There's no question that Rex Ryan led with his gut in more ways than one during his first season as head coach of the Jets. He led with it when it came to in-game decision-making and he led with it because his waistline obscured every other physical characteristic. We'll see if changing the latter has any impact on the former this season.
Ryan had lap band surgery on the weekend, a procedure that places a band around the upper portion of the stomach with designs on spurring on radical weight loss. Ryan ballooned up to 340 pounds during the 2009 season after years of trying fad diets with little success. Whether it was the endless taunts from opponents, the pictures from his in-arena shirt change at a hockey game or simply health concerns, Ryan's decided to make a more permanent change.
Although it will be odd to see a svelter figure stalking the sideline when the Jets return to the field, no Jets fan is going to argue with a move that keeps Ryan healthy and leading the team for as long as possible. Especially when he's got a new running back to fold into the mix.
The Jets landed LaDainian Tomlinson on Sunday with a two-year contract that could bring in as much as $5.7 million to replace Thomas Jones. It's impossible not to notice that Jones, after reportedly offering the Jets a chance to match, signed with the Chiefs for less than Tomlinson got from the Jets, something that will undoubtedly have some wondering why the Jets sent a 1,400-yard rusher packing for a guy who looked finished when the Jets beat the Chargers in January.
It is a curious choice, although it bears mentioning that by the end of last season, Jones didn't look too much better than Tomlinson. Tomlinson's skills as a receiver and relationship with Brian Schottenheimer when the Jets offensive coordinator was in San Diego also may have made him more appealing than Jones, who plays a similar style as Shonn Greene. Tomlinson offers a slightly different dimension and, all the more so if Leon Washington is healthy, the Jets will offer a multi-faceted look.
On the downside, it's impossible to ignore that this is yet another move by a Jets franchise that can't seem to resist the flashy move. Tomlinson is far more famous than effective at this point in his career, something that can't be ignored when the team is still trying to unload PSLs for the new stadium at the Meadowlands. Whether it works or not remains to be seen, but whenever the Jets acquire an aging Hall of Famer you've got to look at the bigger picture.
Same goes for playing musical chairs at running back. The Jets offensive line remains one of the best in football and that could turn out to be the fountain of youth for Tomlinson. We'll guess the Jets structured his contract to account for the possibility that it isn't, but even as their coach slims down it is clear the Jets believe in the bulk of the guys up front.