(Long Island, NY) The Jets have swept the plate clean and are looking for a fresh start. When you finish 4-12 and have as many question marks as they do right now, that’s not exactly a bad thing. This group definitely fits the old saying- the new ‘kids’ on the block.
Between the head coach, offensive coordinator and General Manager, there isn’t even a need for the famous Jack Benny ‘39 years old’ line. These guys are young. Very young in the big, bad world of the NFL. Eric Mangini and all his 35 years is the man running the show. He is believed to be the driving force behind getting his longtime friend Mike Tannenbaum, 36, promoted from assistant to head GM. And prior to that Mangini hired an offensive coordinator that was even younger than he, 32-year old Brian Schottenheimer, who spent the last 4 seasons as the San Diego Chargers quarterbacks coach under dad Marty.
Critics have stated that Mangini would have been smarter to hire an offensive coordinator with a little experience and possibly a former head coach to ease him through some growing pains. Is it possible that young Eric would have felt uneasy with someone older and wiser standing beside him? He made this decision without even consulting with the GM at the time, Terry Bradway, who has since been reassigned in the organization.
With 3 very important parts of the organization performing their respective duties for the first time, this may be a trial and error period that the Jets cannot afford. Especially in the upcoming draft. The Jets currently have the overall fourth pick. Regardless of who is chosen ahead of that pick, there will be some talented players sitting there for the Jets. If either Matt Leinhart or Vince Young are still on the board, do the Jets grab a possible franchise quarterback? It’s a difficult decision with all the money tied up with an injured Chad Pennington. Will he be ready for the 2006 season? Even if he is, he may not be the answer with his surgically repaired throwing shoulder and a right arm that was already deemed suspect. The Jets may take a chance and trade down a few spots and pick Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler. He was high on a lot of people’s boards but he did not have an outstanding senior bowl.
Do they choose a running back to replace the aging Curtis Martin, who is also coming back from season ending surgery? How about the offensive line? The Jets have more holes in that unit than any other. (Excuse me for using the word ‘holes’ in the same sentence as the Jets offensive line). Do they pick a stud such as OT D’Brickshaw Ferguson from Virginia? He could anchor their line for years to come. But picking an offensive lineman that high is never the ‘sexy’ pick that the fans and newspaper headline writers are looking for. But for all intents and purposes it makes the most sense. This unit needs to be addressed for more than one position.
The Jets need to find players either in the draft or free agency. They still need to find a tight end after last year’s trade for Doug Jolley blew up in their faces. And what to do with defensive end John Abraham? Do they put the franchise tag on him again, sign him to a long term deal, or trade him for picks? He didn’t exactly light it up last year and his value may be down. Right now they are weaker in the defensive tackle position than end. They still have Shaun Ellis and Bryan Thomas. Losing Jason Ferguson to Dallas as a free agent last year hurt them more than they imagined. Teams were able to run on them at will and they didn’t have a big body in the middle to clog the holes.
The Jets new hierarchy definitely has their work cut out for them. It is hard to tell what owner Woody Johnson feels about all of this because he will not take questions. At the press conference he read a prepared statement and then was as tight lipped as gangsters in the pre-Abe “Kid Twist” ‘omerta’ days. Jet fans will have to put their trust in the aloof Woody and hope that they have something to cheer for come draft day.