Can the New York Jets assimilate so many different personalities and expect to win in 2010?
The Jets' headquarters in Florham Park, N.J., will feel like the Justice League of America with all of the stars they've collected.
To Jets fans, the stars seem like superheroes ready to conquer the Legion of Doom (aka the New England Patriots) once and for all. In every area of the Jets' locker room will sit a player who has been an All-Pro. A few are on track for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Quite a few youngsters seem like they can be special players.
To fans of opposing teams, the roster seems like an obnoxious gathering of talent.
But anybody who ever has read a comic book knows there's no such thing as invincibility. The Jets have their kryptonite, and it's their own chemistry.
The Jets have introduced some big personalities (running back LaDainian Tomlinson, receiver Santonio Holmes, pass-rusher Jason Taylor, cornerback Antonio Cromartie) into the locker room, while subtracting proven leaders and contributors (leading rusher Thomas Jones, Pro Bowl return man Leon Washington, habitual Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca, kicker Jay Feely).
Mixing up behaviors and egos can be dangerous. Many of them are short-timers expected to be around for 2010, a fact that increases the volatility.
"I think every year is a different team anyway," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "The chemistry issue is what it is. When I look at our offensive chemistry, I look at the fact that basically we're replacing two starters: Thomas Jones and Alan Faneca. Last year, for instance, on defense we replaced four starters and nine players overall. How'd that chemistry work? Best in the league."
But the Jets didn't add players like Cromartie and Holmes, players given up on by their former teams despite their abilities. Cromartie's off-field problems are legendary. Holmes will begin the season with a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
And players such as Jones and Faneca were pillars in the locker room, significant reasons why the Jets were able to pull off the transition from Eric Mangini to Ryan. Tomlinson and Taylor will need to help make sure veteran leadership doesn't slip, but that's not always easy for a newcomer to accomplish.
"Am I worried about team chemistry? Absolutely not," said former Ravens defensive coordinator Ryan. "I don't worry. My teams are always going to play hard. All I've got is my history to go back on. ... The only thing that never worked out was that we were going to compete for that Super Bowl, and we never had that opportunity. That's our mission right now.
"I expect it to come together. I really do. If I was just wanting to stay status quo and have a team that's easy to coach and bringing that team together, you'd never get rid of those kind of players. ... Quite honestly, there are a lot of factors going into things when you bring people in. That's what we did.
"I came here to win. I never came here to be average. Again, I know when it's all said and done, I'm going to be held to those standards. Did you win? Did you deliver a championship? I'm man enough to go for it where a lot of guys aren't. We'll see what happens."