The League

Michael Kun
Author

Michael Kun

Co-author of The Football Uncyclopedia. He is also the author of six other books and is a practicing attorney.

It rests on Rex

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Let me preface my comments by saying that I'm a Jets fan.

Have been since I was a kid, and will continue to be for as long as I can imagine. Heck, my third grade book report was on Joe Namath's autobiography, Can't Wait Until Tomorrow Because I Get Better Looking Every Day. (My parents had to come to school for a special parent-teacher conference over that one.)

That said, even I, a longtime Jets fan, realize that last season's playoff run was done with smoke and mirrors. Actually, I'm not even sure that "smoke and mirrors" would describe it because even I, a longtime Jets fan, don't think they should have been in the playoffs in the first place. I don't like how they got there, and I don't like how expectations have changed merely because they got there.

For those who have forgotten, the Jets season looked like it was over by week 13 or 14. In fact, Coach Rex Ryan even announced that they had been eliminated, unaware of the slim chance they had to qualify for the playoffs. That slim chance required not only that a few choice teams lose a few choice games, but it also required the Jets to knock off the unbeaten and virtually unbeatable Indianapolis Colts.

The Jets, of course, were nowhere near the team the Colts were (as the AFC championship game would soon prove). But, as we all know now, the playoff-bound Colts chose to rest most of their starters against the Jets in a game that was otherwise meaningless to the Colts (unless you count pursuing a perfect season, which Colts coaches did not count). The result: the Jets got a win that even Jets fans are a little ashamed of. And if they're not, they should be. Beating the Colts without Peyton Manning is like eating a hamburger without any meat.

Then, the final week of the season, nearly the same thing happened, with the playoff-bound Bengals barely showing up to play a game that meant nothing to them other than perhaps to set some personal milestones. The result: another Jets win, which the Jets would duplicate in the first round of the playoffs, beating the Bengals again in a much closer game.

Now, Jets fans could and should feel good about that playoff win against the Bengals, and the win the following week against the Chargers, too.

But they shouldn't feel good about how they got into the playoffs. They should remember that, but for that Colts game, they would have been sitting at home watching the playoffs with everyone else.

But for that Colts game, there wouldn't be any talk about how the Jets are THIS CLOSE to winning a Super Bowl.

But for that Colts game, any discussion about the Jets would be whether they can develop into a playoff team in 2010.

That's really what we should be talking about here. Have the Jets improved themselves enough to earn a spot in the playoffs next year?

The Jets have already made a few major moves this offseason. And virtually every one of them has a chance to backfire. Yes, LaDainian Tomlinson is a future Hall of Famer. But, at this stage in their careers, Thomas Jones is a better back. While Tomlinson will play a different role for the Jets than Jones, backing up Shonn Greene, you still have to wonder why the Jets would prefer Tomlinson over Jones. It wasn't money. The Jets are paying Tomlinson more than the Chiefs are paying Jones.

Putting aside the reason they chose not to resign kicker Jay Feely -- they needed to let a free agent go in order to sign a free agent under the rules for this uncapped season -- it could be a disastrous move. I don't want to predict it will happen, but the first time they lose a game because of a missed field goal, Jets fans will miss having someone as reliable as Feely. Nick Folk, whom the Jets signed to replace Feely, is a fine young kicker. He's just not Feely, at least not yet.

But the two biggest acquisitions are, of course, Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes. On the field, these are both significant upgrades for the Jets. Both of these moves should be enough to push the Jets into the playoffs.

Picking up Cromartie to play corner, and pairing him with Darrelle Revis, is a great move, strengthening a great defense. (Although you have to admit that it was more than a bit peculiar for the Jets to trade for Cromartie shortly after they picked him apart in the playoffs. Note to Jets' opponents: watch the video of that game if you want to see how you can take advantage of Cromartie.)

Picking up Santonio Holmes for a fifth-round pick gives Mark Sanchez another quality target.

It's Cromartie and Holmes' off-the-field conduct that could make these moves backfire.

According to reports, Cromartie has seven children by six different women, and is currently involved in a paternity dispute for which the Jets had to advance him $500,000.

According to reports, Holmes allegedly assaulted a woman and will be sidelined for the first four games of the regular season for violating the league's drug testing policy.

Add them to a team that already includes Braylon Edwards, who may or may not enjoy punching LeBron James' friends, and who knows what to make of this team.

So much is made of a team's character.

Teams, coaches and even players put up with issues with players all the time. And, not surprisingly, star players can get away with causing more headaches than the second- or third-stringers.

Think of Pacman Jones or Terrell Owens circa 2007.

But, at a certain point in time, conduct becomes so disruptive and distracting that teams will not tolerate it even from the stars, particularly if their skills decline.

Think of Pacman Jones or Terrell Owens circa 2010.

The Jets are obviously rolling the dice with Cromartie and Holmes, as they are doing with Edwards.

They are hoping that Cromartie, Holmes and Edwards will keep their noses clean, particularly if they are surrounded by other players who do that.

Whether these prove to be great additions that send the Jets back into the playoffs, or destructive additions that cause the team to implode, will turn on four people.

Cromartie.

Holmes.

Edwards.

And Rex Ryan.

It will be up to Ryan to help them change, or keep them in check. It will be Ryan who will get much of the credit if these moves succeed. And it will be Ryan who deserves much of the blame if these moves backfire.

It's his locker room.

By Michael Kun  |  April 13, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Crime , NFL , New York Jets , Pittsburgh Steelers , San Diego Chargers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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If the off-field issues are ironed out, a Braylon Edwards-Santonio Holmes pairing could be as good a wideout combination as there is in the league. They're certainly giving Sanchez the weapons to light it up, especially if the run game can keep eight men in the box.

Posted by: Charles_Day@comcast.net | April 13, 2010 1:38 PM

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