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Jets' GM Mike Tannenbaum incorporates Red Auerbach's style



Tuesday, December 9th 2008, 7:20 PM

Wissman for News

Mike Tannenbaum has his hands full now that the Jets don't look so Super.

Mike Tannenbaum grew up near Boston, dreaming of playing for the Celtics. He quickly discovered that "my DNA wasn't going to allow me to follow Larry Bird," so he fell hard for the next-best dream: running a pro franchise. His idol was the late Red Auerbach, legendary architect of the Celtics' dynasties in the 1960s and 1980s.

"I never met him, but I worshiped him growing up," the Jets' GM said. "He was a fascinating figure, larger than life. He was a half-step ahead of everybody else."

Incorporating some of Auerbach's philosophy into his own job, Tannenbaum took wheeling and dealing to a new level, bringing in Brett Favre, Kris Jenkins & Co. At 8-3, he looked like a candidate for NFL Executive of the Year, but with two straight losses, the landscape has changed.

Red-like or red-faced? For Tannenbaum, the verdict will be rendered over the next 18 days.

The $160 million project, the amount doled out for Favre and The Big Four, will be deemed a failure if the Jets don't make the playoffs. Asked point-blank Tuesday if he agreed with that assessment, Tannenbaum paused.

"I'm trying to think of the best way to put this," he began. "Right now, we're in the middle of a really competitive division. At the end of the year, we'll look back at all the acquisitions and assess what we did well and what we could've done better."

Another try: Is it a playoffs-or-bust mentality, considering you moved heaven and earth (and Chad Pennington) to acquire a 39-year-old future Hall of Famer?

"The way we've built our team - obviously, Brett's situation was pretty unique - but with the players we've acquired, we're trying to keep the team together as long as possible," Tannenbaum said. "This is an important season, but so is 2009 and 2010. We're looking for sustained success."

Tannenbaum has proven he isn't squeamish when it comes to high-profile trades. In the NFL, trades are hard and risky, but three of the Jets' most valuable players came via that route - Favre, Jenkins and Thomas Jones (2007), who leads the AFC in rushing.

Tannenbaum has developed a knack for finding unwanted veterans who fit the Jets' system. Whenever he speaks with an opposing GM in the offseason, he always asks, "Will you be doing anything with any players?" That's his standard line.

He posed that question to the Panthers' Marty Hurney last winter and it resulted in the Jenkins trade two months later. The Favre deal happened so quickly. Tannenbaum remembers being at JFK on the afternoon of Aug. 6, getting ready to board the team plane to Cleveland for a preseason game, when his cell phone started buzzing. It was down to the Jets and the Bucs, and Favre was close to a decision. Tannenbaum skipped the flight and rushed back to his office. You know the rest.

Tannenbaum recites some of Auerbach's most famous moves: Drafting Bird a year before his eligibility expired. Trading for Robert Parrish and a draft pick, which turned out to be Kevin McHale.

Thing is, those teams won championships. Ultimately, that is how a GM is remembered. Like his idol, Tannenbaum stuck out his neck with big, splashy moves. On paper, they look fine. But the Jets have lost their way, and if they lose to the mediocre Bills Sunday at the Meadowlands, they'll be in the midst of perhaps the biggest collapse in team history.

And his boss, owner Woody Johnson, would be seeing red, not Red.

HEAD CASE: WR Brad Smith underwent additional tests Tuesday for a possible concussion. He was knocked woozy on a vicious, helmet-to-helmet hit by 49ers LB Patrick Willis, who could be subject to a league fine. If Smith is out this week, it could open a spot for WR David Clowney, a preseason star who has yet to play.

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Dave Hutchinson with the New York Jets

by Dave Hutchinson/The Star-Ledger

Tuesday December 09, 2008, 8:52 PM


After averaging more than 33 points during their five-game winning streak, the Jets have scored just 15.5 points per game in two consecutive losses as opponents have figured out how to stop their short passing game.

The Jets converted 34 of 64 (53.1 percent) third-down situations during their winning streak but have been successful on just 4 of 21 (19.0 percent) during the past two games. QB Brett Favre's 137 yards passing against the 49ers is his lowest since 2004 (not counting games he didn't finish). Without much of a pass rush, the Jets' secondary has been further exposed as career backup Shaun Hill threw for 285 yards. Things won't get any better until they begin pressuring the quarterback again.


After a 4-0 start, the Bills (6-7) have lost seven of nine and their offense is in disarray. Just what the Jets need to get back on track. Buffalo has scored only a field goal in each of its past two games and compiled a season-low 163 yards total offense in a 16-3 loss to the Dolphins last week. Backup QB J.P. Losman started for an injured Trent Edwards (strained groin) last week, and Edwards' status for Sunday is uncertain. DE Aaron Schobel, a notorious Jets killer, has been sidelined since late October.


Jets pass rush vs. Bills offensive line

The Jets have had just three sacks in the past three games and opposing quarterbacks have been chewing up their secondary. In a Week 9 meeting against the Bills, the Jets sacked Trent Edwards five times, although he threw for 289 yards. Edwards, however, had two interceptions, including one returned 92 yards for a TD by S Abram Elam.

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Last updated: 3:31 am

December 10, 2008

Posted: 2:05 am

December 10, 2008

DURING Eric Mangini's first year as JetsNew York Jets coach, some of the players nicknamed him "The Penguin."

The moniker was given because of his body shape and the way he waddles when he walks. It also fits Mangini's public persona - serene, non-confrontational and never hot, just like the bird.

Problem is, the Jets have begun to adapt that same persona, playing with the same lack of emotion Mangini shows in his weekly press conferences. Girl Scout troops show more fire than the Jets did in defeats to the Broncos and the 49ers, and the blame lies with Mangini.

The coach preaches the same flat-line approach week after week that's taken out of Coachspeak 101, "Never get too high, never get too low. Treat every game the same - win or lose."

Well, you know what? Every game isn't the same.

When the Jets beat Tennessee two weeks ago, that should have been the confidence boost that carried this team down the stretch run. But instead of thumping their chests after that game, they downplayed the victory.

On Sunday, the Jets laid down in San Francisco against a team that hadn't had a winning record all year.

They were flat - again. This was all the more galling, coming seven days after their embarrassing performance against the Broncos. We heard all week about how the Denver loss was a "wake-up call," but it was clear the Jets hit the snooze button.

Still, you won't hear Mangini tweak his players this week, a practice Bill Parcells made a motivational art form. And you also won't hear any players guarantee the Bills will be road kill this week at Giants Stadium.

Mangini has conditioned his players to be unconfident, not just through his tepid words but also through his in-game decisions.

In San Francisco, Mangini set the tone for the game on the first drive. Mike Singletary opened the game with an onside kick, giving the Jets the ball at the 49ers' 46. Here was Mangini's chance to punch the 49ers in the gut by letting Brett Favre go for the end zone right away. Instead, Thomas JonesThomas Jones gained three yards up the middle.

Two plays later, the Jets faced fourth-and-2 on the San Francisco 38. You could hear Jet fans from Montauk to Manahawkin screaming, "Go for it!" But Mangini opted to punt, the ball going into the end zone for a net of 18 yards.

Mangini said he wanted to pin down the 49ers in their own end. Did he get confused when he saw Mike Martz on the other sideline and think these were the 1999 Rams? The Niners scored 10 points - 10 measly points - against Buffalo the previous week.

Rather than pinning down the Niners, Mangini lifted their spirits and sent a message to his offense that he didn't have faith in them to get two yards.

Now the Bills limp into East Rutherford, having scored six points combined in their last two games. It's the perfect setup for the Jets to make a statement.

The Jets need to find their swagger this week. Run over the Bills. Plant J.P Losman in the turf so deep he'll taste swamp water. Come out firing and don't stop until the score is about 40-0.

If the Jets want to be taken seriously, it's time to start strutting like pea****s instead of waddling like penguins.


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Three is the most important number of all for JetsErik Boland

December 10, 2008

Damien Woody is a numbers guy.

Not in the individual sense, as it rarely is for an offensive lineman.

But the Jets right tackle, after any game, can be found perusing the final statistics.

And last Sunday, there he was again, this time in the quiet of the visiting team's locker room at Candlestick Park, looking over the final numbers from the Jets' 24-14 loss to the 49ers.

Erik Boland Bio | E-mail | Recent columns

"Same thing I told you after the Tennessee game," Woody said with a rueful smile when a reporter stopped by. "The stats don't lie."

They didn't after the Titans game Nov. 23, a 34-13 Jets victory in which the most impressive of an afternoon of impressive numbers was the Jets' 40:30-19:30 advantage in time of possession, the first statistic Woody pointed to that day.

This past Sunday the Jets were on the other side of that one - 39:49-20:11 - among other lopsided figures that included the 49ers having a 25-10 advantage in first downs, a 375-182 "edge" in total yards, and the Jets going 1-for-10 on third downs.

But as bad as all those number were, Woody, and other players, pointed to the most important one: three, the games left on the schedule.

Despite some horrendous play the last two weeks in which the Jets startlingly have regressed and barely resembled the team that slapped around the then-unbeaten Titans, the math shapes up in their favor. It's a bottom-line equation that can't be lost in the swirling negativity - much of it deserved - from two straight games that have conjured up that ugliest of phrases for fans of this franchise: "Same old Jets."

Sweep the three remaining games and the Jets win the division and make the playoffs at 11-5. If they banana-peel themselves even once, they're likely to sit home when the postseason party begins just after the calendar turns to 2009.

"Right now it's in our destiny and I think that was the feeling everyone had on the way back," linebacker David Bowens said Monday in describing the nearly six-hour flight back to New York.

"Nobody said it was going to be easy getting this thing done, but we have a bunch of good guys in this locker room," Woody said. "We have a good coaching staff. We know what we are capable of doing."

The coaching staff needs to find a way to get the Jets back to playing the way they did during a five-game winning streak that, given the last two performances, seems as if it happened in another season.

And it all starts at the top as Eric Mangini faces the stiffest test he's had as coach.

Mangini typically stays on message the way political party chairmen do and tried again Monday. "It's a function of what we do week in and week out," he said, always careful not to put too much importance into any one game.

Yes, but ...

"To me, it's not a function of turning it on or turning it off, it should be the same," he said, asked about hitting the accelerator the final three weeks. "There is no 'on' or 'off.' It has to be the same."

OK, that's fine, though ...

"I've talked extensively to the guys about the importance of every game," Mangini said. "It's nothing that hasn't been addressed, covered, almost ad nauseam. With that being said, you have to go out and do the same things week in and week out."

Right, of course, but still ...

"If there hadn't been a sense of urgency, there certainly will be now."


The contradiction, naturally, is that "urgency" means something quite different from a "week in and week out" approach. Urgency implies an in-the-moment desperation and the Jets certainly must be in that mode starting Sunday against the Bills.

There had been room for error after the victory in Tennessee but no more. The last two weeks took care of that. Nothing wrong with pushing the "have-to-win" button now because that's where the Jets are at.

Sunday starts a series of three one-game seasons, with two of the three at home and a 2-11 team sandwiched between.

Win three and the Jets are in.

It's the only number right now that matters.

Storylines A quick look at the top stories this week

Will Brett rebound?

Brett Favre had his worst game statistically in terms of yardage in four years and by far his worst as a Jet Sunday when he went 20-for-31 for 137 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception. That came on the heels of a poor game against the Broncos when he was 23-for-43 for 247 yards and an INT. It's the first time this season Favre has gone two straight games without a TD pass. The Jets have shown they can win without Favre making big plays, but the offense sure could use the kind of boost Favre was brought in to provide.

Seems like a broken record but ...

Can the Jets stop the pass? Sunday's performance, when they let the 49ers' Shaun Hill throw for 285 yards and two TDs, dropped the Jets to 31st in the league against the pass, allowing 251.2 yards per game. Seven quarterbacks have thrown for at least 250 yards against the Jets this season. A superior pass rush can offset those problems to a degree, but the last two weeks the Jets have produced a total of two sacks.

Same old Jets?

While there are a lot of new faces in the locker room, they no doubt are familiar with the ghosts of failed Jets seasons past. And if they're not familiar with them, this week they'll be introduced. The Jets are still the only team atop the AFC East standings that controls its playoff destiny. Players and coaches will need to remind themselves of that this week because few others will.


1-2 punchless

Totals for WRs Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery in victories over Patriots and Titans:

23 receptions

268 yards

2 TDs

Totals in losses to the Broncos and 49ers:

8 receptions

57 yards

0 TDs


Buffalo at Jets

1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 2

Radio: WEPN (1050), WABC (770), WRCN (103.9)

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