Slow and Steady Wins the Race

By Mark Cannizzaro
Jets Head Writer
March 7th, 2007
“Slow and steady wins the race.’’

How many times have you heard that often-used mantra?

How many times have you actually believed it?

If you’re a Jets fan, you’d better believe it, because that’s the way general manager Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini operate.

Admit it: You were stressing out as the Jets seemingly sat idly as the Patriots suddenly, if uncharacteristically, opened Bob Kraft’s ample wallet and started free agency spending like a a pack of crazed shopaholics set free at the local mall.

With the Jets having signed no one, the Patriots were inking Ravens’ linebacker Adalius Thomas, one of the prized possessions in the market, almost as soon as the gun signaling the start of free agency sounded.

Soon after followed some other key additions to the Jets’ AFC East rivals and resident nemesis.

The Jets, of course, were not standing pat (no pun intended). They were merely plodding their strategy, their course _ as below the radar as they could be.

The trade for Thomas Jones has to fire up Jets fans, not only because it brought the Jets the legitimate 1,000-yard back they lacked so dearly in the absence of Curtis Martin, but because of how little it cost them.

The fact that the Jets didn’t have to part with their first-round draft pick and the fact that they still have two second round picks and four overall in the first day of the draft (in the first three rounds) has to make a Jets fan jump for joy.

As gracious as he tried to be toward Chicago management after the deal was done, Tannenbaum stole Jones from the Bears and, behind closed doors, he has to be positively giddy about the way it all unfolded.

Those who question whether this was a good deal are mere naysayers who feel it’s their calling to dissect every move that’s made.

Jones is a young 29, having averaged only 125 carries per season in his first four years in the league. Only in the last three seasons has Jones carried a near-300-carry load.

Oh yes, and he’s produced, gaining some 2,500-plus yards in the last two seasons.

Another underrated and forgotten-about factor about Jones on the field is the fact that he’s a terrific pass receiver out of the backfield _ something offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Chad Pennington are sure to take advantage of.

Jones, too, is a solid citizen off the field and is sure to be a perfect fit as a veteran leader in the Jets’ locker room, something that’s vitally important to Mangini.

If you’re concerned about Jones’ age, don’t be. Most fans want to win now and Jones is going to help the Jets win immediately.

Who cares what he does for them three or four years from now?

If he’s able to help them overtake the Patriots this year or next, will anyone be bellyaching about the fact that he was signed to a multi-year deal at age 28?

Certainly not.

Where do the Jets go from here?

Straight to the defensive side of the ball, where they need definite help on the defensive line and at cornerback and perhaps even at linebacker, where they could use some more big-play punch.

Former Cowboys’ DE Kenyon Coleman was signed and is a bit of an unknown commodity considering the fact that he only began starting some games last year. But you can be sure Tannenbaum was advised behind the scenes by Bill Parcells, Coleman’s former coach and Tannenbam’s mentor.

The Jets would not have moved ahead with a five-year $20 million deal for the guy unless Parcells made them sure about him. So the guess here is that he has some considerable upside to him.

David Bowens, the Dolphins’ pass rushing defensive end, remains a possible signing. His agent, Harold Lewis, insisted that the Coleman signing, as well as the re-signing of Bobby Hamilton, should not have a negative affect on whether Bowens signs with the Jets.

As of Wednesday, the Jets and Bowens were negotiating, though the Jets were offering considerably less money than some of Bowens’ contemporaries in free agency such as former Patriot Tully Banta-Cain, who signed with the 49ers for some $4 million a year.

Bowens has told friends that he really wants to be a Jet, which leads you to believe that he might be willing take a little less to land here.

Stay tuned on that one.

As for the Hamilton re-signing, there has been some outcry over the fact that this is a player going into his 14th season that isn’t very productive anymore.

Trust us on this: You cannot have enough Bobby Hamiltons in your locker room. This guy is a survivor, having carved out a respectable career on not a hell of a lot of talent and the young players around him look up to him.

Same with Kimo von Oelhoffen, who was admittedly surprisingly non-productive for the money he signed for and the reputation he came here carrying.

What you cannot measure, however, is the role these two veterans played in positively influencing the likes of Dewayne Robertson to name one key player in that room.

“The thinking (on re-signing Hamilton and retaining von Oelhoffen) was that sometimes people's contributions are more intangibles,’’ Tannenbaum said. “Bobby brought great intangibles to the table. He had a great play against Buffalo that was a four-point tackle on (Bills’ quarterback J.P.) Losman on that sneak which was a pivotal play in a pivotal game, and he did a lot of other things that really helped us during the year.

“Same thing with Kimo from a standpoint of he was somebody that came in, played a number of snaps for us _ I believe it was like 56 percent. But again, his leadership and intangibles were helpful to us.’’

The plan now is to make von Oelhoffen more of a rotation player who plays less than 56-percent of the plays by finding some more young productive talent around him.

And the Jets, slow as steady as they go, are doing just that this offseason. Be patient.

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