Kerry Rhodes comes to town this weekend for the first time since the 2010 trade that sent him to Arizona. Rhodes began his career with the Jets. The fourth round pick from Louisville in 2005 started from his first day as a rookie. He made an immediate impact with 105 tackles that rookie year. In 2006 and 2007, he merited serious Pro Bowl consideration.
Things went downhill during underachieving 2008 and 2009 seasons. He earned a spot in Rex Ryan's doghouse and a midseason benching. He finished the year strong, however. He had a big game in particular in the Divisional Playoffs against San Diego. Without Rhodes, the Jets do not win that game.
None of this was enough to prevent the Jets shipping him to Arizona for a fourth round pick during the offseason. It felt at the time like the Jets were selling low. Not much has changed to make the trade look better in hindsight.
The Jets have been starved for quality safety play ever since the trade. Covering tight ends has been a consistent issue. While Rex Ryan ripped Rhodes in his book, the Jets are still looking for the answer at the position.
I think back to the Thursday night game in Toronto against the Bills in 2009. It was in the middle of the Rhodes benching saga. The NFL Network crew relayed a comment from Rex Ryan about how he would rather have a less talented player with a good attitude/work ethic than a talented guy with a bad attitude/work ethic. No names were used, but the implication was clear. Ryan was saying he preferred Eric Smith to Rhodes. We saw how that choice worked out last year. The Jets threw away a season because of terrible production at a few positions. One was the starting safety spot Smith had instead of Rhodes.
For his part, Rhodes does not have much to smile about. The Cardinals are 17-26 in his time in the desert. He has never made the Playoffs. The trade cost him the chance to play for a team that went to a Conference Championship Game. Maybe he could have made a difference in that game or during the season to get the Jets a higher seed. Last year's Jets team could have made the Playoffs and had a chance to make a run with Rhodes at safety instead of Smith. He languished in Arizona instead of having a shot to do something big with the Jets. Even if you don't agree with the trade, all indications are Rhodes helped punch his ticket out of town with his attitude.
Both player and team were happy with the trade at the time. They wanted to be away from each other. Both ended up losing out. They could have accomplished some big things had they just figured out a way to work out their differences.