Around the AFC East, Week 4: New York Jets

If there is one NFL decision-maker who best compares to Buffalo Bills COO/GM Russ Brandon, it's Mike Tannenbaum of the New York Jets.  A (sports) lawyer by trade - but also possessor of a degree in accounting and a minor in sports management - Tannenbaum has spent the past three seasons as the Jets' GM, taking over for Terry Bradway after the 2005 season.

In those three years, the Jets have experienced successes - their '06 playoff berth behind Eric Mangini and Chad Pennington would be the high point - but they've also had utter failures, including a 4-12 2007 season and a 1-4 finish to 2008 that saw the Jets squander the lead in the AFC East.  Perhaps Tannenbaum's biggest failure as a GM to this point has been his acquisition of QB Brett Favre, who brought plenty of excitement, but very little payoff in his one season in New York.  (To be fair, he's also made some excellent moves, including the trade that landed dominant NT Kris Jenkins.)

What do Jets fans think of Tannenbaum?  Well, I can only ask one at a time.  I'll start with John B of Gang Green Nation.

What are your thoughts on Tannenbaum? He's one of the youngest GMs in the league, and he's been on the job for three years - that's enough of a sample size to make a pretty good judgment.  Is he the guy to steer the Jets back into the annual post-season playoff race, or are you concerned about some of the decisions he's made in his three years?

John B: On the whole, I think Tannenbaum has been excellent. There is significantly more talent on the roster now than when he arrived on the job. Of his seven picks in the opening two rounds of the Draft from 2006 to 2008, five of them look like cornerstone players (Ferguson, Mangold, Revis, Harris, and Keller). Add 2006 fourth-rounder Leon Washington, and you have six.

He has also aggressively moved to add key veteran pieces. He closed the deal on Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, Lito Sheppard, Alan Faneca, Damien Woody, Calvin Pace, Kris Jenkins, Thomas Jones, and Tony Richardson since taking over as GM. When he targets a player, he very rarely misses his man. This aggression has also displayed itself in the Draft. Of the players I mentioned, he traded up for Revis, Harris, and Keller (not to mention Mark Sanchez). Add Brett Favre into the mix as well. Regardless of how it turned out, Tannenbaum realized his team had a weakness at quarterback ten months ago and landed a Hall of Famer coming off a great season at a reasonable price.

You see a lot of baseball general managers with unconventional backgrounds these days. That is not so much the case in football. Tannenbaum is an exception. He is a lawyer by trade; Bill Parcells brought him aboard to run the salary cap. Not being a talent evaluator, he has had to depend on his scouting department. He has surrounded himself with good people, evaluated the evidence, and acted decisively time and again to land quality players. Tannenbaum also understands how to manipulate the cap so well that his bold moves have not mortgaged the team's future even if there is a salary cap beyond this season. I think he has built a great foundation with the players I mentioned.

Of course, the move that will ultimately define his tenure was the Mark Sanchez trade. The jury will remain out for a few years on that one.

***

John's best point is that Tannenbaum's fate is ultimately tied to the career path of Sanchez.  Those pesky NFL quarterbacks - some may downplay their importance on the field, but it's difficult to deny that decisions at the top of the hierarchy are tied directly to quarterbacks.  That's the nature of the business.

I'm not sold on Tannenbaum, just like I wouldn't be sold on Brandon if he had as much influence as Tannenbaum does in New York.  John's right in stating that there are a lot of talented players on the Jets' roster, but he's also responsible for his cocky new head coach, Rex Ryan, and he's gambling by handing the reigns of the franchise to a rookie quarterback coming off of his junior year in college.  If Tannenbaum is anything, he's bold - but he's also set himself up to "boom or bust" - and if the team busts, he won't last too long in ultra-impatient New York.

One more "Fishy" story coming your way this afternoon.

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