New York Jets General Manger Mike Tannenbaum deserves a large share of the credit for the New York Jets being a playoff team in 2006, 2009 and 2010. He also deserves a large share of the credit for the Jets missing the playoffs in 2007, 2008, and 2011. Since taking over as GM, the Jets have been a .500 or better team in 5 of 6 seasons but have only made the playoffs half of the time. Basically, you are getting a 8-8 to 10-6 team who could sneak into the playoffs depending on how strong the rest of the conference is. Mike Tannenbaum is going to field a competitive team but he hasn’t shown the ability to put together a roster good enough to be one of the NFL’s elite.
Zero division titles. Zero 12 win seasons yet three playoff berths and four playoff wins. Tannenbaum’s resume is an inconsistent one, as a closer look at this history reveals, a history that should provide some insight into what the Jets will do in the coming months:
Draft Class – D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Eric Smith, Kellen Clemens, Anthony Schlegel, Brad Smith, Leon Washington, Drew Coleman, Titus Adams, Jason Pociask
Free Agency - Andre Dyson, Matt Chatham, Brad Kassell, Kimo Von Oelhoffen, Tim Dwight, Anthony Clement, Trey Teague, Monsanto Pope, Wade Smith
Trade - C.J. Mosley, Kevan Barlow, Sean Ryan, Patrick Ramsey,
Released - Kevin Mawae, Jason Fabini, Jay Fielder, Barry Gardner, Lance LeGree, Jerald Sowell, Harry Williams, Ty Law, Mark Brown,
Traded - John Abraham, Brooks Bollinger
An active off-season in which Tannenbaum succeeded in digging the Jets out of salary cap hell (they were 25 million over the cap when he was promoted to GM) and retooling them by signing and trading for a large crop of mid to lower level free agents and putting together a productive draft. The John Abraham trade did net the Jets All-Pro center Nick Mangold, which makes it hard to argue with even though the Jets have never properly replaced Abraham as a pass rusher. Outside of Mangold, Tannenbaum had a good draft by pairing him with Ferguson and finding late round contributors in Brad Smith, Leon Washington, Drew Coleman, and Eric Smith. Most of the acquisitions contributed in some way, either as a starter or a key reserve to a 10-6 playoff team.
The negatives were missing on Kellen Clemens and Anthony Schlegel in round 2 and round 3, respectively. Teague never played but was a smart insurance signing because Mangold was an unproven rookie. Tim Dwight couldn’t stay healthy but was productive when on the field. Overall, I would say this was a very good off-season for Tannenbaum mostly because of how he salvaged their cap situation and put together enough role players to field a playoff caliber team. Also at the time the hiring of Eric Mangini looked like an incredibly savvy move.
Draft Class – Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Chansi Stuckey, Jacob Bender
Free Agency – Michael Haynes, Marques Tuiasosopo, Andre Wadsworth, Wade Smith
Trade - Thomas Jones
Released – BJ Askew, Dave Ball, Rashad Washington
Traded – Pete Kendall
There was much less volume this year as Tannenbaum constantly preached keeping as much continuity from the previous year’s playoff team as possible. The draft emphasized quality over quantity and the trade ups for Darrelle Revis and David Harris remain arguably the two best moves Tannenbaum has made since taking over as GM. Despite a disappointing 2007 season, the Thomas Jones trade turned out to be a major success.
Unfortunately, Tannenbaum began a disturbing trend of mistreating veterans and overestimating his talent on the offensive line by refusing to bump Pete Kendall’s contract up and then eventually trading him. The trade sunk the Jets season, as replacement Adrien Clarke was awful. Tannenbaum compounded the mistake by keeping Anthony Clement for another year as the starting right tackle. Clement was adequate when supported by a strong guard like Kendall in 2006 but flamed out in year two with Clarke on the line with him. The weakness of Clarke and Clement led to Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens getting beat up all season en route to a 4-12 year.
Without the Kendall trade, acquiring Revis, Harris, and Jones would have made for a great off-season but the trade knocks it down substantially.
Draft Class – Vernon Gholston, Dustin Keller, Dwight Lowery, Erik Ainge, Marcus Henry, Nate Garner
Free Agency – Alan Faneca, Calvin Pace, Damien Woody, Tony Richardson, Andre Woolfolk, Ty Law, Bubba Franks, Jesse Chatman
Trade – Brett Favre, Kris Jenkins
Released - Erik Coleman, Anthony Clement, Andre Dyson, Justin McCariens, Chad Pennington
Traded - Jonathan Vilma, Dewayne Robertson
Credit Tannenbaum for taking advantage of the cap space he cleared in 2006 to do everything in his power to improve on the previous year’s 4-12 team. In retrospect, Faneca and Woody stabilized the line in the upcoming years despite only playing 2 and 3 years with the team, respectively. Pace was overpaid but has been a good starter since joining the team. Jenkins was a beast for one year but couldn’t stay healthy after that. Favre…well we know the story there. Trading Vilma hasn’t looked like the smartest thing in the world and the draft was probably Tannenbaum’s worst.
It is difficult to evaluate this off-season. Tannenbaum did improve the team in the short term but at the same time didn’t build for the future by sinking so much money into veterans and having a weak draft. This extremely active off-season didn’t equal a playoff spot in 2008 but Woody, Faneca, Pace, Keller, and Richardson were big parts of a team that reached the AFC Championship game in 2009 and 2010 (with the exception of Faneca).
After this season, Eric Mangini was fired and replaced with Rex Ryan. Tannenbaum’s first attempt at hiring a coach found a guy who had a winning season two out of three years, made the playoffs once but never won a playoff game and only had a 23-25 career regular season record.
Coming tomorrow: Part 2, The Rex Ryan Years