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Monday, February 16, 2009

NY Jets By the Numbers #32 - (Part 2)

Kevan Barlow
Not long ago we started a new semester at school, and a student whose name is spelled "Nezerra" became indignant when I did not pronounce a mysterious long vowel "a" at the end of her name. "It's Nezerray," she said. Number 32 Kevin Barlow's name is actually spelled Kevan Barlow, which has probably proven to be a lifetime a problem for him. Go for a search under "Kevin Barlow" in Google, and his Wikipedia entry comes up immediately, spelled correctly. We presume he has experienced a similar impatience with such things. He came to the Jets in 2006 when Curtis Martin's career-ending injuries left a hole in the backfield. But after arriving, Barlow immediately made headlines when he compared former 49er coach Mike Nolan to Adolf Hitler - a statement he retracted, but not before unwittingly justifying our glorious safari in Iraq by comparing Hitler to Saddam Hussein. It's when athletes talk that sports become truly awesome.

Anthony Johnson played on the Notre Dame squads that kept me distracted while I lost my way as a Jets fan at college. He would join the Jets, though, in 1994, after having a less than stellar career with Indianapolis, who had drafted him in 1990. He gained 12 yards for the Jets in #32. Three seasons later he would gain more than 1,000 yards for Carolina. Then his career would mysteriously taper off once again. It makes me suspicious in ways that all sports fans must be these days, except that the gods of Wiki say that today he is the Panthers' official chaplain. So there you go. In assessing the veracity of professional athletic performance, perhaps we have to cling to such things.

Leon Washington
Leon Johnson #32 was like a larger, slower version of Leon Washington, which pretty much makes him like any other running back in the NFL. Indeed, his statistics from that point of view play out this description. His kick return yardage for his rookie year of 1997 is practically Washington's cut in half, proving once again that a taller man can actually be half the player of a player (hyperbolically speaking) half his size. Leon Johnson had slightly above average stats in a few seasons with the Jets and the Bears. But I always thought to myself, "I wish they'd use him more often," which I'm sure he often thought, too. I suppose that with the exception of Brett Favre's case, this is the question haunts every player in every sport.

Eight is always a magic number in the modern game of American football. Since most teams in the game are struggling to do better than break even, all fans feel a little grateful if their team can win at least eight games, even if they are a little disappointed all the same. Each conference in the NFL fields 16 teams. This past season, eight teams in each conference won eight games or less (here I include the Jets' disappointing 9-7 mark with this group, even if it means they're lopped in with the 0-16 Lions). Statistically, I guess that this makes sense. There is parity in this league. I mention all of this as a prelude to talking about #32 Darrien Johnson because all there is to discuss about his career are eight games at defensive back for the Jets, during which he managed one tackle. Eight games in 2005 were all the Jets needed to assess him, and then he was gone from the team and the game. Eight can tell you a lot, I guess.

I suppose someone had to wear #32 during the Kotite years. Or not. Does it really matter? Sherriden May had to play for the Jets at running back at this time, and perhaps his number was merely a coincidence. Did he wear that number at the University of Idaho? Fate picks you, sometimes even by the number. Sherridan May could have worn any number other than #32, but what's more important here is that he was destined to play at running back for the the Jets in their two worst seasons (with all due respect to '75-'76). His number therefore becomes irrelevant. His statistics are so underwhelming as to not be believed, except that the Jets themselves when a jaw-dropping 4-28 from 1995-96. Nothing could have made his seasons better - not a number, not a different position. As the late Billy Preston made abundantly clear, nothing from nothing leaves nothing.

According to Jets' records, Stacy Tutt wore #32 in his work with the Jets from 2006-07, but it's funny how his pictures come up in #45. I think I remember him in #45. It just means that I don't pay attention as I should. It doesn't matter. He has recently been hired as a tight ends coach with his alma mater, the Spiders of the University of Richmond, where he once quarterbacked. I'd like to see a comprehensive list of Jets players who were once the QB stars at their college, only to see limited action at other less glorious positions.

Blair Thomas
Blair Thomas is on the famous (not updated) list one finds on YouTube of New York Jets draft busts. His wasn't the worst case, but he remains associated with the greatest bust of them all, the Bengals' Ki-Jana Carter, simply by virtue of graduating from the same position at Penn State. His first two seasons after being drafted in 1990 were impressive enough to make anyone think there was a chance he could shine on, but the NFL is unforgiving in its assessments, and often correct. If a running back diminishes on his second year, watch his third. If he tapers off as badly as Blair Thomas did in 1992, then he's done for - unless he's Anthony Johnson, the man who replaced Thomas in #32 for us, in which case he's probably a man blessed with one more good year in him somewhere. Just not with the Jets.

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