In Mr.T we trust….

January 20, 2010

Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum is rolling sevens

The play was a roll-out to the right, with the Jets down 7-3 and facing 3rd and goal from the Chargers one yard-line.  Rookie Mark Sanchez scrambled, was given time thanks to a great block from fellow rookie Shonn Greene, and the Sanchise threw a bullet to second-year tight end Dustin Keller in the back of the end zone.  Completed pass…touchdown….Jets led 10-7. 

Greene, the Jets third round pick in this past April’s draft, would later break a 50 yard run thanks to the blocking of Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and Alan Faneca.  Gang Green led 17-7, and would hold on to advance to the AFC Championship game.

While those plays were critical in the Jets win against the bolts, the turning point of the game was easily the Darrelle Revis interception of Philip Rivers early in the third quarter.  San Diego was in prime position to take a double-digit lead, but it was the third year corner who changed momentum with a miraculous circus catch off Vincent Jackson’s shoe. 

It is rare that teams go this far in the playoffs thanks to contributions from so many young players.  Since taking over as Jets GM in 2006, Mike Tannenbaum has done whatever it takes to shape the Jets into a playoff contender. In 2007, recognizing a weakness at corner back, Mr. T traded up from the 25h slot to draft Darrelle Revis, a player described by the aggressive GM as a “must-have.”  Baby Lockdown has blossomed into one of the premier Defensive players in the NFL, and Tannenbaum knew Revis’ fate all along.

“If I like something, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get it.  But only if it’s within reason and improves our team,” the GM said earlier this season.  “We knew Darrelle was going to be a standout cover corner in this league, and we needed him.” 

Certainly Revis has been the catalyst of the NFL’s top ranked defense, but Tannenbaum’s second round pick that year has turned into an All-Pro linebacker.  David Harris played his college ball at Michigan, and Mr. T knew he had to have him.  Not surprisingly, the Jet GM traded up in the second round to draft the quiet linebacker, who in three years has turned into one of the premier middle linebackers in the sport. 

Rewind back to one year earlier, when Tannenbaum drafted offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold in the first round of the 2006 draft.  The Jet GM was criticized because these were not “sexy picks” for a team coming off a disastrous 4-12 season.  Nonetheless, fast forward to the present and these studs are amongst the best at their position and anchor the best offensive line in football. 

Oh, and with the 117th ovrall pick that year, the Jets selected a little running back out of Florida State named Leon Washington.  You may have heard of him….

Tannebaum would finish off the offensive line later in 2008, signing the 9-time pro bowl guard Alan Faneca to the highest contract ever for an offensive lineman.  Mr. T would also improve the defense that year, by shelling out $42 million to Calvin Pace, who led the Jets in sacks this season. 

The franchise would make the playoffs in 2007 under first year coach Eric Mangini, but suffered through a disappointing 2008 campaign when quarterback Chad Pennington went down with a season-ending injury.  In the 2008 off-season, Tannenbaum was committed to improving the team, doing once again whatever it takes.  On a muggy August night, as I turned on ESPN around 11:00 p.m., a breaking story scrolled on the bottom of the screen.

“The New York Jets have traded for Brett Favre.” 

Now, we all know how this ended – Favre had the Jets at 8-3, but the team faltered down the stretch thanks in large part to an undisclosed injury to the gun-slinger.  Nevertheless, this move was just further proof of Mr.T’s determination to mold the Jets into a contender. 

Prior to that trade for Favre, Tannenbaum jumped six slots in the first round of the 2008 draft to take Dustin Keller.  Convinced that Sean Payton and the Saints would take Keller, Mr. T decided once again to be aggressive.  The knock on Keller was that he couldn’t block, so maybe that’s why Tannenbaum said his favorite moment from the wild-card win over the Bengals was Keller’s block on the 39-yard scoring run by Greene.

In the 2009 off-season, the Jets were committed to erasing the horrible memories of the 2008 collapse.  Tannenbaum fired Eric Mangini and hired the outspoken defensive coordinator of the Ravens, Rex Ryan.  Together, Ryan and Tannenbaum recruited Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard to join Rex in New York.  Both Scott and Leonhard have been key components to the Jets revamped defense that went from 18th in the NFL in ’08, to number 1 in 2009.   

The signature move of the Tannenbaum era, however, was of course trading up to the 5th slot in the 2009 draft to select Mark Sanchez.  Fleecing his friend and former coach Eric Mangini, Tannenbaum had the flashy “star” quarterback that owner Woody Johnson always dreamed of.  For a franchise that had not experienced a championship in 30 years, it was time to take a risk on this neophyte in Sanchez. 

After the Sanchez blockbuster, the GM was prepared to sit back, relax, and basically enjoy the rest of the draft.  That is until Shonn Greene dropped to the third round, and the brash GM couldn’t resist.  Tannenbaum traded up once again, and took the Iowa runningback with the first pick of the third round. 

Mike Tannenbaum wouldn’t stop there, and once again traded with the Browns for the underachieving  Braylon  Edwards after Gang Green’s loss in New Orleans.  Once again Mr. T was doing everything in his power to improve his team and increase the chances of a championship.  While Edwards has certainly had his ups and downs, his value to the team is most measured in terms of his blocking and ability to open up the run game. 

As a Met fan who has dealt with Omar Minaya over the past five years, it is refreshing to know Mike Tannenbaum is operating the Jets.  Yes, there was the selection of Vernon Gholston in 2008, but who in this world is perfect?   Tannenbaum is close, and has shaped this Jet team into a championship contender.  Sure some moves have not worked out as planned, but whereas most GM’s will not mortgage the future to guarantee the present, Mr. T is doing everything he can to ensure his fan base cheers for a winner.

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