Tim Tebow: Trading for Backup QB Low on the List of Mike Tannenbaum's Mistakes

Ben ChodosCorrespondent IIJanuary 30, 2013

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 30:  Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Jets takes his only snap against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo won 28-9.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum clearly stated that it was his decision to trade for backup quarterback Tim Tebow, and in hindsight, this was not one of Tannenbaum’s major mistakes.

Tannenbaum told WFAN’s Mike Francesa (via yesnetwork.com) that he had discussions with the Jets’ coaches about Tebow, and the final decision to make the deal was his. 

The ousted GM also noted that the New York brass came to a consensus that Tebow would be a quality replacement for Brad Smith—who signed as a free agent for the Buffalo Bill prior to the 2012 season. 

While Tebow attracted a media firestorm, a locker room with quality leadership would have started downplaying his presence from the first day of training camp, deflecting every question about the quarterback until he proved something on the field. 

Put simply, there is no way a quality football team’s season could be derailed by a player who totaled eight passing attempts in all 16 games.

Tebow had a very small effect on the Jets’ misfortunes in 2012, and the ultimate cause of the team’s decline was Tannenbaum’s strategy of aggressive trades and free-agent signings to improve the roster.

The 2009 offseason offers the clearest example of Tannenbaum’s strategy. His marquee move came in the draft when he sent the Jets’ first two draft picks and three players to Cleveland Browns in order to move up and select Mark Sanchez.

He also spent a combined $54 million on veteran defensive players Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard, in addition to surrendering two draft picks in a trade for Lito Shephard. 

But this was a continuation of a trend for Tannenbaum, who made a big splash in the previous season when he signed free agents Alan Faneca, Calvin Pace and Damien Woody and traded for Kris Jenkins.

At the time, all of these moves seemed like good ideas, and the Jets made the AFC Championship game in both 2009 and 2010. 

Tannenbaum then doubled down on his strategy by signing LaDainian Tomlinson and trading for both Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie after the 2010 season. But then the ugly side of the tactics showed up.

The vast majority of Tannenbaum’s acquisitions were defensive players, leaving Sanchez without much help to progress as a passer. 

In addition, giving up draft picks and eating up cap space with free-agent signings severely limited the team’s depth. With all of his veteran signings a few years older in 2011, injuries hit the Jets hard due to the lackluster backups on the roster.

Currently, trade rumors are swirling around Sanchez and Cromartie, and if both leave the team this offseason, Holmes and Pace would be the only remaining members of the long list of Tannenbaum’s major acquisitions through trades and free agency. 

While all of these moves ultimately had varying degrees of success, they all came as part of Tannenbaum’s larger strategy that featured a willingness to part ways with draft picks and spend big money each offseason in free agency.

This has left the Jets with a weak roster in the past two seasons, and that is the main reason for the team finishing 8-8 in 2011 and 6-10 in 2012. 

Each free-agent contract Tannenbaum handed out and each high draft pick he gave up caused the Jets to miss out on a young player who could grow and develop into a productive member of the team. 

For this reason, players like Tebow and Holmes—who were acquired relatively cheaply—should be ranked low on Tannenbaum’s list of mistakes.