If there's one thing the Jets aren't lacking, it's story lines. During the past week, they've flared up like little brush fires that need to be tamped down before they get out of control.
Jets fans know what I'm talking about.
-- Second-year head coach Rex Ryan is writing a book about his leadership style with former Sports Illustrated editor and investigative reporter Don Yaeger.
-- Newcomer LaDainian Tomlinson sits for an interview with ESPN, shows off his new Jets tattoo and predicts a Super Bowl championship in the next two years.
-- ESPN reports general manager Mike Tannenbaum has investigated the possibility of signing backup QB JaMarcus Russell, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2007 who came to represent the "Black Hole" the Raiders became last season before they released him.
And to think, the Jets still are a month away from making their debut on HBO's training-camp reality series "Hard Knocks."
The eternal optimism that keeps Jets fans coming back for more suggests this season has the potential for great things from a team that surprisingly reached the AFC championship game. And Jets history tells us it also has the potential to blow up in their faces in an embarrassing way.
Ryan's emergence last season as a galvanizing personality was a godsend for the franchise and for the New York media. But his bluster led to a couple hiccups -- i.e., his quote after the Atlanta loss: "We're out of the playoffs." Who knows how many more times he will speak before thinking while HBO's cameras and Yeager's recorder are running? Will the Jets be able to back up all the bold talk, or will they be setting themselves up for a fall?
As desperate as owner Woody Johnson's team is for success, they take a lot of chances. They hit a hot streak last season when decisions to hire Ryan and to go with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez came up aces, you know, with the exception of those 20 "rookie-mistake" interceptions.
But from this vantage point, Tannenbaum and Ryan have taken risk-taking to a new level during the offseason with their decision to part with two key expensive veteran free agents, running back Thomas Jones and left guard Alan Faneca. Those two and the rest of the offensive line simply were the key to success for the Jets' No. 1 running game.
Now second-year back Shonn Greene, impressive in the playoffs, inherits the workhorse role from Jones. Except the prideful Tomlinson isn't conceding the starting job despite averaging 3.3 per carry last season in San Diego. And second-round draft pick Vladimir Ducasse out of UMass is supposed to step in and pave the way as Faneca did for 12 seasons while making nine Pro Bowls?
If the running game isn't as devastating as last season, far more of the burden will fall to Sanchez, who is coming off of arthroscopic knee surgery. He's one bad slide away from forcing the Jets to go with a backup QB. Surely, Tannenbaum wouldn't seriously consider Russell, who completed 48.8 percent of his passes last season. Rumors of a possible signing of 40-year-old Mark Brunell as a mentor for Sanchez are almost as unsettling. That's the job of QB coach Matt Cavanaugh. The Jets need a backup who can play, and Kellen Clemens remains that guy.
Of course, there are many other land mines yet awaiting the Jets. They took risks with their free-agent signings, including cornerback Antonio Cromartie, whom they had to advance $500,000 toward settling child-support issues, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who faces a four-game suspension for substance abuse, and defensive end Jason Taylor, who was public enemy No. 1 for Jets fans during his 12 seasons in Miami.
Oh yeah, All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold might be holdouts at the start of training camp.
That completes the laundry list of issues for the moment. There's an awful lot that must go right for the Jets to win the Super Bowl for the first time in 42 seasons, and there's a lot that easily could go wrong. It's tough enough to beat their NFL opposition, but for the Jets, with all their potential distractions, the hardest thing this season will be trying not to beat themselves.