Hall of Famer Joe Namath, sharply critical in recent years of the New York Jets' previous management team, took aim Wednesday at new general manager John Idzik, questioning the wisdom of signing troubled running back Mike Goodson.
"I hope [Goodson] changes for the better, but if you check on people's history, you might be a little more careful with who you're bringing in," Namath said in a phone interview.
Goodson's legal issues began long before his recent arrest on drug and weapons charges. A report by ESPNNewYork.com last Friday revealed a history of trouble involving women and money -- paternity and child-support suits by three women in a nine-month span, a $56,000 bill at a jewelry store that wasn't paid, two eviction notices and unpaid car payments.
Namath said he read the report. He was disappointed in the Jets' decision to sign Goodson because he believes there's some carryover between off-the-field behavior and on-the-field performance.
"I'm just saying, you have to be smart," he said. "You have to use your mind out on the football field. I mean, there is a mental side of the game that you have to be responsible for and own up to. It's the same way with life. If you're not showing that kind of responsibility reasonably consistently, you're lucky if you can get a job."
Reminded that Goodson received a $1 million signing bonus as part of his three-year, $6.9 million contract, Namath laughed.
"Maybe they're related somehow, Idzik and Goodson," he joked. "What the hell?"
Idzik's first two free-agent signings haven't panned out. The other was QB David Garrard, who recently announced his retirement because of a pre-existing knee condition. He lasted less than two months.
"Yeah, that's food for thought. It does cause some concerns, there's no doubt about that," said Namath, alluding to Idzik's judgment.
Namath also took issue with Idzik's silence on the matter; he hasn't publicly addressed the Goodson arrest. The Jets released a statement, saying they won't comment until the legal process runs its course. Meanwhile, Goodson has returned to practice as he awaits his next court date, a pretrial hearing June 12.
"The fans are crying out, we want to know," said Namath, adding, "It should be a two-way street. You expect the players to answer every question they get, but what about the people that are running the show? Shouldn't they have to answer to the fans, too, and let us know something reasonable?"
Goodson, on the advice of his attorney, won't speak to reporters Thursday after the team's OTA practice, according to the Jets. Coach Rex Ryan, however, is scheduled to address the media.
"Oh, I'm sure you'll get a good answer there," Namath said, sarcastically.
Ryan declined to comment last week on Goodson's arrest, calling it a pending legal matter. But that was before Goodson's previous troubles were reported.
Namath is in New York for a couple of days to promote the Pro Football Hall of Fame's "Future 50" project, a $27 million expansion and renovation on the 50th anniversary of the Hall. In fact, Namath will be in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday for the reopening ceremony. In an interview with ESPNNewYork.com, he addressed other Jets-related topics, namely the Mark Sanchez-Geno Smith quarterback competition.
"I expect Mark to be the opening-day starter because of the four years he has under his belt," said Namath, who believes Sanchez has the ability for a turnaround. "I would expect him to be mentally ahead of the rookie coming in. Now, if the rookie comes in, and Geno outperforms Mark from now until opening day, you have to go with the guy that has convinced teammates and the coaches he's giving you the best chance to win."
The Jets may have run out of patience with Sanchez, and some believe the decision-makers want Smith to win the job.
"The decision-makers have scared me the last couple of years," said Namath, adding: "[Last season] was scary. You wonder who the heck is making these kind of decisions. You have to start with Woody Johnson and ownership and the people he believes in and trusts. It's downright scary."
Johnson dismantled the front office, but he retained Ryan. Namath isn't a fan of Ryan's coaching style, but he believes it's premature to refer to him as Dead Coach Walking.
"What is this lame-duck business?" Namath asked. "If that team wins, how can you get rid of him? If he gets those guys to make the playoffs somehow, how can you change coaches? If they're making good progress, of course you keep him."