When it comes to the NFL Draft, Mike Tannenbaum, the Jets' former executive who wore many hats with the club from 1997-2012, has a simple mantra: Quality over quantity.
Though he is the first person to decline to tell Jets GM Joe Douglas and HC Robert Saleh what to do with their basket full of draft picks -- 10 this year, including two in the first round (Nos. 2 and 23) and two in the third (Nos. 66 and 86) -- Tannenbaum pointed to a pair of transactions during his tenure that proved to be foundational picks when he appeared with Eric Allen and Ethan Greenberg on The Official Jets Podcast.
Exhibit 1: Darrelle Revis.
The eventual lockdown cornerback opted out of the NFL Scouting Combine in 2007 because of an injury. His true quality was a bit of an unknown because, playing for Pittsburgh in the Big East Conference Revis did not face many pro quality wide receivers. Revis was among a group of three CBs -- which included Leon Hall of Michigan and Aaron Ross of Texas -- thought to be the best in the draft.
All that changed, at least for the Jets, when Pittsburgh held its Pro Day.
"Darrelle was a late-declaring junior," Tannebaum said. "There wasn't a lot of information on him, period. So when you watched the tape you just couldn't see him playing against great competition. So Terry Bradway [the Jets' former GM, then a scout] called me from the airport in Pittsburgh after Darelle's workout. We needed a corner terribly, and we had a first-round pick [No. 25]. He's telling me he's phenomenal. What a lot of people didn't realize about Darrelle is how strong he was. In addition, he had an unbelievable workout. His change of direction was incredible. So now you marry that with quickness and you have a Hall of Famer, obviously."
Before Revis could become a Jets player, Tannenbaum first sought out Houston in a bid to trade up to their No. 10 pick. When that failed, Tannenbaum forged a deal with Carolina, getting their first-rounder, No. 14, in exchange for the Jets' picks in the first, second and fifth rounds.
"We moved up 11 spots," he said. "I told Carolina we were coming up for one player and would make the deal on the clock if he was still available. They wanted to move back and we wanted to move up. So when the 13th pick came up [and St. Louis took Adam Carriker] I knew Revis was a Jet."
And unless you've been marooned on an island, the trade and the selection of Revis still stand as one of the most astute deals in Jets draft history.
Which brings us to ... Exhibit 2
The Jets' NFL Draft in 2006 put down the foundation on the offensive line that lasted for a decade and helped the team to appearances in the AFC title game in 2009 and 2010.
With the fourth pick, their own, the Jets selected OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson out of Virginia, via Freeport, NY, on Long Island. Then, with the fourth-to-last selection in the first round Tannenbaum authored an eye-opening three-way trade and landed Ohio State center Nick Mangold.
"When I had the privilege of being the Jets general manager, my first draft was '06 and our first two picks were D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold," Tannebaum said. "They were the foundation for a lot of great teams that we had and that was in the formative year of my career. In 2005 in seven snaps we lost two quarterbacks in Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler. When I was promoted to GM, my point was very simple: If you can't protect your quarterback nothing else matters, you can't win on the road, you can't handle the crowd noise, you can't run the ball when they know you're going to run the ball. Unless your offensive line is fortified nothing else really matters."
Mangold turned in a seminal performance at the Senior Bowl and was widely regarded as the top center in the draft. The complicated gambit to get Mangold began when the Jets decided not to re-sign DE John Abraham, Atlanta expressed interest, but only offered a second-round pick. Seattle entered the picture, offering a first-rounder, No. 31. Denver, too, was keen to land Abraham, but would not meet his contract demands. So the Falcons and the Broncos swapped first-round picks; Denver getting No. 15, Atlanta No. 29.
"It was a win-win, everyone benefited," Tannenbaum said. "There were three players we were looking at at 29, I'll never forget this, they go right before Nick and we were happy Nick was there at 29. I was relieved and gosh, we just took two offensive linemen in the first round and I didn't think a lot of people were going to be happy. And the phone rings. It's [Baltimore GM] Ozzie Newsome and he says you're the luckiest guy in the NFL right now. He was at No. 12 and says it was Nick Mangold or DT Haloti Ngata, 'it was a coin toss in our room.' If we're having this conversation a month from now we'll be saying 'I can't believe how that happened.' "
In fact, it was the first time a team drafted two offensive linemen in the first round since 1975 when the Los Angeles Rams picked Dennis Harrah and Doug France.
"I'm a big believer in quality over quantity," Tannenbaum stressed.