How To Build A Football Team: The Right Way And The Bradway
By Kevin Newell
Jets Head Writer
January 15th, 2004
Coming into his 4th year as Jets GM, Terry Bradway is on the hot seat. (AP)
Coming into his 4th year as Jets GM, Terry Bradway is on the hot seat. (AP)
They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither, for that matter, are NFL teams.

But in this era of free agency and salary cap implications, teams that finish in last place one season can go to the Super Bowl the next. That is, sans the New York Jets.

During the past three seasons, all of which have come under the tutelage of Jets general manager Terry Bradway, we have seen several teams, the New England Patriots in particular, rise from the ashes to glory. Under Bradway’s watch, we have witnessed a tiebreak 9-7 division title and a 6-10 fiasco that has led the organization to clean house on the defensive side, fire its defensive coordinator, and continue its elusive search for the “big” receiver. Same story, different season. Except that Bradway now faces his most daunting task: rebuilding an old, slow, and talent-depleted team armed with only a couple of million dollars and the No. 12 draft choice.

Did Bradway inherit a hellish cap situation? Yes. But he has also contributed to it with poor decision-making and poor personnel decisions.

Basically, Bradway has been living off the leftovers of previous Jets regimes. The foundation of this team – and that includes Chad Pennington, Curtis Martin, Kevin Mawae, Wayne Chrebet, Shaun Ellis, and John Abraham – the closest players we have to Pro Bowl caliber talent, were either drafted or signed as free agents by the Al Groh-Bill Parcells-Rich Kotite regimes. Yes, Kotite gets props for recognizing Chrebet’s untapped potential.

Parcells signed Mawae from the Seattle Seahawks and stole Curtis Martin from the Patriots. He also oversaw the 2000 draft bonanza that reaped Pennington, Ellis, Abraham, Anthony Becht, and a wide receiver by the name of Laveranues Coles, a player Bradway lost to free agency.

This is funny, direct from the Jets media guide: “During his tenure, Bradway has aggressively jumped into the free agent market and signed several key players to bolster the defense including Sam Garnes, Aaron Beasley, Donnie Abraham, and Sam Cowart.”

Key players? Bolster? Have I missed something here? Name me one superior, top-shelf free agent Bradway has signed?

It gets better: “Bradway has built a foundation for the future through the annual draft. Overall, Bradway has selected 18 players through the draft, 17 of which are currently with the Jets.”

Foundation? Future? “With” the Jets does not mean “contributing” for the Jets. The only players Bradway has drafted who have significantly contributed are Kareem McKenzie and Santana Moss, the latter having a career season in 2003 following two disappointing campaigns. John McGraw has yet to prove himself as a starter. Lamont Jordan has been mishandled from day one and should be playing way more. Jamie Henderson is hurt all the time. Bryan Thomas is a work in progress. Chris Baker has potential. Jonathan Goodwin was so good that he started at left guard this past season – not.

Where are the impact players? The playmakers? The game-changers?

Last season Bradway gambled by moving up to select Dewayne Robertson. Granted, Robertson was considered by many to be the class of the defensive tackles. And you can’t really judge a DT until his second or third season.

But drafting Robertson was clearly a panic move due to early indications that Josh Evans was going to be suspended by the NFL for violation of its drug policy. Instead of panicking, Bradway should have stayed pat and either used the two first round picks he traded to move to No. 4, or trade down and acquire additional picks throughout the draft to accumulate depth and/or bargaining chips.

Bradway has stated that defensive linemen are more of a premium than wide receivers. And that you can get wide receivers anywhere. Well, the bonus money that Coles wanted to remain a Jet was basically the same amount that the Jets gave Robertson. So it’s a push.

As for Bradway’s assessment that you can get receivers anywhere, the fans and organization have been clamoring for a big wide receiver since the departure of Keyshawn Johnson. So who has Bradway brought in? Matthew Hatchette and Curtis Conway. Please. Hatchette never caught on the system, was used sparingly before being released and Conway is on his way out the door after one season. Nice eye for talent, Terry. Where have you been shopping? Costco?

Perhaps the only way for Bradway to bring in a big receiver to replace Keyshawn is to bring Keyshawn back.

In 2002, Bradway chose Thomas with the 22nd pick of the first round. A head-scratcher if ever there was one. The team dearly needed an influx of young, quick linebackers and defensive backs, not another lineman. The player that should have been tabbed was Miami safety Ed Reed, who in his second season with the Baltimore Ravens, made the Pro Bowl. Anyone who has seen Reed play realizes this guy is gifted.

The Jets defense doesn’t scare anyone. They do not possess a single player that is a difference maker, a player that keeps offensive coordinators up at night to scheme against. Abraham, when healthy, is as close to that type of player the Jets have on the defensive side of the ball.

Now he is going to be switched to strongside linebacker, mainly because the linebacking corps is so thin and void of talent. Mo Lewis and Marvin Jones are going to be cut. Cowart is a strong possibility to get his walking papers. As for the rest of the D, adios to Garnes and Beasley.

The only linebacker that Bradway has drafted during his tenure is Victor Hobson. The only worthwhile defensive back he has tabbed is McGraw who’s durability is definitely in question after an injury plagued 2003. Anyone who has watched the Jets for the past few seasons recognized that several defensive players were a season or two away from the end. This was no secret.

Here’s the kicker. Two seasons ago, the Jets blew up the defense and brought in six new starters. Two years later, they are doing the same thing. What does that tell you about the talent, or lack thereof, that Bradway has drafted and/or signed?

Part of being a GM is also being a visionary and planning for the future. Can’t say that about Bradway.

How about the offensive line, the guard positions in particular? In successive seasons the Jets lost starters Kerry Jenkins and Randy Thomas, the latter drafted by Parcells and among the premier guards in the game. In their place, Bradway brought in an aged and gimpy Dave Szott, a quitter in Tom Nutten, and a project in Brent Smith.

Gee, and you wonder why the running game suffered early on the last two seasons or that Pennington was getting manhandled not only in the Oakland playoff game two seasons ago, but bullied the last several games of last season.

Before being hired as the Jets GM, Bradway had never held a GM position in the NFL. He spent nine seasons in the Kansas City Chiefs’ personnel department working with Carl Peterson and seven years as a scout with the Giants, answering to George Young.

Ironically, Bradway was highly recommended to owner Woody Johnson by Parcells. Tuna appears to have missed the boat on this one.

This is in no way a vendetta against Bradway. On a personal level he’s a very nice man. But nice guys finish last, as Billy Martin once said, and Bradway and the Jets did finish last in 2003.