Jets GM Terry Bradway (right) has seemingly set the Jets up for long term success. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
- Terry Bradway has started to do what Jet fans have been waiting four years to see. He has put together a successful product.
While other teams in the AFC East upgraded last season, Buffalo signed LB Takeo Spikes, the Dolphins signed LB Junior Seau, the Jets and Bradway watched as the Washington Redskins stripped us of three key players. Jet fans were forced to watch a team that did not receive a single upgrade at any position. The defense was aging, the offense was stagnant, especially after Chad Pennington broke his wrist in the preseason, and the special teams suffered from the loss of Chad Morton. The only positive that came from the Jets 2003 season was the emergence of Santana Moss, who proved to be one of the most explosive players in the league.
It also seemed that Bradway bungled an opportunity to improve the team when he traded two first round picks, to move up to the fourth spot, to draft defensive tackle Dwayne Robertson. Robertson was forced into action due to the suspension of Josh Evens and was overwhelmed the entire season. Robertson's sub-par rookie season had many critics chomping at the bit to deem him a bust.
As the Jets finish the 2003 season 6-10 it was time for Bradway to make some changes and begin earning his pay check. First he and head coach Herman Edwards fired defensive coordinator Ted Cotrell. Bradway then allowed Edwards to search for his own coordinator. Edwards selected the Ravensí defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson to call the shots. Jets fans know how that has turned out. Henderson is turning out to be one of the leagues top, new coaching prospects. The Jets defense now ranks No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed, just over 14 per game. The run defense has done a complete 180 and the Jets have pitched six second half shutouts, four of which have been on the road.
Bradway and the Jets then turned their sights toward a youth movement on defense. Out was Mo Lewis, Marvin Jones and Sam Garnes. In came David Barrett, Eric Barton and Victor Hobson, who Bradway drafted in the second round of the 2003 draft.
On the first day of the 2004 NFL draft the Jets general manager gave his team a linebacker with sideline-to-sideline speed. Jonathan Vilma, drafted No. 12 overall, has possibly played himself into the defensive rookie of the year. After taking over for Sam Cowart, who injured his knee early in the season, the Jets defense has not missed a beat. Cowart started the season putting up pro-bowl numbers the first three weeks and now has been relegated to a back up roll, as Vilma has shined as the leader of the Jets defense.
Bradway and the Jets had what some may consider their best draft since 2000, when they had four first round draft picks, in which they selected Chad Pennington, John Abraham, Shaun Ellis and Anthony Becht. Without a second round pick, which Bradway traded to the Titans for wide receiver Justin McCareins, the Jets drafted four players who see ample time on defense. Rookies Vilma, CB Derek Strait (3rd Round), S Erik Colmen (5th Round), and Trevor Johnson (7th Round) have played big parts in the Jets success.
Other than the acquisition of McCareins the Jets were quiet with their off-season pick-ups on offense. That was until Bradway made what can be considered the best late pickup in the league. He signed guard Pete Kendall, who was cut by the Cardinals just a few weeks before the season started. Kendall has helped to solidify the Jets offensive line, which has been a dominating force in the league all season.
Entering the season there were still many question marks about the Jets. One was answered with the emergence of Robertson, who came into camp ready to prove his critics wrong. Bradway quoted the Texans quarterbacks coach, Greg Roman, on his weekly show on 1050 ESPN radio. Roman told Bradway that Robertson was one of the top two defensive tackles they have played against all season.
Bradway's moves have payed off for the Jets this season, as they are a young up-and-coming group. The Jets showed their appreciation for Bradway's job well done as they have extended his contract through the 2007 season.
Bradway and the Jets have already began looking toward the future. They have inked both Pennington and Ellis to long term deals. Bradway now has some tougher decisions to make. He must find way to fit both Kareem McKenzie and Abraham under the cap. He must also decide if it is wise to sign Abraham who has proved to be injury prone. Bradway must also try to find a way to appease Lamont Jordan and see if he can still be a fit in the Jets offense.
Rewarded with a deserved new contract, Bradway has seemingly set the team up for long term success with his infusion of youth and speed. Now if he can manage to re-sign the remaining key veterans entering free agency, the Jets should be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.