There is certainly a number of competing opinions about the Jets' tradeup and drafting of QB Mark Sanchez today. I understand the Green & White fan and media base. As Rodney Dangerfield would say sweatingly as he pulled on his collar, "Tough crowd ... tough crowd."
But I've also learned to trust in a few things with the Jets. The team's scouting department, headed by Joey Clinkscales, knows what it's doing, knows what it's looking at.
As Rex Ryan said at his first news conference after his first first-round draft choice as an NFL head coach: "We certainly wouldn't have taken Mark if we didn't think he was a tremendous prospect and a guy that obviously we feel great about."
The other thing I trust in is Trader Mike.
Mike Tannenbaum seems to have a little Donald Trump in him for the art of the deal. He began his GM stewardship by trading John Abraham for Nick Mangold in 2006. The next year he made a very nice deal with the Bears for Thomas Jones, then charged up the first round 11 slots for Pro Bowler-to-be Darrelle Revis and up the second round 16 rungs for David Harris. The trade back into the first round for Dustin Keller looks very promising after one year.
For his next act, Tannenbaum needed to turn No. 17 overall into the QB that he, his coaches and his scouts, not to mention Woody Johnson, were sold on.
There were two parts to this deal. One was dealing with Eric Mangini, who took over the Browns' coaching reins nine days after giving up the Jets' reins. As many in the media seemed to be thinking, "Wasn't that ... awkward?"
But here's another thing I learned about Tannenbaum and Mangini: They are realists.
"Eric and I had a good relationship and we continue to have a good relationship. We talk," Tannenbaum said. "I thought he did a really good job here — I've said that publicly and privately — and I expect him to do a good job there. We're also really excited to have Rex right here. But Eric's going to do what's best for the Cleveland Browns and we're gong to do what's best for the Jets."
In the calculus of this trade, what was best for both teams was substituting three Jets players — QB Brett Ratliff, DE Kenyon Coleman and S Abram Elam — for the rest of the Jets' '09 draft picks.
"We thought some of these players would fit the defense that Rex's brother, Rob, and Eric want to run," Tannenbaum said. "I look at it not as much ironic as it is more of an opportunity we could take advantage of. Traditionally, we'd have had to use a few more picks [to complete this deal], but instead of using picks, we could use players that have real value to Cleveland, so we thought it was a real win-win from that standpoint."
Is it tough losing Elam? Sure it is, after all the big plays he made last season. But with the free agency addition of Jim Leonhard to Kerry Rhodes and Eric Smith, safety is in good hands. (And remember that Elam made it to free agency before the Jets re-signed him.)
Is it tough losing Coleman? Sure, as the two-year starter at RDE he wasn't a big sacker but he was a big tackler, a reliable piece to the kind of 3-4 Mangini wants to play. Now I don't want to start handicapping position battles, but do you know who started at RDE in the Ravens' style of 3-4 defense in 2004, when Ryan was the D-line coach? Marques Douglas.
Is it tough losing Ratliff? No doubt. But often in these deals, you have to give a QB to get a QB.
Will this deal work out? I don't know. Sanchez has to beat out Kellen Clemens sooner or later, and I know KC has some different ideas on the competition ahead. Then should Sanchez do that, he'll have to survive and thrive in the ghostly shadows of Joe Namath and Chad Pennington and maybe even Ratliff.
But I do know that Tannenbaum can play poker. With all kinds of rumors abounding — they'll will trade to 8, they're going to try to get to 2, they're going to stay at 17, they'll trade down — he stayed the course and pulled off his 16th trade involving draft picks since he took over the GM's office in '06.
Hopefully for fans of the Green & White, the 16th will be the sweetest of them all.
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