By Ernie Palladino
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While the Patriots and Seahawks prepare to battle for the Lombardi Trophy Sunday in Glendale, Az., the Jets ponder how not how to win championships, but just to win.
Owner Woody Johnson has apparently gotten off to a good start by hiring Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan as his head coach-GM combo, at least if one listens to the majority of talking heads and active NFL luminaries. But really, only one surefire way to avoid another lost season exists, and that is to procure and draft good personnel.
That means handing out a lot — underline a lot — of the nearly $42 million of salary cap space that OverTheCap.com estimates they’ll have thanks to the departed John Idzik’s penny-and-pound-foolish refusal to spend in the ill-fated 2014 offseason.
For all the silly things Johnson says, his statements to the local media this week should raise some optimism among his Gang Green-afflicted fan base.
“We’re going to try to spend,” Johnson said Wednesday during a radio interview. “Spending is a critical part of developing a competitive team. You have to spend correctly on the right players.”
Idzik neither spent, nor picked the right players on which to make his rare expenditures. Ne’er-do-wells Mike Goodson and Dimitri Patterson both came as part of his reclamation plans, and it’s no coincidence that Goodson and his legal issues and Patterson with his disappearing act have both vanished from the Jets’ roster.
Meanwhile, he failed to return Darrelle Revis to his rightful place in New York, and will now watch him face down Seattle’s receiving corps in the Super Bowl. He let Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie walk out the door without a contract and watched him scurry over to the Quest Diagnostic Center to sign fast with the Giants. And he let the only real cornerback they had in 2013, Antonio Cromartie, run off to Arizona.
If Maccagnan is smart, he’ll take advantage of Cromartie’s timely unrestricted free agent status to bring him back. Cromartie told The Post Wednesday that he loved working with Bowles’ defense, and that he’d love to reunite with him in New York.
“My door is always open to returning,” Cromartie said. “Everybody knows I didn’t want to leave.”
Cromartie had three of Arizona’s 18 interceptions. That number would have looked outstanding on a Jets defense that picked off only six passes all year.
Here’s something else to think about. The Patriots hold an option that will pay Revis nearly $20 million in 2015. Given their tendency to move out pricey players, even if they can shut down half a field with Revis, there’s a chance he’ll come free. That would give Maccagnan an opportunity to create the irony of ironies — a total reunion of the Revis-Cromartie cornerback duo that had become one of the most effective combinations in the league.
Maccagnan will have to pay a nice buck for Revis, who returned to his true shutdown nature under Bill Belichick. But a willingness to do what Idzik refused to, both when he traded him to Tampa Bay in 2013 and when he passed over a return to Revis Island this year, would have fans building monuments to the new GM.
Maccagnan basically has the room to do whatever he wants. If Idzik left the Jets with anything positive from his two-year reign, it is cap space. It all depends on how wisely Maccagnan uses it.
One thing he knows for sure is that Johnson will stand behind him, no matter how much he spends.
Johnson said he’s ready for that.
“I would never tell a general manager not to spend money,” Johnson said. “That’s something a general manager has to do. That’s his chief job, that’s the most important job he has, is spending and putting the 53 plus practice squad together. That’s his job.”
If only he realized that two years ago while Idzik busied himself clipping coupons.