Last year, it was Brian Schottenheimer.
This year, it's Mike Tannenbaum.
"Mr. T" has become the primary criticism depository over the past few weeks as the Jets have struggled to get to the .500 mark, and rightfully so. His team has looked completely outmatched at times, with talent deficiencies all over the offensive side of the ball. Spewing hate on Mike Tannenbaum's desk is as popular as Tamagotchis in the late 90's.
However, taking a closer look at Tannenbaum's entire body of work during his tenure as the Jets general manager (he took over in 2006), he has done the organization more good than bad.
Under Mr. T’s watch, the Jets are 54-51, not including the postseason. During that time, the Jets have made the playoffs twice (both in 2009 and 2010 with AFC Championship appearances). Not exactly a dynasty, but slightly above average.
When you compare the history of the franchise with Tannenbaum's regime, Tannenbaum is one of the better shot-callers in Jets history.
Still, there are clear problems with the 2012 Jets, and injuries to Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes have only made their issues with depth more glaring.
More Talented Than You Think
The Jets are constantly knocked for not having enough talent, but is that truly the case?
The offensive line has three studs in Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Brandon Moore. Santonio Holmes, who is out for the season, is a dynamic player. Dustin Keller is a top receiving threat from the tight end position.
Defensively, they have the best defender on the planet in Darrelle Revis. Antonio Cromartie, who is playing as well as any corner in football in Revis’ absence, is an excellent number two corner. David Harris is a talented player, although he is having a down year. The Jets have perhaps the deepest 3-4 defensive line with a rising star in Muhammad Wilkerson, who ProFootballFocus.com ranks as the second-best defensive lineman in the NFL.
The Jets are not void of talent; they are void of talent at the positions that fill up fantasy rosters, which is what gives Mike Tannenbaum a bad rap. The issue for the Jets is not their total allotment of talent—where Tannenbaum has faltered in how he went about constructing his team, building depth and developing players before they are forced into action.
Building a Team
One just has to look at Tannenbaum's handling of the receiver position to understand where his biggest faults lie. In 2009, the year the Jets selected Mark Sanchez with the fifth pick in the 2009 draft, their starting receivers in training camp were Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey.
Both players were NFL-caliber receivers, but neither strikes true fear into opposing defenses. The Jets realized this midseason, and traded for Braylon Edwards before the trade deadline, making a rookie quarterback adjust to a brand-new target in the middle of the season. After 2009, they added Santonio Holmes for a fifth-round pick. They had continued success with their talented group, but Mike made a colossal mistake that arguably set the franchise back a few seasons.
The Jets parted ways with Braylon Edwards, replacing him with Plaxico Burress. Jerricho Cotchery, upset with his new role, was released in favor of the aging Derrick Mason. The Jets receiving corps was once again a brand-new group with only one mainstay since 2009, tight end Dustin Keller.
Realizing their mistake, the Jets avoided adding older free agents and decided to start rookie Stephen Hill. Hill has clear potential, but his limited route running ability and costly drops have cost the Jets at least one game this season.
There is no problem with starting a rookie receiver to speed-up his development, but the time to do that was three seasons ago when Sanchez was also a rookie.
Of course, this all goes back to his decision to pull the trigger on Mark Sanchez in the 2009 draft. Sanchez has had mixed results in New York and no GM should be judged on a single draft pick, but Tannenbaum has all but written the book on how not to go about nurturing a young quarterback in the biggest city in the world, especially considering the reckless trade for Tim Tebow.
Quarterback Does not Match Talent
Where Tannenbaum's plan has truly faltered is how he built a Super Bowl-caliber team without a quarterback that was ready to win a Super Bowl. The 2009 and 2010 Jets were as talented and complete as any team in the game, but their quarterback was a few steps away from maximizing the talent on the team.
As Sanchez entered his third a fourth years and ready to take advantage of his weapons like a veteran quarterback, the talent was simply no longer there. As a result, you see no progress in offensive production over four years.
There is no question that the 2009 and 2010 drafts were less than spectacular for the Jets, and they are paying the price now when their premium picks should be good starters at this point of their career.
Is the Grass Really Greener?
Mr. T has plenty of work to do to restore to being true contenders, but at the same time, the man has been more successful in his position than given credit for.
Change is not always a good thing; the Texans were very close from moving on from the Kubiak/Smith regime after 2010. They were putrid on one side of the ball (defense) that season, but patience on the owner's part has paid off, as the Texans are now Super Bowl favorites.
His team may not be blowing opponents away now, but there is a solid foundation of young talent for the coaches to work with. Moving on from Tannenbaum would satisfy plenty of fans, but it may not be in the best interests of the franchise to move on from a team that could be back on the upswing.