Saturday, March 06, 2010

So long Cro

The Chargers traded cornerback Antonio Cromartie to the New York Jets for a third-round draft pick in 2011 (second round if he plays a lot and signs a contract extension). He used to be one of my favorite players, but I'm not sorry to see him go.

Cromartie was spectacular in 2007, his second season in the league. He set a team record with 10 interceptions, and he did it during a stretch of 9 games. He was a backup for the first half of the season. He got two more INTs in the playoffs.

Check out his 2007 highlight reel:

Those three interceptions aganist Peyton Manning came in Cromartie's first NFL start. He ran back one INT for a touchdown and recovered a fumble for another in one game. The following week, he had that 109-yard runback on a missed field goal. That was the longest play in the history of the NFL. It's the longest possible play, unless they lengthen the field someday. He was the fastest player on the Chargers, and one of the fastest in the league. He was a threat to score anytime he got his hands on the ball. People were talking about playing him at wide receiver too so he'd get more chances to make plays.

But Cromartie wasn't the same player in 2008 and 2009. He only had 5 INTs over those two years combined. Part of it was only natural, simple "regression toward the mean." Nobody can stay as good as he was for those nine games in 2007. And he was injured a lot during 2008. He struggled in coverage during that year (though much less so in 2009).

But there were some other problems. Cromartie had 60 tackles in 2008, a respectable number for a cornerback. That number dropped almost in half in 2009. He apparently decided to imitate Deion Sanders and stop tackling running backs. This frustrated the rest of the defense all year. It culminated in a horrible play against the Jets in the playoffs, when he simply stood and watched Shonn Greene run right past him on his way to a touchdown. The play is hilariously recounted here.

And "hilarious" is a pretty good description of Cromartie's behavior off the field. Off the field, he's a clown. He was part of a group of hard-partying Chargers who are constantly getting in (usually minor) trouble, much to management's annoyance. He was accused of throwing a champagne bottle at a guy in a bar. He was fined by the team for trashing the training camp food in a tweet. He's had a series of traffic tickets, for which he usually doesn't bother to show up in court. And he's allegedly $25,000 behind on his child support. It's probably hard for him to keep track, since he reportedly has "at least seven children with six different women in five states."

So that's who the Jets are getting. A second-rounder will be a steal if they get the 2007 Cromartie. That kind of play would make up for a lot of off the field antics. They might get that, especially since he's in a contract year. He has the potential to be spectacular again. It's probably a good gamble for the Jets.

But they just might get somebody who turns into a complete head case and flames out. Jets fans should remember that despite all his talent, the Chargers and Chargers fans are generally glad to be rid of Antonio Cromartie.

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