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Thoughts on the Press Conference and GM Search

After yesterdays press conference I think it is pretty clear that I, and many others, were way off base with Rex Ryan’s power within the organization. I felt that Ryan was actually on thin ice because of all the negatives that had become associated with him the last two seasons as the team faded down the stretch and in general played uninspiring football. When I finally got a chance to listen to the press conference after work as well as his interview on ESPN 98.7, I came across with the thought that Ryan is about as untouchable as they come.

I hope Ryan has changed. I hope that what he said he truly believed in. But, to me, what we heard yesterday was a coach and an owner not telling us what they believe but what they believe the fans and media want to hear. We heard a similar speech from Ryan last season. The one where he discussed how he lost the pulse of the locker room, needed to be more involved with the offense, and put his handprints on the whole game not just the defense. To that end he was bringing in Tony Sparano because they philosophically believe in the same ground and pound mentality. Now just one year later we get a different version of the same speech but are supposed to buy in? I can’t.

The last week has been a sham put on by the Jets as they tried to get their PR in order. They sent Rex away because they needed to formulate a plan and that is what we got from the owner and the head coach yesterday. That was like listening to political talking points that come down from above. I think its clear that the organization was monitoring the media, both print and on air, as well as the fanbase whether it be through blogs, message forums, or on air talk shows. The things Ryan talked to are exactly the things that the overwhelming majority of fans have been saying for 3 years now. Rex holds the offense back. We need to get with the times and attack more on offense. We cant be held hostage by Mark Sanchez’ contract. We need someone who is coach of all 3 phases of the game. We need a better staff. And on and on and on…

It is hard for me to believe that Rex took a week off in the Bahamas and had this epiphany just one week removed from the season. Ryan talked about how he wants to attack on offense and how 2009 was played the way it was because that was how they needed to play. Ryan had games this year where he was happy that his QB through for under 100 yards because he didn’t make mistakes. Now we are supposed to believe he wants to attack because he throws in buzzwords like “pistol offense” the way he threw words around like “wildcat” in the past? Please. Sanchez who would not get taken off the field turning the ball over every time he touched it unless it was at home is not guaranteed anything? Come on. Now he is going to get more involved? What were you doing the last 4 years? The words ring hollow because four years of actions fly completely in the face of what he is saying. You don’t break down a lifetime in a week on the beach.

If Rex came out and said after discussing things with Mr Johnson that it was thought best that he gives up control on offense to an established coordinator, like John Harbaugh gave Ryan in Baltimore, its at least believable. I didn’t get that feeling. I also got the feeling that this is not Rex Ryan for one year that a new GM inherits but a coach he inherits for life. Woody is clearly all in on Rex and that is a negative if you are conducting this kind of search. Ryan was pressed about how it may hamper the candidate pool on ESPN and pulled out the talking point right off of WFAN “there are only 32 of these jobs in the world” so someone is going to want the opportunity. They did similar talking points early in the year constantly comparing Eli Manning in 2007 to Mark Sanchez in 2012 until they realized how ridiculous it was. After talking about how there would be basically an executive discussion on bringing in a staff the Jets immediately promoted Dennis Thurman to defensive coordinator. It shows you who is running the show.

Late yesterday the news broke that Assistant GM Scott Cohen blew the Jets away in an interview. A few things first on that. If the Jets are going to hire someone they will leak that they were blown away in an interview. When the Jets first were going after Tom Gamble a few days ago we heard rumors the deal was done. When it seemed to fall through the stories were leaked that it was not a good interview. Damage control, nothing more nothing less. Secondly I would hope that Scott blows them away. He has been with the Jets for the last 5 years. A person like Gamble can only talk at a very high level about a team. Cohen knows the culture of the organization. He knows the personnel. He can outline very specific plans about what he can do with the NY Jets today and tomorrow. Gamble or Dave Caldwell can’t do that. They are not with the team.

If the Jets hire Cohen the perception is going to be that nobody wanted the job because Rex came with it not just for the short term but for the long term. Remember “There are only 32 of these jobs, so someone out there is willing to do it”. Its terrible because it immediately is going to turn people on him. Cohen was with the organization during the rise of the team and this collapse the last two years. He was supposed to be a personnel guy for Tannenbaum to lean on and it clearly did not work. He will be taken to task by the local media and that rubs off on the casual fanbase. It was a discussion I was having with some followers over Twitter yesterday. Some agreed some disagreed.

Never overlook the power of the media on fans opinions. I always lean back on the fact that years ago Mike Francesa and Chris Russo, on WFAN, actually were responsible for the New York Mets transitioning C Mike Piazza to first base. They pulled out every name under the sun who switched positions. Talked about how his catching ability was holding the team back. How this move would add years and years onto Mike’s career. It became the talking point for about 6 months. The problem was the Mets knew he didn’t want to do it and really was not capable of doing it. But fan pressure got so strong from those two they capitulated. It was a joke. Now when those two talk about it in hindsight they talk about the Mets incompetence for moving him instead of just moving on and laughing at how bad the team was run.

That is the same kind of stuff that will happen here and it completely nullifies any honeymoon period a new GM has with the team. It is just so poorly handled. Woody makes a big deal out of hiring this firm to go and find a new GM and you promote from within? A guy that has had no other interviews anywhere? And even the candidates you interviewed are just the same names everyone else, who didn’t pay someone to find candidates, interviewed. You hired this firm before Tannenbaum was out, maybe you should have paid them to survey how many GMs in the past take on a position where the coach is untouchable. Pittsburgh maybe with Cowher and that is a totally different organizational structure than just about anyone else in the NFL besides maybe the Giants. The Jets need a business manager or something.

If this is the boat the Jets were going on they needed to promote immediately, even if to just give the appearance that it was Scott keeping Rex and firing the staff. Instead its Rex firing and hiring the staff and us hearing he will be in the interview process. When the Jets promoted Tannenbaum, who was part of the bad and the good of the 2000s, it was so swift that he got a honeymoon. Remember all the fans calling him a genius in 2006 before they played a down? They called him a genius in 2007 when the Jets couldn’t win 5 games. It is not fair to someone to come into a job and immediately have the fans and media look negatively on you when you have done almost nothing to deserve it. It can completely derail a franchise.

That being said I think it would actually be a fine hire, its just that the way they handled it makes it look like a bad one and one they didn’t really want to make. Cohen has been around the NFL for over 20 years. He has seen numerous franchise models and was an integral part of the Philadelphia Eagles organization, who have been one of the best run organizations in the NFL. The Jets want people with personnel and scouting experience and this is your guy. He is clearly familiar with the roster, know the positives, and negatives, and is in tune with the contracts of the team. The Jets already have an excellent cap manager in place in Ari Nissim and those two can work together having the cap/personnel tandem that is probably more prevalent around the NFL, than the prior regime of cap guy in charge under Tannenbaum.

Sometimes we fall in love with names because they do come from other organizations. Gamble was the hot name of the day. Why? It has nothing to do with working as a scout in Indianapolis years ago. Its because the 49’ers are successful right now, just like the Jets were in 2009 and 2010. He joined San Francisco in 2005. From 2005 through 2010 the 49ers were an awful football team. In a terrible division they won a total of 37 games in 6 years, never once posting a winning season. Sure he brought in pieces but it wasn’t until they got a new coach and a new philosophy that things changed for them. He was not the person promoted to their GM role either and was bypassed in favor of Trent Baalke. Could you imagine the Jets going through 6 seasons of non winning football before turning a corner? I couldn’t. Tannenbaum went through 1 and got canned so I doubt the Jets would either.

Dave Caldwell, the younger “star” who just signed with Jacksonville, is probably a tougher pill to swallow. He’s pretty much been instrumental in building that franchise from the Vick era quickly to the Ryan era. He was responsible for a number of good pieces to rapidly turn the fortunes of that team around. I do tend to think that Ryan was probably a negative for him. Coming from a successful team you usually have coaches in mind that you want and when its insinuated that the coach is going to interview you or that the coach is in for the long haul you are better off taking the clean slate job with the Jaguars, where at worst he is stuck for one season and with a coach he knows from Atlanta.

But there is nothing wrong with hiring Cohen its just the way in which they are likely going to do it that makes it look wrong. And that’s the problem with the Jets. Leadership comes from the top and its missing. You never want your business to play out in the media this way, but that is what its become. Maybe that is what Woody wants, but I cant believe it is what the fans want. All the fans want is to win but sometimes you have to make them believe you are giving them the best chance to do it. The Jets failed in that regard and now they have to find a way to recover pretty quickly and surprise everyone once September rolls around or we will have this same sad situation play itself out again in 2014.

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