FOXBORO MA - DECEMBER 06: (L-R) D'Brickashaw Ferguson #60 Wayne Hunter #78 and Matt Slauson #68 of the New York Jets look on dejceted late in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 6 2010 in Foxboro Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
"We expect Wayne back," Tannenbaum said. "We expect him to be our starter. We need more consistent line play. There’s no question about that … We expect him to play better this year."
Before you freak out, consider the possibility this is a smokescreen. Saying he "expects" Hunter to start is different from saying Hunter will be the starter. With free agency less than two weeks away, Tannenbaum could very well be trying to look like he has leverage in dealing with potential trade partners and free agents at the position to drive down their prices. Often at this time of year, what you hear on the record from a team is the exact opposite of the real plan.
I hope this is the explanation because it is going to get very difficult to continue defending Tannenbaum if he is telling the truth here. If there is a rational case to make for Hunter keeping his starting job, I have yet to hear it. He was responsible for more hits to his quarterback than any tackle in the NFL last year.
The scary thing is the circumstantial evidence Mike could be telling the truth. He could have saved money and cap space by cutting Hunter. He did not. Remember that great game Hunter had against Cameron Wake and Tony Sparano's Dolphins? Doesn't it seem possible Sparano saw something he thinks he can fix and lobbied the Jets to keep Wayne? The problem is the Jets already had an excellent offensive line coach who could not get much out of Hunter in Bill Callahan.
Tannenbaum is either lying here or is about to deserve some serious scrutiny. A wise man once said the definition of insanity is doing things the same way and expecting a different result. Going into the season with Hunter and Vladimir Ducasse as the only contenders for a starting right tackle job for a second straight year certainly sounds a bit crazy.