New York Jets: A Tale of Two Backs

Hot Stove New YorkSenior Writer IApril 15, 2009

It was the best of times, it was the… uhhh, best of times.  Thomas Jones led the AFC in rushing.  Leon Washington finally made the Pro Bowl and earned the respect he deserves.  Both are focal points of the Jets’ game plan.  Both are looking for new contracts.

The best times are going to get ugly.  Or at least a tad personal.

My gut feeling is that only one of these guys is going to get a contract extension, and it’s not going to be the guy who gets the tough yards or who carries the ball the most.

Thomas Jones had a great season last year.  Running behind what might be the best offensive line, Jones once again looked like the runner who carried the Bears to the Super Bowl a few years back. 

He’s under contract for another two years but has expressed displeasure at the fact that he’s only due $900,000 next season and isn’t showing up to mandatory workouts.  His thinking (or his agent’s) seems to be that he had such a good season last year, he’s worthy of a new deal.  My thinking is that he front-loaded his contract so he can make a ton of money in the first two seasons (like 4 million clams a season) in case of injury.  After all, those biceps have been in the league for a little while now .


Leon Washington is also coming off a great season.  He scored six touchdowns as a change of pace back/return man.  Where Jones is a straight-ahead, bruising runner, Leon is greased lightning with tap dancing shoes.  He’s hard to catch and even harder to hang on to.  Washington’s drawn comparisons to Barry Sanders, Brian Westbrook, and Darren Sproles. 

I like to compare him to a pig greased in oil at a rodeo.  Ever watch kids try to catch a greased pig?  It’s good action but I digress…Washington is also still playing under his rookie contract and he knows he’s due.

Last season, Jones carried the ball 214 times more than Leon and he scored 13 touchdowns to Washington’s 6.  Some people might say that Mangini’s biggest mistake was not giving the ball to Washington enough.  He might be the only player on the Jets entire roster with big-play potential.  Any time, any play that Leon’s involved in could be a touchdown. 

The stats even spell it out for you.  Jones’ longest run in 219 attempts was a 59 yard run.  Leon’s?  61 yards. He averaged a gaudy 6 yards a carry and when he touches the ball, it looks like he's been shot out of a cannon.  In short, Leon Washington is impossible to replace.  He’s worn the green and white his entire career and has overachieved since his first game.

The Jets will (hopefully) present Washington a new contract in the near future to keep him with the Green and White Faithful.  I don’t see them doing the same for Thomas Jones.  He might be the main back in our offense, but he’s easier to replace, and despite this year’s salary, he’s already gotten the type of contract from Woody that he’s holding out for and is still playing under it.  The $900 grand he’s due is twice what Leon’s supposed to make next year. 

Leon should get his juice and a contract extension lest there be a revolt in Jet Nation.  I’m talking storming-the-Bastille-kind of revolt.  Did you read what happened in the blogosphere when Washington’s name came up in trade talks for Cutler?  Heads would have rolled for sure.

Next up… we discuss next year’s just-released schedule.