"Over the last five years, we certainly proved good enough to get into the playoffs," said Johnson. "But just getting in the playoffs isn't good enough. The goal of the Jets right now is to go to the next level."
He was clearly tired of former coach Herman Edwards praising the organization for making the playoffs three of the last five years. The goal in the NFL is winning the Super Bowl. As Bill Parcells once said, "There are no medals for trying."
So with the team's standards being lifted, Johnson and team President Jay Cross decided some changes needed to be made at the top. General Manager Terry Bradway was reassigned to a consultant role, and his assistant, Mike Tannenbaum, was named the new GM.
But Bradway is going to stay on as a player personnel consultant, which is a good thing. While he wasn't a great fit for the GM job, he's a good evaluator of talent. People in Kansas City will tell you that team's drafts have slipped since Bradway left his job of director of college scouting to come to the Jets.
And unlike most corporate scenarios where a person is reassigned to a lesser role within a company, there are no bad feelings here. This setup could actually work. You see, Bradway didn't love being a GM, especially in a brutal media market like New York. He is a scout at heart, and just wants to evaluate talent, not do interviews. Now he will be able to focus on that full time, and not get destroyed on a consistent basis by the tabloids.
"I'm excited that he's going to be here," said Tannenbaum. "He's a superb talent-evaluator. I think he can really help us through the entire process, not only the draft, but in all player personnel."
"I really kind of missed the scouting part of it," said Bradway. "Now I get a chance to do that. I'm excited about that, I really am. I think I can help this team in that area."
And this isn't just window-dressing. He is excited about his new role. Aside from hitting the road more to look at talent, the new role allows Bradway to live in his hometown of Absecon, New Jersey.
Bradway lives in southern New Jersey -- about three hours from the Jets' complex -- in the shadows of Atlantic City. When he and his family moved from Kansas City in 2000, they settled in Dix Hills, NY. But his kids hated the school system, so Bradway and his wife moved the family to Absecon.
Because of this setup, Bradway often lived at a local hotel and would sometimes work three or four days at Hofstra, and then drive home to Absecon. While he deserves a great deal of credit for what he did for his children's well-being, it had to take away from his efforts as a GM somewhat. And it sounds like Johnson grew uncomfortable with having a part-time football chief.
"I know the sacrifice [Terry] went through, because his family that he cares about is about 150 miles away," said Johnson. "He made a great sacrifice to try to bring this team to the levels it's gotten to. I'm also pleased to announce that Mike Tannenbaum is the new general manager of the Jets."
Whenever Bradway had to hit the road and headed to Absecon, Tannenbaum ran the football operation. So he got a lot of practical experience that helped him prepare for his new challenge.
How much time he spends in the office won't be a problem with Tannenbaum, who has a nonpareil work ethic.
Johnson thinks that in 36-year-old Tannenbaum and 35-year-old head coach Eric Mangini he has two potential NFL standouts in place.
"Together, Mike and Coach Eric Mangini bring a new era to the Jets," said Johnson. "Theirs is a natural partnership. Together, they reflect our organizational philosophy, and that is to tap the next generation of emerging NFL leaders even before others take note."
And Johnson feels Tannenbaum has the skill-set to handle all the challenges presented to current NFL GMs.
"Mike is right for this challenge because the job of general manager has broadened to become more complex in the NFL, as the NFL system has become more complex," said Johnson. "In order to effectively guide a modern NFL team, you need to understand everything that goes into it -- from putting the 45man roster on the field, to cap management, all the way to strength and conditioning."
And the strength and conditioning issue is huge for the Jets. Their conditioning program became a joke last year, with 25 players overweight, according to a team source. Former coach Herman Edwards refused to fine players or confront them for slacking off, and Bradway refused to discipline his coach.
Tannenbaum is more of a hard-ass, and isn't afraid to ruffle feathers. This situation will be handled.
While it's clear Tannenbaum, who is both a lawyer and an accountant, can handle contract issues, the big question about him regards his acumen in evaluating players.
Over the last decade, working under Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, and Bradway, Tannenbaum has learned a great deal about player personnel, taking a lot of notes. With Bradway still on board, along with the team's two scouting directors – Jesse Kay and Joey Clinkscales, Tannenbaum should do just fine dealing with player procurement, as long as he listens to this trio. And let's not forget, Mangini is a disciple of Belichick and learned a tremendous amount from his mentor about finding players who fit your systems.
"In terms of player personnel, all of our jobs from scouts and data collectors is to understand what our head coach wants and needs at each respective position," said Tannenbaum. "I know what he's looking for: tough, smart, highcharacter, competitive players. And it's our job to go get players that fit Eric's mold. If they don't fit our criteria, that's okay. They can go someplace else and have a successful career, but they won't be New York Jets."
And the fact that Tannenbaum didn't play or coach on the college or pro level doesn't mean he can't succeed as GM. Two notable NFL GMs -- Carolina's Marty Hurney and the Giants Ernie Accorsi -- were a sportswriter and publicist, respectively, prior to moving into NFL management positions.
So this new Jets setup has a lot of potential. And this idea being floated that Tannenbaum stabbed Bradway in the back couldn't be further from the truth. Bradway is relieved to be out of the spotlight, and happy for his close friend Tannenbaum.
"It's never been a power struggle,' said Bradway. "You guys have known me. That will not be the case and I'm not going to be one to sit there and try to react to every little story that's out there. I'm not going to be one to sit there and try to react to every little story that's out there. Mike's been like a brother to me, and I want to do anything I can to help him be successful."
The Jets can only hope this plan is successful, because it's time for them to stop starting over every few years.
They will never catch the NFL elite, and "go to the next level," with the winds of change constantly blowing through Hempstead.
Johnson is hoping that by anointing a young, talented leadership team they will be here for the long-haul.
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