Nicholas became the Jets doctor. His office was connected to the house, and players often came over to be examined and would hang out in the house with the rest of the family. The first player we had over for dinner was Gerry Philbin, and I remember meeting him and watching him at dinner, thinking “I’ve never seen anybody drink so much milk in my life”. Wonderful man, Great DE. George Sauer was always over and was my tennis partner at the Long Island Yacht Club. He would play guitar while I played piano. He loved to play games in the backyard, like wiffleball or basketball with my brothers and myself.
We were very close with the Hampton family, Bill Hampton was the Jets Equipment Manager, and his son Clay is now the Director of Operations for the Jets. We’d have pool parties with our large families, in Babylon and Bayshore. Emerson Boozer and Ralph Baker were often there.
The Jets had a basketball team in the offseason, with people like Bake Turner, Jim Turner, Randy Beverly, Ralph Baker, Emerson Boozer, and John Schmidt who would come over to the house afterwards. My mom would cook a big turkey and they could all eat.
My favorite growing up was WR Bake Turner, who played guitar and sang incredibly. I still have a tape of him and George Sauer playing guitar together at the house, singing all sorts of songs on reel-to-reel, in 1969. Country Songs.
It was an amazing way to grow up, and then I went off to college, first to an all girls school, Wheaton College, and later I transferred to the Ohio State University, graduating in 1974.
I came back, and went to work for the Jets, and times were changing a bit and people weren’t at the house as much as in the past, but always for treatment and checkups. I was a lifeguard at the Long Island Yacht Club, and would bring the kids over to meet Joe Namath, who was always so good signing for kids. As long as the kids were well behaved. It was a great time. There was no player I didn’t truly like.
Let’s do a little word association: In a few words or less can you help describe some of the names, nicknames and places from that 1974-80 era?
Walt Michaels – Tough, Fair, Paul Brown Disciple, Mentor, All-Pro LB
Owner Leon Hess – Hands-off owner, not much football knowledge, very nice man, let coaches handle team
Lou Holtz- Motivator, great college coach, family man, answered every letter sent to him, Great man.
Shea Stadium – Home of the Jets, Diamond Club, Captain Kangaroo at every game, Bob Cleveland Orchestra, family
Joe Klecko – Strong, All-Pro, Sack Exchange.
Richard Todd – Tough job following Namath, especially from Alabama, but did take us to AFC Championship game, if tarp had been down, could have been different.
Wesley Walker – Best Deep threat of last 30 years, vision in only one eye (same as me now), memorized eye charts. Great moves and hands.
Joe Namath – Quickest release ever, charisma and star power, forced AFL-NFL merger, so good to young fans, as big as the Beatles.
The Sack Exchange – Still a favorite, ability to pressure without the blitz, front four that could do it all.
Now we know that you still keep a close eye on things. How Much has the NFL changed to you…on the field talent and equipment wise?
Quite a bit, from the equipment (helmets), and the helmet is now a weapon. In the old days, players didn’t trust the helmet to be used as a reasonable weapon and launch with it. Now it’s supposed to be for safety.
Players are faster and stronger, due to far more lifting weights (they didn’t as much in the old days). No offensive lineman were over 300 lbs. It’s common. Middle Linebackers were 215-225, now they are 230-250.
The fundamentals of tackling are poorer. Everyone started wanting to be on the highlight reel of ESPN, not just form tackling, and with the new CBA, you only have one-a-days and the lack of ability to practice tackling. Tackling needs to get much better.
Watch Ben Davidson hitting Joe Namath. He’d be fined for every single shot he took at Joe. Quarterbacks are protected far more now.
There were no jerseys back then, or Jets shirts or hats. You just looked for a green t-shirt. That’s why I wished we were red like the KC Chiefs, as it’s so much easier to find a red shirt than a green shirt. There was no Nike or Reebok.
Back then we were a Kelly green color, not as dark as now. It felt like more of a high-flying offense, while the darker green suits our defense today.
No sports talk radio, ESPN, NFL network, only the home team was on TV, so everybody always rooted for their home team. That was the only game you saw. You had no fantasy football, and didn’t know all of the stats. A lot less betting as well as no free agency, meaning that when you had a player, they were yours for life and as a fan, you lived and died with those players. He was your boy for life. I loved it that way.
The scouting profession?
Back then – Character was most important for the Jets, and RB’s were incredibly important, whether OJ, Gale, Sweetness, or Freeman. It was usually one RB + FB to lead block. Speed was important but big and strong were emphasized.
Lots of guys didn’t make the NFL because they were tweeners, but today they become specialty players, for pass rushers (like Maybin), and are put into unique packages, situational players. Everybody played 3 downs. There was no rotation. Everybody played where they played. There was no nickel or dime packages.
What did you rank higher: IQ or athleticism?
IQ was important, but there were 2 types. It was football and book IQ – Marino didn’t get the highest score like Ken O’Brien on his Wonderlic but his football IQ and ability to audible was off the charts.
Production, Motor, and Heart was the centerpiece of drafting then and now too because you need dependable players. The tweeners were primarily the different things that exist today. Guys just never asked to come off the field after a run or a catch like they do now.
Let’s Fast Forward to the 2012 Jets and start with Rex Ryan. Assess his body of work so far and what he has to do to improve as an HC.
When I worked for the Jets, the best record we had in 8 years was 8-8, so to consider that we went to back-to-back AFC championship appearances (under Ryan) is pretty darn good. We had so many lean years, that you can appreciate good coaches. I went to Super Bowl III at the Orange Bowl.
Jet Fans seem to forget our history was so bad for so many years and we’ve been to the playoffs many times with Herman Edwards, Eric Mangini and now Rex.
He said the locker room got ahead of him, and while it may sound strange, I believe the 2 years we were at Cortland made a huge difference in terms of team chemistry. Last year, the team wasn’t even staying together in a hotel or dorms. You never had a chance to connect with folks you might normally not have. Hopefully, this year at Cortland will make a big difference, and this Rookie class appears to be very tight and close together, with very good character.
Rex’s hirings of Sparano and Dunbar and his involvement in all facets of the team will make a big difference.
Mark Sanchez: Can the Jets win with him?
YES, I believe the Jets can win with Mark Sanchez. Even Namath took his 4th year before the Super Bowl, and with how many INT’s he threw, you realize how much seasoning it can take to be successful in this league. Also, let’s not forget that he has had to deal with new receivers every year, lacking consistency. Fans often want to discount this, but Namath knew who he would be throwing to every year, and that made a difference. We need consistency. I believe in Mark.
What do you make of the arrival and skill set of Tim Tebow?
I was shocked by the arrival of Tebow, but I was always an admirer of his emotional leadership and skills, and I think that if the press and fans will allow it, he and Mark can coexist. I am really excited about this.
Assess the current draft class and is it realistic for the Jets to expect major contributions from too many rookies?
(Quinton) Coples has all the physical skills for a guy at 16 who has top 7 talent. I love Stephen Hill, and today, I watched an interview and if he can play as well as he can interview, we’ll have a deep threat we haven’t had since Wesley Walker. I know he went to an option college, but hopefully, with others who have succeeded, he will do well especially in the red zone. I like Terrance Ganaway and Demario Davis has the skill set to be very good.
Can the Ground and Pound get the Jets to a Super Bowl?
The Ground & Pound CAN WORK if it’s not ALL on Shonn Greene. We need John Conner and Joe McKnight and (Bilal) Powell and Ganaway in case anybody gets hurt. Our offensive line has to get more consistent and I believe Sparano will help with that.
Let’s go back to the word association but this time, to cover some thoughts on the 2012 Jets and “friends.”
The Revis Contract Situation–– I hate it. Take care of the man. He’s an amazing ballplayer and some could argue that the last holdout severely injured the team with him being hurt throughout the season.
Santonio Holmes – I’m a fellow Buckeye and rooting for the Tone of 2 years ago, and for he and Mark to be on the same page.
Woody Johnson – Fan-friendly owner who truly cares about the team and is doing everything in his power to make the team a winner.
Mike Tannenbaum – Genius salary cap/contract negotiator with a flair for the extraordinary and a willingness to take risks with the players he brings in.
Met Life stadium – I haven’t been there, but I still wish we didn’t share a stadium with the Giants. I will go there sometime and watch a game, but Shea will always be home to me.
Brady and Belichick – Enemy. Enemy. Enemy.
Local Rivalry with the Giants – When I was growing up, the Jets were always treated like 2nd class citizens, and then we won the Super Bowl but were still second banana. However, then we played the Giants at the Yale Bowl (August 1969), an exhibition game, and even Joe Namath has said that the Yale Bowl Game means as much if not more to him that SB III. Today’s Jets don’t have that feeling, but I do, and I’ll forever hate the Giants and will NEVER root for the Giants as long as I live (that includes in Super Bowls against the Patriots).
Connie Carberg in 2012
What are you doing these days?
I live in Coconut Creek FL, doing PR for Al Hendrickson Toyota as my full-time job. My husband and I have been married for 33 years. My stepdaughter Lisa lives in Mystic, Connecticut and my Son, Chris lives in Orlando with his wife, Jenna. Both Die Hard Jet Fans. Everywhere I go, people know me as the biggest Jet fan there is down here.
Do you still go to training camp?
Yes, when I go back every summer, whether it’s at Hofstra, Cortland, or Florham Park, they treat me like family, and I NEVER take it for granted.
Tell us about your new Website and how the fans can contact you.