Super Bowl hero Mecole Hardman under fire amid allegations from former Jets teammates

The New York Jets hoped they were adding a “missing piece” when they signed Super Bowl champion wide receiver Mecole Hardman to a one-year contract last March. Hardman, fresh off winning his second Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs, figured to be a sparkplug in the Jets’ new-look offense, marshaled by future Hall of Fame inductee Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. But nothing turned out as expected when Rodgers’ season ended after four snaps in September.

Rodgers, lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, took the Jets down with him — and Hardman had little to no role in the offense after Zach Wilson was elevated to the starting job. The Jets dealt Hardman back to the Chiefs in October, and he caught the winning touchdown pass for Kansas City in Super Bowl LVIII, making him a three-time Super Bowl champion in just five NFL seasons. However, controversy continues to linger from his seven months in New York — and it all boiled over Wednesday on social media.

Hardman fired the first shot

Hardman appeared Tuesday on “The Pivot Podcast”, in part to discuss what went wrong during his brief tenure with the Jets. He blasted New York’s locker room for its “individual egos”, strongly implying that the Jets have not worked hard enough to foster a winning culture.

“I’ve been to four Super Bowls in five years now. Before, I had been to four SEC championships and three Super Bowls. I’ve won two of them,” Hardman said. “I know what winning looks like. I know what winning is. So y’all keep telling me certain things and I’m not going for that, because y’all are not doing it right.”

Hardman unfavorably compared the Jets’ locker room to the culture that has been built from the ground up in Kansas City, arguing that it is much more conducive to success — and seeing as Hardman has been part of all three Super Bowl-winning Chiefs teams since 2019, perhaps he has a point.

“We (are) all on the same level. No one is treated differently,” Hardman said. “If coach (Andy) Reid says, ‘We don’t wear yellow cleats in practice,’ and (Patrick Mahomes) goes out there and wears yellow cleats, Pat’s going back inside and changing his cleats. Everybody (is) treated the same.”

Jets stars respond

Jets players were not about to let Hardman’s criticism slide unchecked. Several members of the organization, including star cornerback Sauce Gardner and general manager Joe Douglas, responded to Hardman’s claims — with Gardner among the players who accused Hardman of leaking the Jets’ game plan to an opposing team.

Gardner, punter Thomas Morstead, and tight end Kenny Yeboah each implied on X (formerly Twitter) that Hardman told Philadelphia Eagles players about the Jets’ strategy entering their Week 6 matchup — which the Jets won, 20-14, at MetLife Stadium. Morstead and Yeboah accused Hardman himself of a poor work ethic and said he did not “earn” the right to have a larger part in the offense.

Hardman caught only one pass for six yards in five games with the Jets, and his limited role — as well as the emergence of rookie receiver Xavier Gipson — convinced Douglas to trade him back to Kansas City, especially after Hardman revealed he had stayed in touch with Mahomes and general manager Brett Veach.

“We were excited to sign Mecole,” Douglas said Tuesday. “He was excited to obviously join our team. It was a situation that really Xavier Gipson came on for us this year, and he did an outstanding job for us. Ultimately, we made the decision to move on from Mecole. Our process of that, and Mecole, he was excited to be here, and it just didn’t work out and a lot of that has to do with Xavier.”