The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for

The operative word is 'if'


Are the New York Jets:
a. The Bengals
b. The Redskins
c. Smart about building a team that can contend for a title?

One sure thing: they're making their owner happy by grabbing the back pages of New York's tabloids from the Giants. Unfortunately for Woody Johnson, who has declared war on the region's other team, the Giants don't care at all. They are content with 85 years as one of the NFL's charter teams and four Super Bowl trips with three victories in the last 25 seasons, the most recent one of the landmark upsets in recent sports history.

By contrast, the Jets' last historic moment was in 1969, when Joe Namath and Matt Snell led them to another landmark Super Bowl victory.

They want another, almost as much as Woody wants the back pages.

So since the 2009 season ended, the Jets have traded for Antonio Cromartie, a cornerback who has fathered seven children by six women in five states; signed LaDainian Tomlinson, a superstar running back whose best days are behind him and traded for 2009 Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes, who promptly was suspended for four games by commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

Thus the above questions.

Cromartie and Holmes meet the Bengals' standard -- players whose conduct is at best dubious. All three meet the Redskins (or Dan Snyder) standard: name players who might not necessarily mesh well enough to win games. Tomlinson, of course, is the perfect example of Snyderism: a superstar well past his prime whose name is worth more than his play.

Yet you can make a case that the Jets have pushed themselves very close to the top of the heap in the AFC IF (in capitals) second-year QB Mark Sanchez improves enough to be able to exploit the presence of Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Jerrico Cotchery, all of whom will open the middle for tight end Dustin Keller. And IF the leaders on the team and charismatic coach Rex Ryan can hold together a locker room where two uncertain characters have been added to a group that still wonders about the release of Thomas Jones, who rushed for more than 1,400 yards last season.

In that sense, the signing of Tomlinson makes sense, even though he's hardly likely to reach that yardage figure -- he had just more than half that total last season, 730. But he's a veteran with character with a Hall of Fame career, one who can bring a team together.

There are other leaders on the team, notably Bart Scott, the linebacker Ryan brought with him from Baltimore and another former Raven, safety Jim Leonhard, one of those players who is too small, too slow and too good. Cromartie fills a major hole in the defense -- at cornerback opposite the wonderful Darrelle Revis. The subtraction of unhappy safety Kerry Rhodes also helps.

Assuming the leaders lead and Sanchez makes the normal rookie to second-year improvement, one more thing has to happen: Johnson must shut up. Whining about the Giants (and division rival Patriots) and sticking his nose in Ryan's business doesn't win championships.

Pick up the phone, Woody. Call Snyder and discover where that's gotten the Redskins.

By Dave Goldberg  |  April 13, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Crime , Dave Goldberg , NFL , New York Jets , Pittsburgh Steelers , San Diego Chargers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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