By Ryan Alfieri, Editor
With the Jets in a downward spiral at 3-6 an in the middle of an alleged locker room dispute, it is becoming more and more popular to go after the Jets’ embattled GM Mike Tannenbaum as the core of the Jets issues.
It is apparent that the Jets are an under-manned team on the offensive side of the ball, starting at the skill positions. The team’s lack of depth has been exposed by injuries at the receiver position and Tannenbaum’s hand-picked quarterback has not been able to pick up the slack, despite being in his fourth year.
On the surface, this would make Tannenbaum look bad, but is he taking too much heat for the Jets woes?
Just two seasons ago when the Jets were in the middle of their second consecutive championship game run, Tannenbaum was touted as one of the stronger GMs in the league. While he is not a former scout or pure football man, he is a former underling of Bill Parcells who knows who to work the salary cap.
Since he took over in 2006, the Jets have been a slightly above-average team under his watch, despite being on the back pages more often than not.
Under Mr. T’s watch, the Jets are 54-51, not including the postseason. During that time, the Jets have made the playoffs twice (both in 2009 and 2010 with AFC Championship appearances). Not exactly a dynasty, but slightly above average.
The current Jets are often accused of being devoid of talent, but there is actually a healthy amount of top-end talent on this team. The offensive line has three studs in Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Brandon Moore. Santonio Holmes, who is out for the season, is a dynamic player. Dustin Keller is a top receiving threat from the tight end position.
Defensively, they have the best defender on the planet in Darrelle Revis. Antonio Cromartie, who is playing as well as any corner in football in Revis’ absence, is an excellent number two corner. David Harris is a talented player, although he is having a down year. The Jets have perhaps the deepest 3-4 defensive line with a rising star in Muhammad Wilkerson, who PFF ranks as the second-best defensive lineman in the NFL.
Accumulating talent and keeping players under the cap is not Mike Tannenbaum’s problem. Where Tannenbaum has faltered is how he went about building a team with sound depth.
One just has to look at the receiver position for evidence of his mistakes. The Jets have the worst WR corps in the NFL, which has only been more obvious since Holmes went down, but this current state of the receivers was a long time coming.
They traded for Braylon Edwards in 2009 to give Sanchez a big target and open up the running game. A year and a half later, they replace him with Plaxico Burress, with no one waiting in the wings to eventually take over once they left. As a result, they were forced to start a rookie in Stephen Hill and Chaz Schilens with disastrous results.
Of course, constant juggling of the receiver position does a young quarterback like Mark Sanchez no favors.
Now, compare Tannenbaum’s plan to a team like Pittsburgh’s. They drafted Mike Wallace in the third round of the 2009 draft, then added two more players in Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders the following draft. At the time, the Steelers had a surplus of receivers because Hines Ward was still on the team, but they were able to ease their way into the lineup and make the NFL transition with ease. They contributed as rookies, but they were not the backbone of the offense like they are now.
What Tannenbaum needs to improve on is the concept of team building. Under Mr. T’s watch, the Jets have been more of a year-to-year team than a consistent winner, bringing in short-term solutions to “just get through” this season.
Now, the Jets are starting more young players than ever before, which is actually a step in the right direction. The problem is, these growing pains are coming at the cost of wins, and an already impatient fan base has no sympathy for a struggling team.