Tannenbaum: Please be straight with us

General Manager Mike Tannenbaum is either a fool or he thinks you're one.

Take this statement from the Green and White's final arbiter on all personnel matters: "It's a performance-based business and obviously we're not happy sitting here at 1-7," Tannenbaum said. "But there have been some positives. We haven't seen them on the scoreboard on Sundays, but there are some things going on Monday through Saturday that I'm encouraged by. I'm happy where the program is."

Now allow me to contradict myself. Tannenbaum isn't a fool. And I doubt he's showing disdain for the fans who with their own eyes can see the Jets are a dull, mediocre bunch in between the sidelines. His statement was just another in a long line of innocuous, non-committal spews which are the trademark of the team's leadership. They want to keep it boring, say nothing that can be construed in any way as critical or controversial, and maintain the focus squarely on football.

However, what Tannenbaum said was ridiculous. I also doubt he speaks this way to head coach Eric Mangini behind closed doors when analyzing the club's woes. The Jets have lost several very close games to mediocre teams this season. The Eagles, Bills, and Bengals games were all very winnable, despite the Jets shortcomings. So was the Ravens game when Clemens filled in for Pennington. Falling short in all of them has got to irritate, if not infuriate, the GM. So even if Mangini and Tannenbaum will keep their ire mostly to themselves (Mangini has been more than a touch irritable after the recent losses), at some point during or after this season they should come clean with us. They should admit disaster (1-7 is 1-7) and acknowledge they need to infuse the roster with talent. Tannenbaum simply can't be "happy where the program is." The fans certainly are not.

As Jets Confidential's Dan Leberfeld has detailed, "Tangini" is learning on the job. They've made mistakes and will have to learn from them."

If I may add to Leberfeld's analysis, the jury is still out on whether these two will succeed in their respective positions. Yes, they are hard workers, very bright, and seem to have a plan they believe in and are willing to stick with. But it remains to be seen if they will be right. They just don't have a track record long enough on which to judge them. Boy, did that 10-6 record last season buy these guys some time! But they won't have too much longer. There must be improvement next season or the doubters will become shouters, and what they'll say may not be very nice.

The Jets answers lie both inside and outside the current locker room. I pulled a "Jim Mora" when I listened to Mangini repeat his resolve to make some lineup changes. "Changes? CHANGES? Are you kidding me?!?"

With a few possible exceptions, the back-ups on the 1-7 Jets, who are ranked near the bottom in many important offensive and defensive categories, are no better than the mediocre starters.

Mangini's line-up changes essentially amount to the Jets making the second half of the season an audition. It's not what the fans wanted as they looked to the season with hope in September, but it's important. New York needs to find out if these guys can play.

It starts at quarterback with Kellen Clemens, drafted by the current regime to eventually replace Chad Pennington. The time is now, but fans should be patient. Judge the second year man out of Oregon on the balance of his upcoming eight starts. Don't get despondent if he has a rough time this Sunday against a good Washington defense.

On the offensive line, Will Montgomery will replace Adrien Clarke. At receiver, the concussion to Laveranues Coles may allow Brad Smith to get a crack at a whole game vs. the Redskins. On defense, Sione Pouha should get more reps at NT and David Harris looks like he will fill in ably for Jonathan Vilma. Your guess is as good as mine as to whom will emerge from the Jets revolving door secondary. Darrelle Revis looks like he will be the only fixture at corner and Kerry Rhodes at safety.

The Jets do have a decent foundation on which to build. On offense, Clemens, Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who has improved in his second year, Jerricho Cotchery, Smith, Leon Washington, Brandon Moore, and Chris Baker are all in or entering their primes. RB Thomas Jones looks like he has another year or two left in him.

On defense it's not as bright, but Kenyon Coleman, David Harris, Revis, Rhodes, and possibly Justin Miller, if he can recover from knee surgery, are talented.

In the off-season, the Jets may have a high draft pick, be in a position to trade Pennington, Vilma, or DeWayne Robertson, and have free agent money to spend.

If the Jets truly want to emulate the Patriots, they should look at New England's off-season moves. After falling short of the Super Bowl in back-to-back seasons with a roster depleted by free agency, age and other player departures (see: Deion Branch), the Patriots brought in TALENT. Randy Moss and Adalius Thomas, to name two.

The Patriots are one of the few teams in the parity stricken NFL that don't need one or two plays per game to break their way in order to win. They crush opponents. If the Jets want to get away from having each Sunday decided by a thread thin margin, they need explosive impact game-changers to enhance the complimentary players who will return next season.

Then we will believe Tannenbaum when he tells us he's happy with the program.


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