Why Is Mike Tannenbaum Still the New York Jets GM and What Does the Future Hold?
The New York Jets have spent the majority of the 2012 offseason making moves that have made fans, writers and followers scratch their heads in wonder.
At the forefront of those moves is general manager Mike Tannenbaum. He has failed to address many of the Jets' key needs, specifically on offense (right tackle, running back, blocking tight end). He arguably faces more pressure this season than anyone else in the Jets organization.
His own players are even calling him out.
With so many questionable roster moves over the past few offseasons, it would seem his job is on the line.
He will likely become the scapegoat in New York if and when things go wrong for the Jets this season, but he won't likely be the scapegoat inside the walls at MetLife Stadium.
"Tannenbaum will not be the fall guy if the Jets don't make the playoffs this year," a former NFL personnel executive said, according to TurnOnTheJets.com. "He has Woody Johnson wrapped so far around his finger, he isn't going anywhere. He will be the GM for the next five years."
So why is Tannenbaum's job so secure, even with the recent string of bad decisions?
To find that answer, you have to look beyond the past two offseasons, to the era from 2006 to 2007.
The Jets are still reaping the benefits of a solid draft in 2006, in which they had two first-round picks and stood pat with each to select tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold.
Then, Tannenbaum rolled up his sleeves, and with one aggressive move after another, the Jets added talent upon talent to their roster. The Jets moved up 11 spots to grab cornerback Darrelle Revis in the 2007 draft and moved three picks to move up in the second round to grab David Harris. Slam dunks, both.
Within two years, the Jets had stockpiled four quality starters, two on each side of the ball.
Then 2008 happened.
Defensive end Vernon Gholston was an epic fail with the No. 6 overall pick. Tight end Dustin Keller has value in the passing game and has led the Jets in receptions in each of the past two years, but he is entirely too one-dimensional of a tight end to warrant a selection at the back end of the first round, much less trading up for said pick.
The pick of quarterback Mark Sanchez in 2009 remains a dubious one, as his ceiling is still very much in question, but think about this: If Sanchez gives you pause as the No. 5 overall pick, imagine how bad it would look if anyone or anything the Jets had traded to the Browns had turned out to be of any value.
The Jets gave up their second-round selection and three players—defensive end Kenyon Coleman, safety Abram Elam and quarterback Brett Ratliff—to move up 12 spots from No. 17 to No. 5 and take Sanchez.
And for all the criticism of running back Shonn Greene—what he is supposed to mean to the Jets offense as opposed to what his true value is—don't forget that the Jets traded up for him, too.
Cornerback Kyle Wilson, drafted with the 30th overall pick in 2010, has earned both praise and criticism from head coach Rex Ryan and hasn't given the impression that he'll ever develop into a top-flight cornerback.
Tannenbaum's saving grace of the past few drafts may be the versatile defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, the team's first-round pick in 2011. He looked like a stud last year playing 608 snaps (57.8 percent of the team total, according to Pro Football Focus), the second-most of any defensive lineman on the roster, and logging three sacks and a safety in the process.
But there's one common thread throughout Tannenbaum's tenure: The Jets have never been good about finding players in late rounds to develop and fill out their roster.
With a few exceptions, the Jets have been abysmal in the middle to late rounds of the draft. To be fair, a lot of teams are, but the Jets' ineptitude in those stages of the draft is amplified by the fact that they haven't had as many picks. They haven't had as many picks because they've been so aggressive.
They've also traded some of their mid-round picks for talented but troubled veterans in cornerback Antonio Cromartie, safety wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards and others. Those trades have worked out.
But again, it points to the larger issue: The Jets' recent inability to find quality talent through the draft, which they can then cultivate into top-tier talent that will last for over a decade.
Courtesy Pro Football Reference.
Looking at the chart, only four players drafted in rounds two through seven since 2006 have served more than one year as the primary starter at their position (that's if you include Shonn Greene, who will likely be the primary starter at running back this year).
Some of that falls on the coaching staff, and some of it falls on the scouting department as well, but ultimately, this is Tannenbaum's doing.
The Jets have long sacrificed the depth they lack for the top-end talent they desire and have not built a roster that is equipped to deal with the grind of a 16-game regular season. If the Jets aren't able to get beyond those 16 games and into the playoffs, Tannenbaum's job should be in question.
That is, if it shouldn't have been already.
If he is to remain the general manager, Tannenbaum should take a look at his track record and see where he could use improvement.
The answer will jump off the page.