Many, if not most, Jets fans think that Mike Tannenbaum is a great GM. Several say that he's the best GM the Jets have ever had. I'll admit that he's one of the best, but before you say "You're contradicting yourself", I'll point out that saying that he's one of the best GMs in Jets' history isn't saying much, because most of them have sucked. Initially, I liked his aggressiveness, and following Bradway anyone would have looked good. I've liked some of his moves, but as the years have progressed, I think he has become more and more exposed as a GM who is too aggressive, really doesn't understand how to get maximum value from the draft and FA, understand how to build a roster, and one who has to make a big splash to satisfy his ego.
Tanny became the Jets' GM on 2/7/2006. Thus he is responsible for the drafts and FA moves from 2006 to present. Along with trades, those are the only ways a GM an improve his team. Building through the draft is the best way, as it is cheaper and the players generally younger so can stay with the team longer. Most people think FA should be used only occasionally to bring in a big name player, and more often should be used to sign cheaper stop gap or second tier players to allow the team ultimate flexibility in the draft. Only owners like Dan Snyder, Jerry Jones and the Eagles' owner routinely try to build teams through expensive FAs. It never works.
I think the following quote from an article by Dennis Agapito in Jets Nation on January 26, 2012 is revealing.
The Jets have drafted 23 players over the last five years. This is by far the lowest in the NFL, the league average has been 38. Of those picks only seven were defensive players. This aggressive style trading pick for players moving up in the draft has allowed the team to be competitive with back to back championship game appearances. However the shelf life of a team built in this manner tends to be short. As we all saw once the roster started to turn over the replacements were not there, for example Wayne Hunter.
Why so few picks? Some were used trading up to take players in the draft (such as Revis, Harris, Clemens, Keller and Greene) and others were used to acquire veteran players such as Lito Shepard, Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes.
Early on, Tanny was known as being a cap wizard and for always getting draft picks signed and into camp on time. As the years have gone by, I think he has become worse at both those aspects of the GM position as well. Revis and I believe others have missed camp time. As a result of his creating cap space by constantly restructuring deals and guaranteeing salary so he can be aggressive in FA, the team has wound up with older, expensive players who way underperform their contract, but the team can't cut them due to the dead money hit (Pace, Scott, Thomas, Holmes). He has also started seriously overpaying players (Sanchez & Holmes), and has ruined what was great chemistry and leadership in the locker room.
In this and the successive articles is a recap of each of his drafts. I think to get an accurate picture of how well a GM handles the draft and addresses his team's needs, one needs to look at players he bypassed to take those he actually took. I will attempt to show how the team could be in much better cap shape and not have the roster holes it now has, had Tanny used better judgment during his tenure as GM.
FA -The Jets were tight up against the cap. To get under, they waived Jason Fabini, Jay Fiedler, Barry Gardner, Lance Legree, Gerald Sowell, and Harry Williams. They didn't tender Mark Brown. Ty Law's contract option was not picked up. Kevin Mawae was released. Curtis Martin and Chad Pennington's contracts were restructured. The Jets signed FAs Andre Dyson, Kimo von Oelfhoffen, Matt Chatham, .Brad Kassell, Tim Dwight, Monsanto Pope, Trey Teague, and Anthony Clement. John Abraham was traded to the Falcons for the #29 pick. They traded a 6th round for Patrick Ramsey and an undisclosed 2007 pick for Kevan Barlow. Later the Jets traded Brooks Bollinger for CJ Moseley, TE Doug Jolley was traded to Tampa Bay for a draft pick, and the Jets picked up TE Sean Ryan and Sloan Thomas. I can't remember if they had the money, but I wanted them to sign either LeCharles Bentley, the best C in the game at that time or Steve Hutchinson, probably the best OG. They did neither. If they had signed Bentley, Mangold would have been unnecessary. They could also have kept Mawae for another year or two instead of Bentley or Mangold, and drafted a C in 2007 or 2008. There were a lot of pretty good Centers available in FA in 2006 (Mike Flanagan, Jeff Mitchell, Melvin Fowler and Justin Hartwig). They could have signed one of them and taken DeMeco Ryans at #29 and possibly been much better off. Heck, for that matter, the Jets could have signed Drew Brees and traded Chad Pennington. Andre Dyson wasn't the best CB, either. Charles Woodson, Nate Clements and Will Allen were also available. I think a much better job could have been done in FA that would have enabled the Jets to also get better players in the draft. I do give Tanny credit for not trading up to #2 to take Reggie Bush as many thought they should.
Draft - D'Brickashaw Ferguson (1st), Nick Mangold (1st), Kellen Clemens (2nd), Anthony Schlegel (3rd), Brad Smith (4th), Leon Washington (4th), Jason Pociask (5th), Drew Coleman (6th), & Titus Adams (7th). Arguably this is his best draft. He actually traded down, then traded back up to get Clemens. Ferguson and Mangold are starters and Pro Bowlers. Clemens never developed, but is still bouncing around the NFL. Schlegel was an unmitigated bust. Smith and Washington were excellent picks. Pociask is still bouncing around the NFL. Coleman was a useful reserve and blitzer and is still in the NFL. I don't know if Adams is still in the NFL, but as of a year or so ago, he was still hanging around.
Because Terry Bradway had neglected and misjudged the OL talent, the OL was a disaster. The Jets needed to seriously address the OL in this draft. They also needed to address the NT position and pass rushing OLB position. It was a weak draft for OTs & Cs so the point could be made that perhaps it would have been better to not try to address both or either position in the 2006 draft, and instead seek to fill one or both positions in a draft with a deeper pool of talent at one or both positions. Traditionally, one doesn't need to use #1 picks on OL positions save for possibly the LT position. That is changing, but with shrewd drafting, perhaps the Jets could have built as good an OL or only slightly inferior using other, lower draft picks to address the OL and using those high 1st round picks to address the two most important positions in the 3-4 D alignment (NT and pass-rushing OLB), or offensive playmaker type positions such as QB, RB or WR with those high picks and improved the team much more.
Ferguson & Mangold were the best prospects, but I don't think that one always needs to take the absolute best prospect. In fact, it's impossible. One has to think both short and long term in the draft and think how one can best improve one's team. While I'm not knocking either of their selection, but the point could be made that perhaps the Jets might have been better off long term either by trading down from the #4 spot, acquiring an additional pick or picks and taking Marcus McNeil (#50) or Andrew Whitworth (#55) instead of Ferguson. Alternatively, they could have taken any one of a number of excellent prospects at #4, still have taken Mangold at #29, and still have gotten either McNeil or Whitworth with their 2nd round pick, or have taken someone instead of Mangold, and stayed put in the 2nd round and taken either McNeil or Whitworth instead of Clemens.
The Jets also needed a QB. They opted for Kellen Clemens. I'm thankful, they didn't go for Leinart or Cutler. Even though Tarvaris Jackson isn't very good, he's better than Clemens. He could have been had anywhere before #64.
What they left on the table:
Players bypassed in taking Ferguson who could have perhaps really helped the Jets: Vernon Davis,Haloti Ngata, Antonio Cromartie, Tamba Hali, DeAngelo Williams, Johnathan Joseph, Santonio Holmes & Manny Lawson
With all the needs the Jets had, a strong point could be made that Tanny should have at least tried to trade down and acquire at least an extra 3rd round pick, if not a 2nd. How different would the team look if he had:
1 ) traded down from #4 into the teens and taken Tamba Hali, taken Mangold at #29 and then taken McNeil or Whitworth. Taking Hali would have prevented the Jets from having to overpay Calvin Pace to come to the Jets in 2008.
2) Taken Ngata either at #4, or traded down a few spots and added a 3rd or 4th round pic. Ngata would have made the D infinitely better and the Jets could have either bypassed Ellis or Wilkerson last year and taken Brooks Reed or another pass rusher.
3) Traded down from #4 and taken DeAngelo Williams or even taken Maurice Jones Drew instead of Clemens. They wouldn't have had to trade up for Greene, would have a much better rushing attack and would have another 2nd or 3rd round pick for trading down from #4.
4) Taken Vernon Davis at #4, taken Mangold, then traded up to take Whitworth or McNeil, or taken Davis, traded down from #29 and taken one of the tackles, then added a Center via other means. Taking Davis would have negated trading up to take Dustin Keller.
5) Taken DeMeco Ryans instead of Mangold. How much better would the Jets's D have been with Ryan in the middle? They wouldn't have needed to trade up for Harris in 2007 or perhaps wouldn't have needed to sign Scott as a FA in 2009.
Those are just a few of the possibilities of how the draft could have been a LOT better, and again, this is arguably Tanny's best draft.