New York Jets – Smith Exit Hastened Tannenbaum’s Downfall

TJ Rosenthal on how the exit of Brad Smith helped lead to Mike Tannenbaum’s downfall

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Mike Tannenbaum told both WFAN and ESPN radio on Tuesday, that the idea of acquiring Tim Tebow was his and a move that was borne out of the need to replace Brad Smith. The chain of events that followed Smith’s exit, arguably the Jets most versatile playmaker during the early Rex Ryan years, then ushered in the start of Tannenbaum’s downfall as GM of the Jets.

Smith was lost during the post-lockout mayhem. A mad two week scramble for free agents that the Jets fumbled, due mainly to their over-pursuit of the highly coveted CB Nnamdi Asomugha. A chase that would have never materialized had the knowledge of Antonio Cromartie’s “lock-down” emergence, been available at the time. Nonetheless, the obsession with Asomugha distracted Gang Green from focusing in on key clutch players like Smith, who was poached by the Bills while the Jets went all or nothing with their cap space. In the hopes of landing Asomugha.

The 2011 regular season then began with the Jets asking Mark Sanchez to grow as a passer and field general. Few members of the Jets brass however, realized how low the third year QB’s ceiling would end up being over the next two years. Or rather, how much Smith had covered things up, by grabbing so many key third down conversions for the offense in 2009 and 2010.

With Sanchez’s limitation’s exposed, Tannenbaum then decided upon making the “football decision” of acquiring Tim Tebow. This to compensate for the loss of Smith. Instead the result added stress and drama to the club, mainly to Sanchez and playcaller Tony Sparano. The club’s first year offensive coordinator, who ironically oversaw the Dolphins “Wildcat” when it ruled the NFL back in 2008. The Jets 2.0 version of the run-heavy formation, was much less effective with Tebow than it ever was when Smith received the direct snap in New York.

Smith’s absence in green and white not only hurt Sanchez and forced Tannenbaum to consider adding the polarizing Tebow, it depleted the team in two other places as well. The special teams unit for one, fell apart for the Jets in 2012. Joe McKnight was an All-Pro return man in 2011 but Smith did it all for Mike Westhoff’s crew. He ran back kicks like McKnight did, but had a unique knack for doing so when the Jets needed it the most. Smith returned punts, made tackles on coverage, and was always healthy.

The lack of depth at WR was another area that Tannenbaum admitted yesterday, hurt the club tremendously during their disappointing 6-10 campaign. Perhaps more of the cracks could been filled in on the outside with Smith, who is still waiting for the chance to expand his role as more than a gadget-like weapon in Buffalo.

Big long term contracts of course dried up the Jets financial flexibility and potential heading into 2012, and threaten the club going forward, However, Smith’s exit eliminated a major security blanket for Sanchez and ushered in Tebow, while leaving two units lacking quality depth. All of which affected results on the field. Causing the sudden growth of the bullseye on Tannenbaum’s back.

The lesson that new GM John Idzik should learn from this, is that the core guys, the proven playmakers, have to be tended to. Guys who may not provide “star power” or giant stat lines, but perform consistently when it counts. Tannenbaum just found out the hard way, what can happen if this essential detail gets overlooked.

  • Angel

    SO, Mike T doesn’t even acknowledge that the O-line sucked [and almost got Sanchez and later McElroy killed], and there wasn’t enough depth at every position on the D.


    He should also acknowledge he treated solid people like crap [Mangini, Pete Kendal, Jericho Cotchery, Laverneous Coles, Chad Pennington, etc…]

    So, welcome to unemployment Mr. T.

  • Hans

    Actually Angel, the Jets O-Line in the 2012 season was one of the better units in the NFL.


  • Boomer

    should of kept Cotchery don’t know why mike didn’t all he did was make plays and never heard a peep out of him.

  • Angel

    I have issues with PFF’s analysis,specifically how and what was scored.

    I saw the games. I watched at least 1 or 2 lineman have a free rush at the QB [usually off the RT] UNTOUCHED! EVERY game! I’ve been a Jets fan a long time and this is the worst I’ve seen the O-line play. Just below average on the Run Blocking [not terrible] but inexcusable on the Pass Blocking… at critical times [3rd down, red zone, etc…]

    So something is not adding up.

    Maybe on paper it wasn’t as bad as it looked… I’ll go as far as saying that. Also, I agree the WR position added to the bad O-line play as there were more “coverage” sacks then usual. That still does not excuse the free rushes at the QB.

    I challenge anyone to watch the San Diego game and tell me it was mostly McElroy holding on to the ball… count the half seconds until he is under pressure.

  • mike

    it was mcelroy holding on to the ball too long. sanchez too. that’s why they kept taking sacks.

    seems to me the main culprit is still sparano. the offense never even got on the same page with their sub packages, which would lead to about four or five busted plays or delays-of-game every sunday. those would turn into 3rd and long, and the passing game, i.e. the plays that were called, simply wasn’t up to the task of converting.

    also, opposing defenses knew that the sparano almost exclusively used three-step timing patterns, slants and outs and such. so DB’s would sit on the short routes, and then it would be up to marty gilliard or someone to get separation 15 yards down the field.

    blaming the o-line makes no sense. tackle and guard are not pro-bowl caliber. boo hoo!

    also, pennington never did anything special and letting him go wasn’t a tragedy.

    get a grip, fans

  • Mark Phelan

    Smith was a Special Teams hero, and maybe a very few plays each game on the offense.

    I think the retirement of LT – with no one to step up to receiving role, hurt the Jets and Sanchez as much as anything.

  • Sure, the Brad Smith debacle falls into MT’s negative column but it’s at least the 4th or 5th one in that column. Those ahead of Brad Smith situation:

    Drafting Sanchez in the first place

    Drafting Vern Gholston so high. Biggest bust in Jet drafting history and that’s saying a lot.

    Inexplicably re-upping on Sanchez after last year. THIS was the true death null of his administration.

    The OL failures since 2011. He never effectively replaced Damien Woody. Nor really Allen Faneca as Slaussen’s only been barely passable. They ignored the line in last year’s draft and the Ducasse pick in ’11 might go down as the worst 2nd round draft pick in Jets history if he doesn’t do a complete 180 next year.

  • Greg

    The Brad Smith departure underscored Mike T’s top-heavy approach to roster management: identify your stars, pay them extra to keep them in house, everyone else is replaceable. Personally, I think he spent too much time listening to Jamie Dimon, and not enough time evaluating what his football team actually needed.

    Hopefully, John Idzik can undo this mess sooner rather than later.

  • I’m with Angel. Mike…if you watched most or all of their games last year, there’s no way to realistically evaluate the Jets line as 3rd best in the NFL.

    And 11 sacks v SD in week 16! O-line basically took the weekend off – look at the sack totals in the other games then look at last week. No one complained about McElroy holding onto the ball too long v. Arizona two weeks before – with a better defense than SD.

    OL had two huge holes and may about to have a 3rd when Brandon Moore leaves.

  • Angel

    I’m convinced there is a personal friendship with one or more O-linemen [*cough-AustinHoward-cough*] and that is why we get this unrealistic spin in the O-line…

    …or I think the QB position is being judged unrealistically.

    That said, I think Sanchez is emotionally shattered and I doubt he can make a professional comeback. If he does – he is easily comeback player of the year.

  • Brent Barbour

    The Jets got exactly what they deserved, a losing season for chasing after Nnamdi. When the Jets got in the “Nnamdi sweeptakes”, they knew they wouldn’t have the money to keep Smith. The way they did business was horrible and they got their just rewards for turning their back on a talented guy committed to team first. Not only did they not get Nnamdi, they generated a ton of ill will. Sanchez should have been chasing Tannenbaum through the jets complex in an attempt to convince him to keep Smith. Without Smith, Sanchez got exposed! And Tanny lost his job.