When the Jets’ many 2011 struggles became evident, it was obvious who would lose their job: offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. When you go from two AFC title games to missing the playoffs, somebody’s got to go. Schotty was jettisoned in the offseason and replaced by Tony Sparano.
In April 2012, it was painfully obvious to us what the team’s problem would be in 2012 – lack of talent. GM Mike Tannenbaum has struggled with personnel decisions for the last three years, and when they miss the playoffs this winter, the franchise cannot bring him back as GM. (Rex Ryan’s job is safe, and Mark Sanchez, because of the contract extension Tannenbaum gave him last year, can’t be cut until after 2013.)
Jets owner Woody Johnson inexplicably loves Tannenbaum, so chances are he’ll be given a new (demoted) position where he’s not making player personnel decisions. Here are the five most likely candidates, and I’ve left off Giants GM Jerry Reese and his invaluable wingman Marc Ross, because they aren’t leaving the Giants for the Jets. (If anything. Ross will be a candidate in Philly.)
As we’ve explained before, this is a hugely pivotal offseason for the Jets, who absolutely need to have a successful draft, and also make several important free agent decisions (Dustin Keller, Shonn Greene, Mike DeVito, Laron Landry, Brandon Moore, Bryan Thomas). When “Fix the Jets” stories are popping up (see here, here) in November, you know the situation is bordering on dire.
I’ve ordered the candidates in order of whom I’d like most:
Eric DeCosta, Ravens: Assistant GM of the Ravens (promoted in March after the Colts, Bears and Rams all inquired about his services in January). Longtime wingman of Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome, and was part of the team that scouted and drafted the likes of Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Ray Rice. Savvy: 2008 draft, traded around, ended up with a relatively unknown QB from Delaware – Joe Flacco – in the 1st round. Chances of getting him: Rex Ryan was with DeCosta in Baltimore, and maybe that’s the connection that lands him. Does DeCosta want to wait around forever to take over for Newsome? Gosh I hope not.
Dennis Hickey, Buccaneers: Has been with Tampa Bay for 16 years, but this is his first as director of player personnel. (As you know, I loved what Tampa did in the offseason.) He’s been in the scouting business seemingly forever, as director of college scouting with Tampa and before that as a college scout. The Bucs have drafted well the last three years, and Hickey will get plenty of credit for that. Chances of getting him: Clearly a good scout, but there’s more to that in being a GM. Which could make him a good choice – Woody loves Tannenbaum, so make him the “cap guy” and make Hickey the one identifying talent?
Tom Gamble, 49ers: Director of player personnel with the 49ers, where he essentially scouts college and NFL players with reigning GM of the Year, Trent Baalke. Has been with San Francisco for seven years. Interviewed with the Rams for their vacant GM job earlier this year (St. Louis ended up with Les Snead). Has experience (24 years), and because of who his father is (Harry Gamble, former President of the Eagles), many will try to connect him to Philadelphia this offseason. Chances of getting him: Does he like Alex Smith? Is he going to want to cross the country and bring Alex Smith with him? If so, thanks, but no thanks. (Not comparing Smith to Sanchez; just need to be thinking clean slate at QB in 2014, no retreads.)
Brian Gaine, Dolphins: Promoted to Assistant GM in June 2012 after being director of player personnel. Has been with the Dolphins for five years. Previously was with Jeff Ireland in the front office in Dallas and Bill Parcells (during Tuna’s terrible turn) in Miami. Chances of getting him: He actually played for the Jets (well, he was on the practice squad) and briefly was a scout with the team. Also went to high school at Don Bosco Prep in Northern NJ.
Doug Whaley, Bills: Promoted to Assistant General Manager/Director of Pro Personnel in May 2011. Buffalo GM Buddy Nix is 72, and Whaley is viewed as his successor. Chances of getting him: Bills had a splashy offseason, but it has produced nothing. Their draft picks have been … eh.