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TUNA REPRISE?

By Mark Cannizzaro
Jets Insider.com Head Writer
January 24th, 2007
Could the Tuna really be heading back to Hempstead?
Could the Tuna really be heading back to Hempstead?
Rarely has there ever been a figure in sports _ player, coach, front office man or owner _ that seems to be tied to more rumors and that fascinates the sporting world more than Bill Parcells.

Every time Parcells makes a career move _ and there have been many made, many aborted and many rumored _ it makes big-time news and has everyone breathless.

The latest move by the 65-year-old icon of NFL head football coaches has spurred some raging rumors about him returning to the Jets, whom he coached from 1997-1999.

How does that make any sense for either party?

It doesn’t.

Firstly, it’s almost certain that Parcells is not going to coach again.

Secondly, Tannenbaum, who was hired by Parcells, is he Jets’ GM and isn’t going anywhere soon.

Thirdly, if the plan is to bring Parcells in as a consultant, he already acts in that capacity behind the scenes to come extend as a friend and unofficial advisor to both Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini.

Fourthly, now that he’s a free agent, Parcells is already in high demand from the television industry and certainly in a position (depending on how much and how hard he wants to work) to come close to recouping the $5 million salary he walked away from in Dallas.

If the Jets actually wanted to hire Parcells as a consultant and he wanted to come aboard in that capacity, how much do you think they would pay him?

Sources close to the team have told us that the Jets have no plans to contact Parcells but say hypothetically that Woody Johnson would pay him $1 million (which would be relatively preposterous considering her pays his head coach $1.75 million a year), that would still be a fraction of what Parcells could make doing TV.

And, of course, Parcells could not do both because it would be an obvious conflict of interest.

If you’re a betting person, bank on Parcells doing some TV and remaining a silent consultant to his friends in the business such as Tannenbaum and Mangini.

That said, of course, because of Parcells’ predictable unpredictability, now that I’ve written this, expect a press conference within days announcing Parcells’ reuniting with the Jets.

Just kidding (I think).

This mercurial process began with Parcells’ flirtations with the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers while he was still coaching the Giants.

Then Parcells left the Giants in 1991 because of some health concerns and resurfaced with the Patriots in New England, where he led the Pats to a Super Bowl before leaving Foxborough amid a nasty divorce with owner Robert Kraft. You, of course, remember the thing about “buying the groceries’’ and “cooking the meal.’’

That’s when, after much controversy and inside maneuverings, Parcells became the Jets’ head coach and changed the culture inside of downtrodden Weeb Ewbank Hall.

He coached the Jets for only three seasons before sitting ominously upstairs for a year and then retiring yet again.

When the Parcells stopped coaching the Jets he read a poignant poem to his players about “the man in the mirror’’ and told reporters and columnists we could “write it on the board’’ that he was done coaching for good.

Then there were more heavy-panting flirtations with Tampa Bay, so heavy in fact that Tannenbaum went to Tampa and was about to take the GM job there before Parcells pulled out in the 11th hour for personal reasons many believe were tied to his impending divorce settlement at the time.

And finally, that “board’’ Parcells spoke of became was obviously a chalk board because it was erased when Jerry Jones’ money became too much to turn down and then Parcells was coaching Dallas.

That brings us to today.

Where will Waldo go next?

Figure on some TV and as much Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and Jupiter, Fla. (two of his loves) as possible.

****

The more you analyze the 2006 Jets the more you become impressed with the job Chad Pennington did.

Sure, his statistics weren’t Peyton Manning gaudy and sure he had his hiccups, but consider the spotty running game he had all season, the Jets’ first without Curtis Martin since 1997.

This brings us to the Jets’ most pressing need this offseason and that’s finding a true feature running back.

With all due respect to Leon Washington (and I might well be proven wrong before all is said and done), but he seems to be a perfect change-of-pace No. 2 back, but not a 25-carry-a-game guy who can consistently get you 100 or so yards per game.

The best option likely to be available is Chargers’ backup Michael Turner, but there are complications there. He’s scheduled to be a restricted free agent and, as a valuable commodity and big-time insurance in case LaDanian Tomlinson is injured, the Chargers are almost certain to tender him to a contract that would get them a first—round draft pick as compensation should he sign elsewhere and San Diego doesn’t match the offer.

The Jets, by both Tannenbaum’s and Mangini’s respective philosophies, want to build their team through the draft, which was a big part of their 2006 success with the likes of Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Washington, Brad Smith, Eric Smith and Drew Coleman making significant contributions.

The Jets acquiring Turner would mean either relinquishing a first-round draft pick or putting together some other trade package that would likely include draft picks, something they’d seemingly be unlikely to do based on their preference to build through the draft.

They, too, are in need of a top cover cornerback, and there are a couple of tantalizing possibilities who are scheduled to be free agents, beginning with Asante Samuel from the Patriots. Samuel, who tied for the lead in interceptions with 10 in 2006 and who picked off two more in the playoffs, returning them both for touchdowns, will command a massive contract.

The Patriots have little chance of retaining him, because they don’t allow themselves to get into big financial bidding wars for players.

The Jets’ philosophy, though, is somewhat similar to the Patriots in that they go more with role players rather than pay big money to stars, so Samuel becoming a Jet would also seem unlikely.

Buffalo’s Nate Clements is also a strong corner prospect, though he’ll also command a big signing bonus and contract.

Also defensively, the Jets need to address their productivity on the defensive line. Notably, defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen, though a terrific veteran presence in the locker room, simply wasn’t productive enough on the field with a mere 28 tackles and one sack all season. The Jets need to find another top defensive end to complement Shaun Ellis and then they can rotate von Oelhoffen in as a fresh sub.

Among the veterans likely to either take significant pay cuts or be released include receiver Justin McCareins (who an almost certain goner), running back Kevan Barlow (who wants to stay, even at a reduced salary), cornerback David Barrett, quarterback Patrick Ramsey, fullback B.J. Askew and possibly Tim Dwight (who’s too injury-prone).

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