Johnson/Tannenbaum Conference Call

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Transcript of Jets owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum's conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon:    

JOHNSON: Good morning, everybody. I just got off the phone a couple of minutes ago with Brett Favre. We had an all-encompassing conversation, and he told me at that point that he had made his decision to retire. He thanked everybody and he talked about what a great experience he had with the New York Jets. We talked about how difficult this was for a guy that had been at one team for so long to come into a totally different environment, different system, different coaches and players, didn't even have a house and having the ability to do that.

He said he had trepidations right from the beginning when he started but when he got to the team and saw the way the New York Jets was organized, the plan and got to know the players, got to meet the people in the building, he felt extremely comfortable, happy. All those reservations that are natural dissipated. That's the conversation I had with Brett.

On if there is disappointment Favre will not be here next year…

JOHNSON: With Brett right from the beginning, it was always a possibility that he wouldn't play the second year. ... We were hoping to get one good year out of Brett Favre, and we picked him based on our opinion of him giving us the best chance to win last season. We were disappointed not to have made the Super Bowl, but we did some very good things with Brett.

TANNENBAUM: In fairness to Brett on that question, when we talked through the various scenarios, the mindset was we would take it one season at a time, so we made that decision knowing that we would go at this one year at a time.

On if Favre decides to come back and play…

TANNENBAUM: We had a good conversation with Brett today and we are taking him based on what he said in this conversation, that he was done. We have our plan according to that and we are going to move forward. Obviously, free agency is starting here pretty soon with trades and everything else. We are going to go into the draft and we are planning our roster that Brett's no longer going to be on the team based on what he said. We are moving forward with that assumption.

On if the door is open for Favre…

TANNENBAUM: I think we would address that situation if that day ever came. I want to stay away from hypotheticals. I have been around long enough for us to see Vinny Testaverde in June of '98 and Brett Favre in August of 2008. I saw Ahmad Carroll, who was covering kicks from the Orlando Arena team last summer, and he did a great job for us covering kicks. In this business, I think you have to plan for the unexpected. But with that said, I don't want to address any specific hypothetical. We had a great conversation, like Woody said, with Brett. We are very appreciative what he's done for us. Now Woody, Rex and I are moving forward and planning the 2009 team.

On if Favre's replacement is currently on the roster…

JOHNSON: Mike can answer that, but we've got three quarterbacks on the roster and I think we feel pretty good that with competition among those guys, we'll end up with a pretty good quarterback.

TANNENBAUM: To follow up on that, philosophically, we look at the quarterback position very similar to the rest of the positions is the best players will play at the end of the day. [Head coach] Rex [Ryan] will determine who is playing at each position, including the quarterback position. As Woody said we have three guys on the roster that we have a feeling for and if and when we decide to add another quarterback, it will be determined as opportunities present themselves.

We like what we have on our team, and we are going to try to improve the team at each position. Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Eric Ainge are here. They have been in the building and are working hard. We will move forward starting the first day of the league with those three quarterbacks on our roster.

On the Jets' salary cap situation…

TANNENBAUM: We're comfortable where we are in the cap. If and when opportunities present themselves, we will look at them carefully and then make the best decision for the team. Sometimes that includes extending allocating resources to players on your own team like we did most recently with Kerry Rhodes. We'll make those decisions as opportunities present themselves.

On when Favre's salary will come off the cap…

TANNENBAUM: There is some paperwork left to do and all those things are typically done over the next couple of weeks. We will be in compliance with the cap and all the other paperwork with tenders to restricted free agents and exclusive-rights players. All that will be done over the next couple of weeks. We will have everything done before the 27th.

On if Favre's salary will no longer count against the cap by Feb. 27…

TANNENBAUM: I'm not trying to get into all the technical aspects of the transaction or the transactions, but like I said, there are various filings we'll be doing with the league between now and the official start of the '09 league year.

On if Favre asked to be released…

TANNENBAUM: I don't want to get into any specifics. We had a great conversation today and he said that he was done playing. We're taking him at his word on that. He talked to Rex, talked to Woody and he talked to myself. We had a great conversation and everything was about him no longer wanting to play.

On if the Jets retain Favre's rights if he wants to play again…

TANNENBAUM: Again, I don't want to sit here and address hypotheticals.

On if a team retains a player's rights in general if he retires and then decides to come back and play…

TANNENBAUM: Yes, that is the general rule of how those transactions work and just to clarify one thing, he did not ask to be released. When we had the conversation, it was just much more of an appreciation for how the year went and he thanked Woody, Rex and myself. Everything he said was he is done playing football.

On if agent Bus Cook asked for Favre to be released…

TANNENBAUM: Again, I'm not going to get into any specifics that I have in conversations with agents. All I can reiterate is that he told us today he no longer wanted to play football. He was done and he was moving on and that was the entire extent of things.

On if there is an urgency to bring in a veteran quarterback…

TANNENBAUM: We're starting with what we have. We also really believe in our coaching staff, led by Rex and obviously Brian Schottenheimer, and Matt Cavanaugh and John DeFilippo at the quarterback position. If and when we think there is an opportunity to improve whatever position including but not limited to the quarterback position, we'll look at that very carefully, but we do feel good about the players we have at the quarterback position. If an opportunity presents itself we'll measure it carefully and then make the best decision for the Jets, but going into the league year, we feel good about the players we have.

On if they feel like they got one good year out of Favre…

JOHNSON: We didn't really get as far as we would have liked, but going back to the decision, I think it was the right decision to make, the one that Mike made in conjunction with Eric and me because we thought at that point he would give us the best chance to win. We won nine games and then the team fell off a little bit towards the end.

On any regret about the direction the Jets took…

JOHNSON: I think we really collectively, Mike, Eric, I and Brian Schottenheimer as well, thought that this was the best chance we had to do better and to improve the team by taking Brett even at that age. For the first 11 games, it looked pretty good. It looked like we were moving along. Chad was a great teammate and he is a greater person, but that's the decision that was made.

On if there was any effort to convince Favre to come back through the conversation…

TANNENBAUM: We had a couple of conversations with Brett and it was more of a dialogue going back and forth. It was really just getting feedback from Brett. That was finalized with the decision this morning.

On if he had a good idea that Favre was retiring…

JOHNSON: Yes. With a guy like Brett, I don't know if you are going to convince him to do anything. That's not really our job. We created a great opportunity, which he took advantage of here and I think we made him feel that this is a good place for him. He knows what the New York Jets are all about. He also knows what his own limitations are better than anybody.

On if the Jets would like to develop their own QB…

JOHNSON: I think as Mike said, we feel pretty comfortable with the quarterbacks we have. They have had an extra year with probably the best quarterback ever, which is Brett Favre. That's a great learning experience for all of them. You would like to have one of your guys do it. If we feel there's somebody out there that can improve that will give us an advantage, we'll certainly look at it.

On if they feel Clemens can be the starting quarterback…

TANNENBAUM: I would put Kellen in a similar situation to a lot of young players where there is going to be inconsistencies early and you look at their work ethic and their makeup and you like to think based on that that they are going to get better. We had a strong feeling when we drafted Kellen and I think he has earned the right to compete for the position and, again, the best players will play. He did start eight games. There was a lot of things to be encouraged in those eight games. He won three, lost five. He did a lot of great things.

It is about his work ethic and his makeup. He has to go out there and earn the job, but there are reasons to be encouraged with Kellen, just like there are with Brad Ratliff. I think we have seen first-hand with players like D'Brickashaw [Ferguson], D'Brickashaw came in early and did some good things but was inconsistent in others, and obviously he has improved. I have the same sort of confidence in Kellen and in our program, in our coaching staff and our off-season program that young guys can get better with opportunities and time and I think Kellen is another example of that.

On the thought of bringing in two QB coaches…

TANNENBAUM: John is the assistant quarterback coach and Rex can get into more of the detail how the responsibilities will be broken down, but there will be some other quality control responsibilities that John will have. We looked at it not unlike free agency where John was available, we thought it was a good opportunity, and he will have responsibilities on the field and off the field. We just felt like it was a good opportunity to have another quality person for the program.

When we looked at our plan together, we looked at it across the board. It is not just about free agency or the draft. For example, two years ago when we assessed the need for a running back in Thomas Jones, he wasn't a free agent. That was a player that was acquired in a trade. As we look at opportunities at different positions, not just quarterback, it's going to be where are the opportunities presenting themselves and that does include free agency but obviously trades, restricted free agency and the draft. Our plan will be developed accordingly.

On veteran free agent quarterbacks…

TANNENBAUM: Again, we can't get into specifics of any free agents right now. I would love to tell you more about Kellen and all the great things he did at Oregon and his 61 percent completion percentage in college and things that he has done well here, the improvement he has made in practice. Again, I can't get into any specifics of any free agent right now. It really isn't about free agency for us. It is about trying to improve the team over the entire course of the season.

On if they are looking forward to a drama-free winter…

JOHNSON: I will take a crack at that. Drama is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. As Mike and his team go about forward and trying to improve our squad and our winnability, some of it might be perceived as drama and some of it may not. Hiring Rex may be dramatic or it might just be hiring a good coach. I think we want to concentrate on football, but there is going to be drama here, definitely. With a guy like Rex Ryan, you are going to have a much more outgoing, he's-not-afraid-to-express-his-opinion type of person. I think from a player standpoint, it will feel dramatic.

On Brett Ratliff…

TANNENBAUM: There are reasons to be encouraged with Brett Ratliff. He came in as an undrafted free agent. We put him on the practice squad. He ran routes as a receiver. He really did everything — a tireless worker. When he played as well as he did in the preseason, I've got to tell you there was nobody in the building that was surprised. I think it is really the opposite. I think people would have been surprised if he didn't play well in the preseason based on all the things he had done in the off-season programs.

It was against preseason competition. I think that's a fair point, and I think he has to continue earning the right to play and possibly even start for us. There are reasons to be encouraged, but we have to address this in a very methodical way and keep assessing things. He has earned the right to be in the mix because he started at the bottom and he has worked his way up and he has worked his way up based on his work ethic. He has earned the right for the opportunity.

On if the timing of Favre's retirement…

TANNENBAUM: I think with our plan, I would say we're not shocked by this. Our plan had built in the scenarios where Brett would come back, but our plan also built in the scenarios where Brett would not come back. I think you need to have flexibility in your plans because things change and I have been around long enough to see that right here with this team.

Opportunities present themselves sometimes very unexpectedly, and when they do, you have to be prepared. In this case, the season has gone for about seven weeks now. When we put our plan together and Woody, Rex and I were talking about it, our plan included the two different scenarios, one he would be here and one if he wasn't. We are prepared.

On if the door is officially closed with Favre…

TANNENBAUM: I think in this position you never say never, but we are moving forward based on the conversation we had with Brett today and things always do change. But we're moving forward as the New York Jets in 2009. We feel good about that. I think our roster will look different come September of 2009 and I'm sure there will be a couple players on our team, even on that 45-man roster on opening day, that none of us would contemplate.

That's really the fun part about my job and the sport we work in. There are great opportunities and great stories to be written. They'll present themselves over the coming months and we are really looking forward to that. I can't tell you who it will be or when it will be. It could be Ahmad Carroll coming out of the Arena League and playing very well as a special teams player. Those stories haven't been written, but we are looking forward to those unfolding.

On Ryan being comfortable with young guys at the QB position…

TANNENBAUM: I think we'll try to put the best team together that we can in the off-season, Woody, Rex and I, regardless of the position. I'm sure he will give you more insight on that, but we're looking forward to putting the best team possible on the field this year, and we will work hard to do that.

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