TOJ Podcast Episode 9 – Former New York Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum

The Turn On The Jets Podcast featuring former New York Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum

Check out episode 9 of the Turn On The Jets Podcast featuring former New York Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum. We discussed a wide range of topics from Mark Sanchez’s contract, to the late round pick he was most proud of, and the logic behind the Stephen Hill and Demario Davis draft picks. Mike also talked about the Darrelle Revis trade and the potential of Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples long term.

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New York Jets – Tannenbaum Draft Picks Who Could Miss Final 53

A handful of Mike Tannenbaum draft picks could be in danger of not making the New York Jets final 53 man roster

New York Jets GM John Idzik hasn’t hesitated to put his imprint on the team. Part of that process will continue this summer when recent personnel decisions have the potential to knock a few of Mike Tannenbaum’s recent draft picks off the final 53 man roster. Who should be concerned?

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Mike Tannebaum Fired as Jets GM; HC Rex Ryan to be Retained

Tannenbaum_display_imageRex Ryan

As many expected, the New York Jets have decided to part ways with General Manager Mike Tannenbaum on Monday, while making the decision to retain Head Coach Rex Ryan. While the Tannenbaum firing has been anticipated, it was unclear whether or not he would be outright fired, or reassigned to a salary cap management role.

This is the best move Owner Woody Johnson could have made. There is no reason to keep Tannenbaum around in any type of role whatsoever. No quality potential General Manager candidate would have accepted the terms of coming in to work alongside Tannenbaum as his salary cap specialist. This organization’s front office needs a fresh start. The Jets have constantly been weighed down by their inability to part ways with officials, often preferring to demote them rather than outright releasing them.

Prior to the Tannenbaum era, Terry Bradway was demoted from his General Manager position to a job within the personnel department. Bob Sutton, New York’s once Defensive Coordinator, was demoted to Linebackers coach when Rex Ryan was brought in. Tannenbaum being outright fired will allow this organization to start completely over, from a front office standpoint, which is exactly what is needed.

While Tannenbaum will likely be remembered as the man who gave horrible contracts to Mark Sanchez, Bart Scott, and Calvin Pace, while swinging one of the worst trades in recent NFL history, swapping two draft picks for Tim Tebow, who became nothing more than a decoration on the sideline, let’s not forget the good he had done early in his career. Tannenbaum is responsible for drafting very fundamental pieces of this team including Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and David Harris. However, Tannenbaum is also the same man who drafted Kyle Wilson, Vernon Gholston, and Anthony Schlegel.

Regardless of what he has done in the past, this move was absolutely necessary. Our sources have indicated that Tannenbaum not only has a fractured relationship with the media, but also has very little to no relationship with other General Managers around the league, which makes perfect sense considering the only trades this organization has been able to make recently have been with teams looking to rid themselves of certain players (Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes, Tim Tebow). Tannenbaum also has a poor relationship with the agents of Darrelle Revis, as exposed in Revis’s 2010 training camp hold out. With a new General Manager, the chances of locking down the All-Pro CB to a long term deal will be much better.

The Jets have been headed down the wrong path since the conclusion of the 2010 season, and Woody Johnson needed to halt this downslide before it got any worse. Now, Johnson will work with newly appointed advisor Jed Hughes, who will help lead the Jets search for a new General Manager. Some names to watch for are Ravens Assistant GM, Eric DeCosta, New York Giants Director of College Scouting, Mark Ross, and former Indianapolis Colts General Manager Bill Polian, just to name a few. Former Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini’s name has been floated recently, but there are absolutely no indications of interest from either side at this point.

The list of potential candidates will grow in the coming hours and days, but look for Johnson and Hughes to try and make a hire sooner, rather than later, as several other decisions need to be made within the organization, particularly at Offensive Coordinator. Tony Sparano is expected to be out, but his firing may be delayed until a new General Manager is in place, so he can bring in his choice to fill the position.

In terms of Ryan, the Head Coach deservedly gets another year to right the ship after being handed an absolutely atrocious roster, in terms of depth, from Tannenbaum. While many believe the decision to retain Rex may narrow the list of potential General Manager candidates, that may not necessarily be the case. Johnson will likely give Ryan his vote of confidence for just one more year, at which point the new General Manager can reassess the situation and go from there. Obviously, if the Jets have a very good season next year, that decision will be an easy one for whoever the new GM is.

Most high ranking officials around the league recognize Ryan as a very talented Head Coach, with some flaws pertaining to his off the field antics, particularly the media leaks thats often flow out of Florham Park with more volume than the Hudson River flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. However, a new General Manager will likely change the entire culture of that situation, while demanding Ryan stick to doing what he does best – coaching football.

More pieces are sure to fall into place in the coming hours and days, so be sure to stay with Turn On The Jets, as we’ll have you covered from top to bottom with breaking new and analysis. 

New York Jets – Off-Season Advice For Woody Johnson

Preliminary off-season advice for New York Jets Owner Woody Johnson

Woody-Johnson

Even though we have an entire off-season to discuss how the New York Jets can dig themselves out of their current mess, it feels appropriate to get into it a little bit today. There is no solution that involves minor changes or a slight “retooling” of the roster. The Jets weren’t a few games away from a playoff spot because Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes didn’t play this year. They have struggled this year because they lack talent, direction and common sense. Here is a collection of steps for Owner Woody Johnson to take this off-season to move away from being a laughingstock and back towards being a competitive football team –

1 – Fire Mike Tannenbaum and Terry Bradway – No demotions. No re-assigning Mike Tannenbaum to “cap guru” position as many fans have suggested. Newsflash: Mike Tannenbaum isn’t a cap guru. Look at Mark Sanchez’s contract! Beyond that, look at how he guaranteed money to Santonio Holmes, Calvin Pace and Bart Scott among others. Terry Bradway shouldn’t be employed by this organization either. In case you forget, he is the guy who traded a first round pick for Doug Jolley, took Mike Nugent with a 2nd round draft pick, and traded away a 2nd round pick for Justin McCariens. The entire personnel department needs to be revamped so this garbage roster can be looked at with the proper scrutiny and that starts with these two being let go.

2 – GM/Rex Dynamic – The new GM must be given full autonomy on how to handle the head coaching position. Personally, I think it would be wise to bring Rex Ryan back but the GM must be comfortable with him. If Rex does stay on, it must be under the condition that the entire offensive coaching is fired, obviously starting with coordinator Tony Sparano and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh. Sparano has been an unmitigated disaster in his first season calling the Jets plays and Cavanaugh should have been fired after last season.

3 – Cut Your Losses On Sanchez – Eat the dead money if necessary but Mark Sanchez has to go. It is best for the team and best for him, as he is clearly checked out as a quarterback in this market. Maybe he restructures to help facilitate his release or a trade where he can be a developmental backup somewhere else. Maybe he doesn’t, either way he cannot continue on with this team. Start Greg McElroy the final two games and hope he shows enough to be a competent backup in 2013. Cut Tim Tebow. Look to add a low to mid-cost veteran via free agency or trade, maybe add a mid-round pick (this is a shaky year at QB in the Draft) and take it from there. A few names to kick around – Matt Moore, Matt Flynn, Kirk Cousins (Redskins might not let him go, unless for a King’s Ransom at this point), and Brian Hoyer.

4 – All Options On The Table – When you are so deep into salary cap hell and have so many needs, all options are on the table and that includes working the phones to see if you could swing a productive trade for anybody from Darrelle Revis to Antonio Cromartie, all the way through to David Harris. People naturally recoil at the thought of trading a Revis or Cromartie but here is the reality: you don’t have the luxury to have two elite, high-paid cornerbacks when you have gaping holes all over your roster.

5- Draft Heavy/Spend Smart – Load up on draft picks. The team currently has seven picks (one in each round). How about getting that number up towards the 9-12 range via trading current players or trading back on draft day in the necessary spots. When looking at personnel decisions not related to the draft, spend prudently and self-scout properly. Don’t pay Dustin Keller. Let him walk and sign Delanie Walker or Anthony Fasano for half the money. Don’t pay Shonn Greene. Try to sign Chris Ivory to a contract as a restricted free agent. Part ways with Sione Pouha because you have Kenrick Ellis and Damon Harrison. If you are going to spend, make it on enhancing your offensive line and outside linebacker positions which both badly need makeovers.

I even made a cheat sheet for you Woody!

MUST GO

  • Mike Tannenbaum
  • Terry Bradway
  • Tony Sparano
  • Matt Cavanaugh

LET WALK

  • Shonn Greene
  • Dustin Keller
  • Calvin Pace
  • Bryan Thomas
  • Bart Scott
  • Jason Smith

CUT YOUR LOSSES

  • Mark Sanchez
  • Sione Pouha
  • Eric Smith
  • Tim Tebow

UP IN THE AIR

  • Rex Ryan (Needs to be new GM’s call)
  • Mike Pettine
  • Matt Slauson/Austin Howard (Need to find suitable replacements if letting them walk. Ideally replace at least 1 of 2)

QUIETLY FLOAT ON TRADING BLOCK

  • Darrelle Revis (More hope to sign him long term if Tannenbaum is gone)
  • Antonio Cromartie (Value will never be higher)
  • David Harris (Good luck with that contract)
  • Santonio Holmes (Good luck with that contract)

BUILDING BLOCKS

  • Muhammad Wilkerson
  • Nick Mangold
  • Quinton Coples
  • D’Brickashaw Ferguson
  • Kenrick Ellis
  • Demario Davis
  • Jeremy Kerley
  • Stephen Hill (Because you can’t cut ties with a 2nd round pick this early…not with his size and speed)
  • Bilal Powell (Your hopeful 1B Back)
  • Greg McElroy (Your hopeful backup QB)
  • Joe McKnight (Kick returner/Hopeful can contribute on offense if properly used)

TRY TO BRING BACK, MAY NOT BE ABLE TO

  • LaRon Landry
  • Yeremiah Bell
  • Mike DeVito

New York Jets: Don’t Give Up on Rex Ryan Just Yet

Chris Gross on why Rex Ryan shouldn’t be the fall guy for the New York Jets struggles this year

Over the past few weeks, the New York Jets have seen their season come undone in front of their very eyes. The Jets have lost 4 out of their last 5 games, 2 of which came in blowout fashion in their home stadium. Many have attributed this to poor coaching. Analysts, fans, writers, and even casual football observers have suggested that perhaps Rex Ryan is not quite head coaching material yet, that maybe he is better served as a coordinator. The same groups of people have also suggested that the Jets need to go after a former head coach with championship pedigree, someone like Bill Cowher or John Gruden.

However, the issues with the New York Jets go far beyond the coaching staff. The front office of this franchise has put this team in hole that could likely set it up for another year of poor play and mediocrity. General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and those who work within the department have maliciously restructured and back loaded a surplus of player contracts, guaranteeing the salaries for this season and beyond to guys who would have likely been released due to their dip in performance over the past two seasons. Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, and even David Harris have all played mediocre at their best this season, and absolutely horrible at their worst. Yet, Scott and Pace, who began to slide last year, had guaranteed salaries for 2012, so they were not expendable for the Jets. Remember when Tannenbaum supposedly gave Scott permission to seek a trade this past offseason? Other teams likely laughed at the notion. Who would be foolish enough to take on the guaranteed salary of a player past his prime, clearly on the downside of his career?

Fortunately for the Jets, Scott and Pace can be released next season without any serious financial repercussions. Harris, on the other hand, is guaranteed just over $9 million for 2013; so unless the Jets can do what the Yankees did to David Justice when they traded him to Oakland, don’t expect Harris to be playing elsewhere next season. The reason these guaranteed contracts are tied into the current state of affairs with the Jets is because they limit the money that can be spent elsewhere throughout the roster. This is why you are seeing this team, who was an AFC Championship contender just two seasons ago, fall so far from grace that they are the laughing stock of the league. So poorly General Manager Mike Tannenbaum has constructed this roster, that the Jets are stuck starting players who likely would not see the field, or possibly make the active roster, on some quality teams around the league.

The Jets have lost a total of 7 games so far this season. While people continue to point to the coaching as the primary reason for these losses, many are forgetting just how depleted and shallow this roster really is. Let’s take a look at how the Jets talent compares to the teams that they have lost to this season, starting with the offensive personnel.

The information in green in the above chart represents the Jets offensive season statistics up until this point in the year. Based on the team’s depth chart, players are inserted into their proper position (Sanchez at QB, Greene at RB1, Powell at RB2, and so on and so forth). The information on the right side of the chart (in white) represents the season average of all of the Jets opponents’ statistics at their respective positions. The idea here is to give a representation of how truly overmatched the Jets have been, in terms of talent, against the teams that they have lost to this season.

Let’s start by looking at the quarterback. Mark Sanchez is performing statistically below average, in comparison to his opponents that have defeated him, in every single category. His completion percentage is nearly a full 9 points lower than the average completion percentage of that group, while his turnover ratio is much higher, touchdowns are much lower, and QBR and passer rating aren’t even comparable.

Now, the obvious argument here is that he has faced Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks who alter the average because of their inflated numbers. Well, that assertion is false. Also included in that group are two rookies in Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson, a quarterback in Alex Smith who has just been replaced in San Francisco, and Matt Schaub who is good, but is certainly not the next Joe Montana. This is an average based off of two great, one decent, and 3 below average quarterbacks. An argument could certainly be made if these numbers were somewhat close, but for the most part they aren’t even comparable. Sanchez’s QBR isn’t even half of the average of that of his opponents, and his passer rating is nearly a full 20 points lower, as well. The level that he has played at for Rex Ryan and the Jets this year, would surely render him a backup if placed on any of these teams, and possibly in a third string role in some cases (New England, San Francisco, Seattle, and perhaps even Miami). The NFL is a quarterback driven league, as everyone is well aware of, and when you’re quarterback is performing well below the average of his competition, it is a miracle that you are able to win any games, never mind four.

Onto the running back situation. It’s no surprise that Shonn Greene is below the average of opposing starting running backs. This is an assertion most people who have observed the Jets this season have come to terms with. Greene is not a feature NFL back. He would be most productive in a stable of effective backs, primarily as a downhill runner late in games, as he was in the early stages of his career.

Unfortunately, though, Greene clearly is not in a solid stable of backs with the roster currently in place in New York. Take Bilal Powell for example. Although Powell has gotten one carry less than the average of RB2 on the teams the Jets have fallen to this season, he is still well below in total rushing yards, and is averaging nearly a full yard less per carry. His 24.4 yards per game and 0 carries of 20 or more yards are just not the numbers of a solid number two back capable of spelling a solid lead runner. His 3 touchdowns are impressive by comparison, but remember two of those came by clever play calling by Tony Sparano in St. Louis. Powell can be better if given a bigger role, but he has not performed to the average of his counterparts thus far.

Joe McKnight is, not shockingly, the only back outplaying his roster spot in comparison to RB3 on teams New York has lost to. Turn On The Jets has been a McKnight advocate all season long. His 22 carries are almost 5 less than the average at his position, however he has attained over 25 more yards than the average third back has. His yardage per game is only slightly above average, but remember, as the weeks continue to pass without him getting carries, that number is out of his control. By comparison, this position is the only one on the Jets offensive depth chart that they hold an advantage to over their opponents – the third running back spot.

As far as the wide receivers on this team go, the numbers speak for themselves. First, note that Santonio Holmes, who has been inactive since week 4, is still second among this group of receivers in receiving yards, and third on the team, overall. Now, let’s break into the current depth on the active roster.

Jeremy Kerley has been solid for the Jets this year, as the only real viable option in the entire corps. Unfortunately, though, Kerley just simply isn’t a number one receiver, a role he has been forced to take on due to injury and (what do you know) a lack of depth. As the chart displays, Kerley would be a solid number 2 receiver by comparison to the average of those opponents. As a primary target, though, he is, like his teammates, well below average. With nearly ten fewer catches, over 67 fewer total receiving yards, and just about 10 fewer yards per game, Kerley is a number 2 option that has been forced into a number 1 option due to poor roster depth.

Now, observing the remaining three receiver spots, you will find that New York has three players that play to the level of the average third wide receiver on those opponents. Gates is slightly below that average, but slightly above the average of the fourth receiver, outside of yards per catch and yards per game. Schillens and Hill would both be decent third receivers at this point, which Schillens basically is, but neither are even close to being an average number 2. In other words, the Jets have one number 2 and three number 3’s or 4’s on their roster. Combine that with the QB play that is well below average by comparison, and again, it is a miracle that this team is able to accumulate any type of passing offense.

The Tight End numbers are a bit altered because of injury, with Keller missing reps and Cumberland having to fill the void of TE1, but what you’ll see is New York is, once again, far below average at the position. It his hard to judge whether or not Keller would be better, statistically, and Cumberland worse, if Keller never missed time due to injury, but the bottom line is, neither of these Tight Ends are playing up to par at their respective positions.

Offensively, this team’s lack of talent is a true display of how hard it has been for the Jets to scratch out four wins so far. You have below average starters at every position, many of whom aren’t even playing at the level of opposing backups. Look at the opponents on that list and go through their rosters position by position, comparing them to the players on the Jets. Many players on this roster would not make some of those teams – Clyde Gates (who actually didn’t make one of those teams), Cumberland, and perhaps even Dustin Keller (NE, SF). When observing this personnel and the level each player has performed at thus far, is it really surprising that the Jets have lost seven games, or is it shocking that they have won four?

Onto the defensive side of the ball – Below is a chart similar to that of the one that represents the Jets offensive personnel in comparison to the opponents that they have lost to, position by position. The numbers in the orange represent the average numbers of the top three players at each position on opponents the Jets have lost to, with the exception of defensive tackle, where the average has used the top two spots on the depth chart from each of those teams. In the green, each defensive player on the Jets is represented. The number of players used coincides with the number of players used to determine the average of the opponents, to give you an accurate representation of where each player stands.

First, let’s observe defensive end. It should come as a surprise to no one that Muhammad Wilkerson is playing far above the average of opposing defensive ends. Wilkerson is superior in every statistical category, with the exception of sacks. Coples is only slightly below in terms of tackles, but is well above in tackles for loss. Sack wise, unfortunately, is where he, like Wilkerson, is below average. DeVito, is well above the average number of tackles, but again, lacks in sacks and even tackles for loss.

At defensive tackle, Sione Pouha has performed slightly above average, despite missing time, while Kenrick Ellis has been hampered by injury, causing his numbers to be below average. Taking the two of them into account, the Jets have had fairly average to slightly below average play at the NT position this year, a position that is vital to a successful 3-4 defense.

Another vital position in this scheme is outside linebacker. Here, the play is below average in nearly every statistic, at every spot on the depth chart. As far as sacks go, it isn’t even close. The defensive line is hampered by the inability to rush the passer from the OLB position. Often times, as our film breakdowns have revealed, teams can easily block one of these player using only one lineman or back, resulting in a great amount of double teams to Wilkerson and Coples. In other words, the OLB’s inability to rush the passer is preventing the defensive line from rushing the passer. This is a vicious cycle in this scheme, but a true representation of why this team has struggled so mightily in the area.

To finish out the front seven, we move to inside linebacker. David Harris is well above average in his run support, but far behind against the pass (only 2 PD vs. the average of 4, and 0 INT vs. the average of 0.7). This should come as a surprise to no one, considering how Harris’s struggles in coverage have been noted throughout the season. Behind Harris is Bart Scott and rookie DeMario Davis. Scott is clearly a well below average LB at this point in his career, and is making a strong push for the “poor” category. Scott likely doesn’t make the active roster in San Francisco, New England, Miami, Seattle, or Pittsburgh. Davis is promising as a rookie, but clearly he hasn’t performed up to par as well. Basically, this team has four starting linebackers who would be backups at best if placed on one of these opposing teams.

In the secondary, Landry and Bell have played excellent in run support, as the numbers indicate. Landry has performed better than Bell in the coverage area, but is still slightly below average, which tells you what you need to know about Bell’s play in coverage thus far. Eric Smith has been in and out of the active lineup because of injury, but considering he is the third safety on the roster, he hasn’t played insanely bad.

As far as the corners go, the only player worthy of any type of recognition is Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie has three more passes defended than the average opponent, and nearly 2 more interceptions. His touchdown separates him from a majority of the group as well. Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster have been decent in terms of tackling, both still below average, but not necessarily horrible. However, in terms of coverage, it is rather embarrassing. Wilson has defended less than half of the average number of passes than his opponents, and he is a starter. Lankster isn’t quite as bad, but remember he has a lot more passes thrown his way when in the game, so that number is likely inflated.

In Short, this defense is solid at about 3 positions – defensive end, strong safety, and cornerback. You have about three players on the entire unit that are playing above the average of those players on opponents that have beaten the Jets. Combining this lack of talent, with the clear lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball, is a clear indication of how poorly this roster has been built.

Most people want to put the blame on Rex, and their motives are certainly justified. Rex is far from perfect as a head coach. His lack of holding players accountable, particularly Mark Sanchez, needs to be altered if he wishes to have any success as a head coach in this league. However, Tom Coughlin altered his coaching style from a pure disciplinarian, with little personal connection to his players, to more of an emotional coach, back in 2007. This slight tweak in his coaching philosophy has led to two Super Bowl wins. Now, no one here is comparing Ryan to Coughlin. Coughlin is surely the superior head coach, and will be for some time. The point is, coaches can adjust and achieve success. Rex is more than capable of this adjustment. The true question is whether or not he is willing to do it.

Aside from this flaw, Rex is the right man for this head coaching job, at least for the next year. Among the head coaches in Jets history, Ryan ranks second in winning percentage behind only Bill Parcells. Ryan also has the most playoff victories of any of these coaches. Is this more of a reflection of how poor the coaching has been in this franchise’s history? Perhaps, but the point is, when you get a guy who has shown that he can win games, you don’t kick him out the door at the first sign of struggle. All coaches struggle at some point; it is part of the business.

Now the next argument that is often made against Ryan is that he inherited a loaded roster in his first two years, which is the only reason for his early success. This is another assertion that is very narrow-minded. Remember, there were only 4 new starters from the 2008 roster during Rex’s first year. Brett Favre, who made the pro bowl in ’09, was replaced with a rookie from Southern California who had only one year of college starting experience under his belt. Braylon Edwards was brought in after the team had already won three games, and proved to be a useful weapon to the rookie Sanchez. Defensively, the only two additions that were made to the starting unit were two free agents in Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard, who happen to have been previously coached under Ryan in Baltimore. With these minor additions, Ryan propelled this defense from 16th to 1st in a year. Offensively, Ryan’s strong rushing philosophy kick started a run game that jumped from 9th in 2008 to 1st in 2009.

Most importantly, though, Ryan changed the culture of this franchise. For years, the Jets had accepted mediocrity, often hovering around .500, or sneaking into the playoffs and being bounced in the first or second round. No one in the league seriously feared the Jets, but when Ryan arrived he installed a bloodthirsty attitude throughout his team. Suddenly, the Jets went from the hunted to the hunters. In 2009 we saw a Jets team that displayed a higher sense of urgency and team bond than he had seen in years, for some of us, a lifetime.

Ryan came in and did what no other coach in the history of this franchise has been able to do – win 4 playoff games. Never mind the fact that he did this in his first two seasons; that number currently ranks first in playoff wins by a Jets head coach, as previously noted. Unfortunately for the Jets, after 2009, the personnel department slowly began to dismantle the roster, resulting in the current lack of talent and depth that we have gone over.

In 2010, the Jets drafted Kyle Wilson in the first round. Wilson has played at the level of about a 4th rounder for the majority of his career. Many people want to blame Rex for this pick, but remember this decision was made in anticipation of a Darrelle Revis holdout. The front office likely wanted to have insurance and leverage over the looming Revis extension. So while it is easy to think that Wilson was Rex’s choice, remember that Mike Tannenbaum likely wanted to cover his rear end in the event that he could not structure a new deal for Revis.

Since then, the front office has done its best to dismantle this team. They have let key pieces leave, while replacing them with far inferior players. Tannenbaum has given guaranteed contracts to players in the tale end of their careers, who haven’t lived up to their ends of the bargain. Blame Ryan all you want, but don’t forget that the General Manager has the final say in all personnel decisions. Is it a surprise that teams run by Jerry Jones and the late Al Davis have had so much trouble keeping a head coach and finding adequate talent? This isn’t to compare Tannenbaum to either of those two, but the point is that head coaches are there to coach the players given to them by their front office, and that is exactly what has happened with the Jets.

Rex Ryan, although flawed, is not at fault for the troubles of this season. He has been given a well below average roster, and has still mustered up 4 wins, while coming very close to beating two of his conference’s best teams. The 2009 and 2010 teams, although talented, did not really have any superior players, other than Darrelle Revis, and Ryan brought each of those teams within a play or two from the Super Bowl. Rex has what it takes to get this team its first championship in over 40 years, but based on the numbers and clear lack of talent, not even the best of coaches could get this team above .500.

The front office of this organization is to blame for the misfortune you have all witnessed, not the coach. Based on the information presented here, Ryan has exceeded the talent on this team, and at only four wins, that tells you all you need to know about the poor work done by the front office in recent years. The common desire is for New York to bring in a head coach with championship pedigree, like Gruden or Cowher, as mentioned above. But remember this very true statistic – no coach in the history of the NFL has ever won a Super Bowl with two different teams.

Rex has the ability to lead this team to a championship, and most importantly he has the hunger to do so, as well. Give him average talent, not even great, and this team will be able to compete for a championship. As the roster stands now, the Jets are not only below the top performers at each position, but they are well below average. No coach is winning with what Rex has to work with. Changes need to be made, but Head Coach is the one spot that needs to remain intact for the Jets to get where they want to be in the quickest manner.

 

New York Jets – Tannenbaum Must Go!

Mike Donnelly on why the New York Jets must fire GM Mike Tannenbaum

With the Jets once again getting all the headlines for more bad reasons today, it looks like the 2012 season is ready to be flushed down the toilet like the turd that it is. With players speaking up publicly about their frustration with the team’s biggest offseason publicity stunt–uhh, I mean quarterback transaction,Tim Tebow, it sure seems like last season’s fractured locker room has officially returned. Rather than harp again on Tebow and Sanchez or Sanchez and Tebow, let’s take a look at how we really got here. Let’s take a look at the man who led us on this path. Let’s take a look at Mike Tannenbaum.

I tried to warn Mike back in August that this roster he put together simply wasn’t good enough. I used to really like Mr. T and was a staunch supporter, so it upset me the way things were starting to look. I questioned his series of head-scratching moves over the course of the past year plus. I offered him solutions and begged for some sort of explanation as to what the hell was happening to our beloved New York Jets, but unfortunately we never got any answers of any kind. It’s become painfully clear that the reason the Jets as an organization were never able to answer any of our questions and concerns about what was going on was because they didn’t actually have any answers. They knew just as little about this team as we did. There was no plan. There was rhyme or reason to any of these moves. The team was just slapped together with one quick-fix after another, and now those rubber bands and paper clips holding the franchise together are starting to break apart. So how did this happen?

1- Awful Player Evaluation – It doesn’t take a football expert to know that the foundation of a team is built through the NFL draft. You get to add several young and inexpensive players to your roster each year. You re-tool for the next few years, fill holes, and that’s supposed to be your rock. You develop these players, hope to hit on way more than you miss on, and then you complement this foundation with free agent signings, trades, and waiver pickups. It takes 3-4 years to fully evaluate draft classes, but players you draft are supposed to be the heart of your team. Well let’s take a look at Mr. T’s drafts from the 2008-2010 seasons, which should be a major part of our team.

  • 2008Vernon Gholston, the #6 overall pick, is out of the league. Dustin Keller was traded up for at #30, which was a complete reach and a poor trade, despite Keller turning into a solid if unspectacular tight end. Dwight Lowery was a solid player before being given away for a blocking sled to the Jaguars in 2011. Marcus Henry and Erik Ainge are out of football.
  • 2009– In perhaps the biggest move of Tannenbaum’s career, he pulled off a blockbuster trade for Mark Sanchez at #5 overall. I supported the trade-up for a potential franchise QB at the time, and quite frankly, I still do, even if it hasn’t quite panned out. The real indefensible thing with this selection was how from Day 1, the organization seemingly went out of their way to NOT develop him properly. The Jets also traded up to the first pick of Round 3 in order to draft running back Shonn Greene, who is a decent back in a platoon, but hardly a featured player. In round 6, Matt Slauson was added, which was a rare good late round pick.
  • 2010– All you really need to know is that Kyle Wilson was drafted in the first round. The same Kyle WIlson who revolutionized the cornerback position these past few years by showing you can make millions of dollars by never once turning around to track a pass in the air, giving hope to all young terrible cornerbacks out there. Following that up in round 2 was the immortal Vlad Ducasse, who despite being tried at 3 different offensive line positions, still found a way to be equally awful at them all. Rounding out this historically bad draft class was Joe McKnight in round 4 (a running back they don’t allow to play running back), and John Conner, the 1-dimensional fullback whose one dimension happened to be poor run blocking. Imagine if the Jets drafted just ONE useful player in this class. Could that have put them over the top to beat the Steelers in the playoffs? I guess we’ll never know…

With so little talent coming in over the past few years, it starts to make sense as why the team is in such dire straits, especially when you factor in all the reliable players Mike Tannenbaum let go of. Why did he let so many good players go? Because he thought he had some really excellent replacements ready to step in. Which brings me to…

2- Overrating of Own Players / Arrogance – The arrogance shown by this front office the past few years is absolutely startling. In 2010 this was one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, and the success matched it. Since then, the team has arrogantly overrated their own players to such a degree that they allowed reliable players who fit in extremely well to leave, only to replace them with guys Mike Tannenbaum brought in, almost as if to show how much smarter they are than everyone else. You want to see how you go from back-to-back AFC title games and seemingly being on the brink of greatness to… whatever the hell this is now we see every Sunday? Take a look:

At QB, we went from a promising young QB who appeared to be on the rise, to turning him into a shell-shocked, scrambled mess.

At RB, we went from Hall of Famer Ladainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene in a very effective platoon, to Greene being the bellcow with a whopping 3.7 yards a carry. Backing him up are failed draft choices Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell. Despite spending FOUR draft choices between rounds 3 and 5 between 2009 and 2011 on the backfield, we may still end up seeing a starting backfield of Kahlil Bell and Lex Hilliard soon.

At FB, we went from the excellent Tony Richardson to John Conner to Lex Hilliard. Wow.

At WR, we went from “The Flight Boys” trio of Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, and Jerricho Cotchery to seeing Jason Hill and Clyde Gates play big roles. Sanchez was developing some really nice chemistry with these players and they all contributed to the playoff success. Just as importantly, they all seemed to really like each other and were great teammates. Naturally, Tannenbaum unceremoniously dumped Edwards and Cotchery in favor of Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason (who are both out of the league), and then this year replaced them with Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schilens, and Stephen Hill. Kerley has shown promise and Hill is just a rookie, but this has been an extreme downgrade in every aspect. Why not just let Sanchez grow with The Flight Boys?

At Offensive Line, we went from arguably the best Right Tackle in the NFL in Damien Woody to Wayne Hunter to Austin Howard. Woody was willing to return for one more season in 2011, but the team overrated Hunter to such a degree, that they felt Woody was expendable. This was quite possibly the most laughable decision of them all. And while Austin Howard is better than Hunter, I’d still prefer to see Big Wood walk off the ESPN set and throw on a Jets jersey, despite not playing for nearly two years. Beyond the right tackle disaster, no interior linemen were developed or groomed to back up or eventually replace Brandon Moore or Slauson. That’s how you end up with things like Colin Baxter blocking Haloti Ngata last year. Ugh.

At Outside Linebacker, we went from “tail end of their usefulness” – Calvin Pace, Jason Taylor, and Bryan Thomas, to “absolutely useless and washed up” Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas. Backing them up are Useless Garrett McIntyre and Ricky Sapp. Zero reinforcements were added. Why were no reinforcements added? Because…

3- Complete Lack of a Plan – As far as I can tell, there is just absolutely no plan at all with this entire organization. There obviously was none when it came to developing Mark Sanchez, because they’ve done literally everything wrong with him. I’m pretty sure that if Mike Tannenbaum had a big chart in his office with his grand plan, it would read something like this:

  1. Get Headlines
  2. Draft Terrible Players
  3. Blame Everyone Else to Woody
  4. Get More Headlines
  5. ?????
  6. Super Bowl

Rather than building a team the right way and developing their players, Mike Tannenbaum always appears to be on the lookout for the “next great thing”, and thinks there’s always something better. Well, as we’ve seen, the grass is not always greener on the other side. Rather than letting Eric Mangini build and go forward with Chad Pennington like he wanted to, Mike made the big splash to get Brett Favre for a 2nd round pick. Rather than letting Mark Sanchez grow up with Edwards and Cotchery, he dumped them both in a year where a lockout prevented the offense with new receivers from being able to gel. It’s also worth mentioning his arrogance led to signing Plaxico Burress fresh out of jail without so much as watching him work out. It’s probably a good thing they didn’t work out Burress or Mason before signing them though, because I don’t even know where the hell they’d be able to find a sun dial to time them running.

The list of reasons why Mike Tannenbaum has no plan is seemingly endless. They want to have a ground and pound team, so he loaded up with bad running backs, bad offensive linemen, and didn’t bother to get a single run-blocking tight end. They drafted a top 5 pick QB and then changed his WR’s every year and didn’t get a reliable pass-catching running back after LaDainian Tomlinson retired, even though that was a major part of Sanchez’s game. They wanted to be a defensive powerhouse, yet he didn’t draft or sign a single OLB during Rex Ryan’s tenure other than Aaron Maybin, who was recently cut. Safety was never addressed after dumping Kerry Rhodes, and Dwight Lowery was just given away. They wanted a backup to push Mark Sanchez, so they got Drew Stanton, then immediately changed course and traded for Tim Tebow. They said Tebow could play 15-20 snaps per game and he’d help the short yardage game, and then he isn’t used at all. It’s just one thing after another, after another with this team.

So, it’s come to this with the New York Jets and Mike Tannenbaum. It’s not just the fans and media anymore saying that this is a flawed roster and flawed organization. Now according to the Daily News, we even have Jets players saying the Jets players aren’t good enough. We have Jets officials saying the Jets players aren’t good enough. It’s been obvious for a while now that that has been the case and we’ve all been right. The reason the players aren’t good enough is because the General Manager isn’t good enough. The time has come. Mike must go.

Breaking Down the Jets Roster From Top To Bottom

Mike Donnelly takes a comedic look through the New York Jets current roster

There’s been an awful lot of talk the past few days about the Jets poorly constructed roster and the mind-blowing lack of depth. Readers of this site know we have been beating that drum for months, but after the humiliating loss to the 49ers last week and the crippling injuries to Santonio Holmes and Darrelle Revis, the spotlight is shining squarely on Mike Tannenbaum’s masterpiece.

There is no question at this point that he has done a terrible job the past two offseasons. Let me show you how poor this collection of “talent” is from top to bottom, as I rank all the players on the Jets roster from 1-53 and place them in one of five different categories. Keep in mind as we go through this that I’m being very generous in my letter grade evaluations of these players, especially the ones that I rank as “useful” when that may not exactly be the case (I’m looking at you, Calvin Pace). Also, after the top 15 or so, I started to become physically ill when trying to best rank these players because I thought I was in the 40’s already and wasn’t. Anyway, here are the five categories the players are placed in:

  • Category 1, The Darrelle Revis Division: An excellent NFL player who would either start for every team in the league, or would have any team in the league loving to get him (example: Quinton Coples falls into this category because of his potential, recent draft position, and big upside).
  • Category 2, The Dustin Keller Division: A solid NFL starter that just about any team in the NFL would like to have, or a player with a lot of value.
  • Category 3, The Mike DeVito Division: An average NFL player that has a role in the league and can contribute to a winning team.
  • Category 4, The Calvin Pace Division: A below average NFL player that shouldn’t be starting for any team, but could contribute in the right situation — in small doses — as a role player, or on special teams (shocker: We have a lot of these!)
  • Category 5, The Jeff Cumberland Division: Useless players – (double shocker: We have plenty of these, too!)

Let’s take a look. We’d love to hear your thoughts on these rankings as well in the comments or on Twitter.

CATEGORY 1, The Darrelle Revis Division

1. Darrelle Revis, A++. Obviously. One of the best players in the entire league.

2. Nick Mangold, A++. Best Center in the NFL, a true stud.

3. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, A. Slipped last year, but still an excellent Left Tackle.

4. Antonio Cromartie, A. Some don’t like him, but the fact is he’s one of the best corners in the NFL.

5. David Harris, A-. A top MLB, even if he’s not in the elite class.

6. Santonio Holmes, A-. Still a great WR when given the chance. Well maybe not anymore after this severe foot injury. At least he’s guaranteed $7.5 million next year, whether he plays or not, so that’s good…

7. Mo Wilkerson, A-/B+. Hasn’t dominated the way Jets fans hoped this year (yet), but he’s still an extremely promising lineman who has shown flashes of greatness.

8. Quinton Coples, A-/B+. Obviously we haven’t seen much yet, but the 2012 1st-round pick has a chance to be a star player. One of the few players on the roster all 31 other teams would take without thinking twice.

CATEGORY 2, The Dustin Keller Division

9. Laron Landry, B. A Godsend for the Jets D this year, despite his injury-prone past and not being the best in coverage. That he’s that high on the list speaks more to the rest of the crappy roster than his own play though, unfortunately.

10. Dustin Keller, B. Solid TE, but far from elite. Can’t block and doesn’t have great size.

11. Sione Pouha, B. Off to a slow start due to a back injury, but an elite run stuffer when healthy.

12. Stephen Hill, B-. Sure, the 2nd round pick can’t catch, but he has a ton of potential and any team would take him.

13. Brandon Moore, B-. His run blocking has slipped, but he’s still an above average Guard.

CATEGORY 3, The Mike DeVito Division

14. Mark Sanchez, B-/C+. I believe Sanchez will be a very good QB in this league. Unfortunately, I’m starting to think it won’t be with the Jets, who have absolutely mishandled him from the get-go and failed to develop him.

15. Demario Davis, C+. I think I speak for most Jets fans when I say I’m looking forward to seeing him play the rest of the season. Sadly, like Landry, his high placement on this list has more to do with the other players below him than what we’ve seen from Davis himself. Has a lot of potential.

16. Kenrick Ellis, C+. Ditto everything I said about Demario Davis.

17. Jeremy Kerley, C+. Kerley shouldn’t be the 17th best player on any team, despite his solid punt returning ability and slot receiver skills.

18. Mike DeVito, C. Solid run stuffer on the D-Line.

19. Kyle Wilson, C. I wanted to put this waste of a 1st-round pick lower, but…

20. Shonn Greene, C. See? It’s really a tossup at this point. Greene is the definition of an average running back right now. In the right situation he could still be very productive, though. This Jets team, unfortunately, is not the right situation.

21. Yeremiah Bell, C. Solid veteran safety. Nothing special. At #22. Thanks Mike Tannenbaum!

22. Aaron MaybinC. I think this is a fine spot for our pass rush specialist with 0 sacks.

23. Nick Folk, C. Folk has quietly become a very good kicker here. And yes, our average kicker is this high on the list. I wonder where Lawrence Tynes would rank on the Giants?

24. Matt Slauson, C. As average of an average lineman as you’ll see. We’re only up to #24, and it’s Matt freakin’ Slauson. Tan-Nen-Baum! Tan-Nen-Baum!

CATEGORY 4, The Calvin Pace Division

25. Joe McKnight, C. A great kick returner, but he apparently sucks so much as a Running Back that they wanted him to play Corner after he couldn’t get on the field for a team averaging 3.2 yards per carry.

26. Bilal Powell, C-. How many other teams would have their fans clamoring to see Bilal Powell run the ball more? I can’t think of many.

27. Tim Tebow, C-. Yeahhhh, I got nothin to say here. You know the deal with Tebow. If he can’t heal Revis or Holmes by touching their injured body parts, then there’s not much use for him on this team. Then again, he did lay some pretty sweet weak side blocks last week!

28. Calvin Pace, C-. Wanted to put him lower, but how could I when I look at this list? Make no mistake about it, though: Calvin Pace absolutely brings nothing at this stage of his career.

29. Bart Scott, C-/D+. It pains me to say it, but it’s over for Bart. It’s to the point now I want him off the team just so I no longer have to read corny jokes like this from writers who think they’re hilarious:

30. Tanner Purdum, D+. Great long snapper, gotta admit that!

31. Eric Smith, D+. Good special teamer, terrible safety. Certainly not worth $2.5 million/year. How are we not in the 40’s yet?

32. Austin Howard, D+. Perhaps he can develop, but as it stands now the best thing that can be said about him is that he isn’t Wayne Hunter.

33. Chaz Schilens, D+. It shows how terrible the Jets offensive weapons are that some fans are really pushing to see more of Chaz.

34. Josh Bush, D+. He was a Jets draft pick, so chances are he will be released soon.

35. Bryan Thomas, D. If Bryan Thomas was a dog, Rex Ryan would bring him out behind the shed and shoot him. It’s over.

36. Greg McElroy, D. Can be a solid backup QB for a few years here, and that ain’t bad!

37. Josh Mauga, D. I mean, I guess this is a good spot for him?

38. Nick Bellore, D. If Bellore and Mauga switched uniforms, would anybody tell the difference? And yes, this is the part of the roster rundown where I’d recommend you start drinking.

39. Jason Smith, D. At least he’s not Wayne Hunter.

40. Vlad Ducasse, D. It’s pretty hilarious to think back to Draft Day 2010 when the Jets were rumored to be looking at him in the 1st round. Shouldn’t it have raised some flags that he was still around when they picked late in round 2 and several linemen went instead? The reason is because he sucks. He sucked then, and he sucks now.

41. Robert Malone, D. He’s actually been really good this season. If he keeps it up, he can be much higher on this list later this year. Sadly, that’s not much of a compliment. On a side note, I would like to start calling him “Mayday” though, which will be fun when he punts 17 times a game.

42. John Conner, D-. I told you I was going to be generous with my grades. He’s useless on offense, but he’s still a solid special-teamer! I might as well be picking names out of a hat at this point to fill out the list.

43. Caleb Schlauderaff, D-. Honestly, I didn’t bother to even make sure that’s how you spell his name. That’s really all you need to know about the guy that Mike Tannenbaum FOR SOME REASON has a hard-on for and calls out by name in every interview for being a great depth player (his “next Victor Cruz!” obsession). Somehow, he’s not one of the 10 worst players on the team.

CATEGORY 5, The Jeff Cumberland Division

44. Garrett McIntyre, F. – A useless player. How are there 9 players worse than him on this team? If you increased your drinking rate at this point while reading, I don’t blame you.

45. Damon Harrison, F. – His only skill appears to be that he’s a big fat guy. 8 more to go!

46. Konrad Reuland, F. I actually don’t hate this guy. He can be useful in small doses.

47. Ellis Lankster, F. He showed last week why he should never, ever be on the field for defense.

48. Jonathan Grimes, F. I’ve never even seen him play, but he can’t be worse than the last 5 guys.

49. Isaiah Trufant, F-. He’s a poor man’s Ellis Lankster. And considering Lankster has a homeless man’s amount of ability, I’m not even sure what that would make Trufant.

50. Jeff Cumberland, F-. An absolutely useless player in every sense of the word. Can’t block, can’t catch, can’t play special teams. Other than that, Tannenbaum hit a home run with this guy!

51. Clyde Gates, F-. Because not everyone can be ranked last, right??

52. Lex Hilliard, F– Sigh.

53. Dedrick Epps, F- –. That’s right, he gets two minuses for being the 53rd man on the team with the worst depth in the NFL. He seriously wouldn’t even play for the University of Alabama I don’t think.

And there you have it. The roster with the worst depth in the NFL run  down from 1-53. It’s become painfully clear that the roster was poorly constructed, there was no plan (and still isn’t), and that there isn’t much hope for an immediate turnaround. We’d love to hear thoughts from everyone on this.

New York Jets – Minor Changes Won’t Solve Problems

The New York Jets need more than minor changes to solve their long list of problems

The New York Jets losing to the San Francisco 49ers yesterday should not have surprised anybody. It does not merit a shocked or angry reaction. The approach to the game and the emphatic manner in which they lost does however merit a response. Hopefully that response is taking place among the coaching staff and front office of the organization as they take today and tomorrow to reflect on a few harsh realities.

On the game film from yesterday, the coaching staff is going to see what a legitimate Super Bowl contender looks like. The 49ers are the team Rex Ryan wants. A smash-mouth, versatile running game supported by an efficient quarterback on offense and an elite defense that can get after the quarterback and force turnovers. The New York Jets can’t be them because Muhammad Wilkerson isn’t Justin Smith. David Harris isn’t Patrick Willis. Quinton Coples isn’t Aldon Smith. Bart Scott isn’t NaVorro Bowman. Not even remotely close. Shonn Greene isn’t half the running back Frank Gore is. Dustin Keller is a very poor man’s Vernon Davis. Colin Kapernick is a fast Tim Tebow who can throw the football. And right now, Mark Sanchez isn’t anywhere near the quarterback Alex Smith is and that is saying something because Smith isn’t very good.

The Jets don’t have Super Bowl talent. The Jets have 8-8 talent with zero depth. There is no middle class on the Jets roster. There is no capable backups with bright futures. Continuing the San Francisco comparison because it really drives it home – the 49ers 3rd and 4th running backs, Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James could very well be the Jets 1st and 2nd best running backs. The 49ers 4th, 5th, and 6th wide receivers, Kyle Williams, AJ Jenkins and Ted Ginn Jr would be the Jets top three receivers this Monday night.

The lack of talent and depth gets dumped on Mike Tannebaum’s lap and it appears more analysts are finally jumping on the Mike Tannenbaum is doing an awful job train we have been driving here at TOJ the past year or so. When you have a pair of lackluster off-seasons in a row and don’t draft well it catches up to you. Unfortunately, there is no cure all trade or signing that can be made at this point. It is going to take a purging of overpriced veterans this off-season and a wise use of available cap space, something that Tannenbaum shouldn’t be given the chance to do but probably will because of his relationship with Woody Johnson.

Where does that leave the 2012 Jets right now? The problem with the game-plan against San Francisco was that the Jets approached the game like they had enough talent to compete with the 49ers. They mistakenly thought they could play their normal defensive scheme minus Darrelle Revis and stop their offense. They thought they could run a standard offensive game plan and score on the 49ers defense. They could not have been more wrong and that is on Rex Ryan’s hubris.

Similar to Tannenbaum, Ryan does a poor job of self-scouting his own talent. He overestimates the players on his roster. Hopefully, yesterday’s game tape will be a needed hard smack in the face resulting in Ryan realizing his team’s deficiencies. Against San Francisco the Jets should have been emptying the book on offense, mixing in gadget plays and new formations in hopes of catching their defense off guard. On defense, they should have been trying new formations, blitz schemes and personnel. Houston is coming to town this Monday and they are a better all-around team than San Francisco. If the Jets play straight up, they will lose by 30 points for the second week in a row.

On defense, it is time face the reality about the Jets linebackers. They have one very good inside linebacker who is having a poor year in David Harris and not much else. Bryan Thomas and Garrett McIntyre can’t play major reps on a good NFL defense. Calvin Pace and Bart Scott are slow, 2 down linebackers who are average players at best. The less linebackers on the field for the Jets, the better. We discussed in the off-season how the Jets are better built for a 4-3 or 46 and it is time for Rex to stop trying to fit square pegs in round holes in the 3-4.

Get Quinton Coples in the starting line-up and start showing more 4-3 looks. Accept the reality that Siona Pouha is hurt and give him time to heal while getting Kenrick Ellis more reps. At linebacker, more reps need to be given to Demario Davis immediately. Let him make his mistakes now and grow into the position he will hopefully be holding the next few years for the Jets. They need his speed out there. Put Aaron Maybin on the inactive list until he learns a second pass rush move and give Ricky Sapp a chance to rush the passer on third downs. In the secondary, hopefully Aaron Berry gets up to speed quickly. From a talent perspective, he could very well be starting over Kyle “I taunt the receiver when I’m beat by 10 yards” Wilson in a couple of weeks. Beyond that, you hope Antonio Cromartie and LaRon Landry continue their elevated level of play.

On offense, the solutions are going to be much harder to come by. Mark Sanchez was abysmal yesterday and the lack of supporting cast isn’t going to help him out of his slump. Tim Tebow is not the answer as a full time quarterback. He can be the answer as a shot in the arm to the offense if he is used properly, which Tony Sparano has shown no concept of doing. No more reps at H-Back. No more reps in the slot. No more reps at fullback. Get Tebow in the shotgun with Joe McKnight and Jeremy Kerley next to him and let him run option and take off up the middle on short yardage situations. Give him 10-12 carries a game. Treat him like a running back who is taking direct snaps and then pop in a deep pass on occasion to keep defenses honest.

The Jets are so bad at running back, that it wouldn’t be irrational to give recently signed Jonathan Grimes and roster ping pong ball Joe McKnight extended work. How could they be less productive than Shonn Greene? Go with a committee approach that hopefully pops a few big plays with the two of them and Bilal Powell. I mentioned Kerley in the Wildcat because he is type of player who should be getting 8-12 touches a game, especially in an offense as devoid of talent as the Jets. Use him how Green Bay uses Randall Cobb. Give him handoffs, pitches, quick screens…get the ball in his hands.

Mark Sanchez is so inconsistent that he may not be salvageable at this point. He needs to be given quick reads where he can get the ball out of his hands without too many progressions. Hopefully an improved, creative run game will open up some type of play action for him down the field. At wide receiver and tight end, you can only hope Stephen Hill and Dustin Keller get healthy and Chaz Schilens can be relied upon.

The Jets need a roster overhaul but they have 12 games left. In order to make those 12 games competitive, it is going to take creativity on both sides of the ball and a shake up of the depth chart. Hopefully Rex Ryan and his staff are smart enough to realize that.

New York Jets GM Operating From Position Of Comfort?

Looking for justification on the New York Jets roster decisions

The New York Jets handled their self proclaimed “mini-draft” in a perplexing way over the previous few days. General Manager Mike Tannenbaum acted against conventional wisdom with many decisions and left the Jets with a surprising amount of holes and/or questions marks on their opening day roster. This was an extension of his actions throughout this entire off-season which saw a lack of action to improve the offensive side of the football. Clearly, Tannenbaum holds the belief that last year’s team underachieved as aptly pointed by Rich Cimini today and that his job security is firmly secure, as we mentioned in an article last week.

Let’s review some of the most recent decisions and attempt to look at them from both sides of the coin, we haven’t been shy to criticize Tannenbaum on this site but that doesn’t mean we won’t search for his perspective –

Wide Receiver – Waive Jordan White/Pick Up Clyde Gates/Keep Chaz Schilens

Despite not playing in the final three pre-season games and not showing anything throughout August, the Jets decided to keep Chaz Schilens on their final 53 despite only giving him a very modest contract in the off-season. Schilens was brought in on the recommendation of receiver coach Sanjay Lal and has shown flashes of productivity at times throughout his 4 year NFL career. He  also possesses a desirable combination of size and speed.

Gates is another burner who was a fourth round pick last year but was cut from the receiver desperate Miami Dolphins, which doesn’t speak well to his ability. From everything he has demonstrated throughout his career so far, he is very raw and still not ready to be a contributor on a NFL roster.

White is a player who put together a strong August. He lacks the impressive physical attributes of Gates and Schilens but has shown an ability to get open and work well in the slot. White is now stashed on the practice squad but isn’t it overkill to have three receivers with nearly identical skill sets in Stephen Hill, Schilens and Gates on the roster? At least White provides insurance if Jeremy Kerley can’t stay healthy or productive in the slot. Schilens can’t be counted on to stay healthy and Gates hasn’t shown an ability to do anything but run in a straight line.

Tannenbaum’s logic is clearly to stack the roster with vertical receivers. Will the Jets passing game take advantage of such assets and is he overvaluing the ability of Schilens and Gates though? He didn’t lose White and the #4 and #5 receivers on the Jets roster will likely not be major factors, so it is hard to be too critical of these moves but it doesn’t send a great message that a guy like White can practice and perform all August, just to lose a roster spot a bicycle superstar Schilens.

Defensive Line – Cut Marcus Dixon/Sign Isaako Aaitul/Keep Damon Harrison

It was perplexing to cut Dixon because he played well last season as a spot starter and member of the Jets defensive line rotation. He is a young player with the ability to slide between tackle and end, who has proven his value in Rex Ryan’s scheme. The Jets parted ways with him for an undrafted free agent in Harrison and a Dolphins castoff in Aaitul. Harrison has played well this pre-season, did he play better than Dixon? Probably not, but it is a better story for Mike Tannenbaum to tell that a UDFA fought his way on to the Jets roster at a crowded position. Aaitual has potential according to his scouting reports but likely can’t contribute this season.

Overall, this was a battle for the 6th spot in the Jets defensive line rotation and thus minimal reps if any. Tannenbaum chose to young and with upside, instead of the proven performer…penny-pinching about $150,000 in the process. In the long term, it could payoff if Harrison or Aaitul develop but if the Jets suffer an injury upfront this year, their depth is a bigger question mark than it would be with Dixon on the team.

Tight End – Waive Dedrick Epps/Sign Konrad Reuland

Tannenbaum had adamantly refused to go after a proven blocking tight end and clearly thinks it is better to let an extra tackle, like Jason Smith, take the reps. Epps didn’t show much this August, either as a blocker or receiver. Reuland has good size but every report on him, notes his receiving ability and calls him a “finesse blocker.” The Jets remain perilously thin between Dustin Keller, with Jeff Cumberland being the top option. Cumberland struggled all August, both catching the ball and blocking, likely because he is a former college wide receiver.

For whatever reason, Tannenbaum devalues the blocking tight end role, despite having success with it in 2009 and 2010 with Ben Hartsock being a major contributor to the Jets rushing attack. He also is demonstrating faith in Cumberland to handle a large role on offense. If the Jets can overcome giving away their tendencies with Smith on the field and Cumberland performs above expectations, Tannenbaum will look smart for saving money here, it the Jets struggle with Smith on the field and Cumberland flounders, Tannenbaum should be roasted for ignoring this need.

Fullback – Waive Terrance Ganaway/Keep John Conner

The Jets lost Ganaway, a sixth round draft pick to the Rams in the waiver process. He is a big back who showed the versatility to play fullback and halfback. It would have been a risk to hand him the starting fullback job but perhaps the Jets could have signed a veteran like Ovie Mughelli or Jacob Hester to ease the transition. Ganaway, Mughelli and Hester all have flaws in their game but at least they provide a measure of versatility for the passing game. Simply put, if you watch film on John Conner last year, he brings nothing to the passing game and his lead blocking is average at best. The Jets should probably consider going to more single back looks but if they have to use a fullback, why not go with an average blocker who can at least make an impact as a receiver or runner?

It would have been bad PR to cut the starting fullback with a catchy nickname a week before the season but can the Jets overcome Conner’s shortcomings for another year?

Running Back – Nothing

The Jets are rolling with Bilal Powell as their backup running back. A move that is eerily reminiscent of rolling with Colin Baxter as the backup center last year. Tannenbaum is clearly banking on last year’s fourth round pick to step up as a capable contributor and starter if Shonn Greene goes down. Yes, sometimes you have to let your young players play but on a run heavy team…maybe the most run heavy team in the NFL, isn’t that too big of a risk?

Based on performance to this point, it looks like Tannenbaum whiffed on three running backs in the last few years of the draft. Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell in the fourth round and John Conner in the fifth round. He also has a recent second round pick, Vladimir Ducasse, serving as the team’s 8th offensive lineman and a first rounder struggling heavily as a nickelback in Kyle Wilson. It appears he wants to roll the dice on his three running backs stepping up this year to validate his selection, if they fail, all three could be gone next year.

The New York Jets remain in a position to be competitive in the AFC East, thanks to a very good defense which Tannenbaum supported by adding Quinton Coples, LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell, and Demario Davis. Their defense is led by a terrific defensive mind and has a soft schedule to feast on. Could their offense be better than expected? Yes, if rookie Stephen Hill grows up fast and the newly added Tim Tebow brings a needed punch to the running game. However, it doesn’t mean the Jets have the necessary depth on offense. Tannenbaum feels comfortable to bank on players like Bilal Powell, Jeff Cumberland and Jason Smith…which demonstrates a self-comfort in his own job security.

New York Jets – State Of The Roster

A conversation with a former NFL Personnel Executive and Scout about the state of the New York Jets

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to have an extended conversation with a former NFL personnel executive and scout about the state of the New York Jets roster. This individual still works in the league and requested anonymity, here are a few of the most interesting excerpts of our conversation –

John Conner – He cited Conner as one of the least valuable players in the NFL and somebody who does not merit a roster spot. “He can’t catch and is average at best as a blocker. His lack of versatility makes the Jets that much more predictable on offense.”

Have to agree with the assertion here. Conner got a catchy nickname early in his career and was a fun story on Hard Knocks but ultimately has brought just about nothing to the table in 3 seasons. It is a shame Josh Baker is done for the season because the Jets would have been better off starting him at fullback than Conner. 

Blocking Tight End – A recurring theme throughout our conversation was the inability of Mike Tannenbaum to properly scout players and understand actual football techniques. “Everybody in the league knows Dustin Keller can’t block. Last year you had the Jets trot out Matthew Mulligan and John Conner on every running play and Keller on every passing play. It makes them easy to defend. When they talk about using an extra tackle as a tight end this year, it is a dead giveaway to their tendency. Why not go get a blocking tight end? They had success with Ben Hartsock in the past but have completely ignored the position this year.”

My feelings about a blocking tight end have been well stated. I do not understand how a “Ground and Pound” team does not carry one on their roster. 

Tannenbaum’s Future – “Tannenbaum will not be the fall guy if the Jets don’t make the playoffs this year. He has Woody Johnson wrapped so far around his finger, he isn’t going anywhere. He will be the GM for the next 5 years.”

Cameron Wake – “Prior to the 2009 season the Jets scouting department wanted Cameron Wake badly and the team was in a position to sign him, Tannenbaum personally overruled the move and said he didn’t want him.”

This statement caught me by surprise, as similar to many others I believe Tannenbaum is the first to go if the Jets don’t make the playoffs this year. Only time will tell. The Wake story is a frustrating one to hear considering the pass rusher he turned into and how the Jets have struggled to fill that spot. 

Shonn Greene – “An average to slightly above average back. For the type of offense the Jets want to run, they need an elite back or at least a capable 1B option which they don’t have right now. McKnight is not a NFL caliber running back and can’t stay healthy.

It still boggles my mind why the Jets didn’t sign Cedric Benson and I don’t see how they can give big money to Greene after this season. 

Jets 2012 Prospects – “Considering their defense and schedule, they are going to be right around or slightly above .500 all year and in position to make a late season run into the playoffs. However, they are still not equipped not overtake New England.

Agreed

Future Of Jets – “Tannenbaum gave himself minimal flexibility this off-season because of his habit of guaranteeing contracts. The decision to give that much guaranteed money to Wayne Hunter (this was pre-trade), Bart Scott and Calvin Pace (when they re-did his contract) is inexplicable and killed them this off-season. When those guys come off the books, they will then have the ability to make their needed moves, although they will continue to be hamstrung by the guaranteed money for Holmes and Sanchez.”

The handling of Wayne Hunter’s contract was truly awful, we know that. Scott and Pace are goners after this year. Only time will tell if Sanchez and Holmes can work out. 

Sanchez – “Needs to be in certain type of offense to succeed and the Jets have done a poor job building around him in recent years. The Tebow circus could be a disastrous distraction. Why keep trotting this guy out in front of the media so much?”

Rex Ryan – “A great defensive mind, who has a unit this year that will be good enough to keep the Jets competitive. However, he needs to stop talking his players up to the media so much. It puts unnecessary pressure on them and comes off as phony.

It has been nice to see Rex step up the public criticism of players this year, when it has been merited instead of the endless hype train. Hopefully this continues to be a trend. 

Other Tidbits

  • Stephen Hill – “A physical specimen but probably a year away from being a consistent contributor. He has a long way to go in the mental part of the game.
  • Right Tackle – “Only thing they can do is gamble and hope for the best. The position is a commodity. You need to draft and develop those players. Howard might be a one year stopgap but certainly isn’t a long term answer.”
  • LaRon Landry – “Can make a major difference but hard to imagine he gets through all 16 games.”