Tannenbaum's Thursday News Conference

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Transcript of Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum's news conference Thursday afternoon:    

Thanks, everybody, for waiting. Sorry we had to move back a couple hours. Just to start out, I thought we had a good year. On the field, we didn't accomplish everything we wanted to, but there were a lot of reasons to be encouraged. Personally, it was an enjoyable year for me from a standpoint of being around Rex Ryan and Woody Johnson every day, two of the most passionate people about the New York Jets that you can find.

It's an exciting time. Obviously the team did well, this facility here and moving into a new stadium. But with that said, I know we have a long year ahead of us. We start at 0-0. We are going to take the next month and look at everything we did well in 2009, all of the areas we can improve and have a really good off-season that's going to start the end of March. That's really what we are focused on now is going back over the whole season and looking at the areas we can improve.

From a personal standpoint, I was with the team in 1998 where we had the lead against Denver and then read all of those off-season publications and then in the first quarter of the opener in 1999, Curtis Martin fumbles, Vinny [Testeverde] dives to recover the ball and there went the year. You start off 0-0. We have a lot of hard work in front of us. There are reasons to be encouraged, but that's all they are and now we have to move forward with a good off-season in 2010.

On how he felt about Rex Ryan's statements throughout the year…

Rex is Rex. I don't think it would work for anybody else, his style, his demeanor, but he's the most genuine guy you can meet. How he is with you guys every day is how he is with Mr. Johnson or the team or anybody else, and he's a very sincere, confident person, based on years of success and preparation and a true belief in his team. That's who he is. It works for him, and he's obviously very comfortable in his skin. I think Woody and I knew that's who he was and we were excited to get him.

On the restrictions the team is under in an uncapped year being in the "Final Four"…

We will try to get you some more details, but the long and short of it is, unrestricted free agents, we can't sign one until we would lose one, and again, that's someone whose contract expires and they have been in the league for six or more seasons. If a player gets cut by another team, they become a free agent and we would be able to sign them. We would also be able to sign a restricted free agent that was tendered by another team and, obviously, trades are another possibility. We cannot sign an unrestricted free agenct, one whose contract expires, until one of our unrestricted free agents signs with another team.

On if the size of the contract matters…

Not in the Final Four rule. I could be wrong on that, but any understanding of the Final Four rule is it's one in, one out as relates to the unrestricted free agent.

On how the restrictions will affect him…

We've already had preliminary personnel meetings. It's a challenge for us, but we embrace challenges and there are still ways to improve the team. We've seen that sometimes it's not the most noteworthy signing or a trade that you make that that pays off. Sometimes it's guys like Marquice Cole or [Mike] DeVito after the draft to name a few. There are ways to improve the team and we have a couple visits set up next week and we talk about "every rock, every day," so it's another challenge. We will embrace it. We won't make it an excuse and there are ways to improve the team.

On Thomas Jones…

We expect TJ to be back. There are some economic issues that obviously have to be looked at over the next month, but we hope that he is back. He's done a lot for our team, both on and off the field. Rex has talked about what he's done from a leadership standpoint. We look at his production and it's really remarkable, but it's a testament to TJ.

On if the economic issues with Jones are with the team or player…

It could be a little of each, but we'll see. We have a month to see how that plays out, but again we hope to have him back.

On Kerry Rhodes…

I'll just echo the sentiments of what Rex said. We expect him to be back. Unless something changes, he will be back. I'm sure we'll have more discussions with Rex and some of the coaches where hopefully the level of consistency for both him and us is there throughout the 2010 season, and that kind of goes back to my opening comments which are, we need to have a good off-season and Kerry is one of those players who could really benefit from a very productive 2010, starting in March with the off-season, so a lot of the discussions are really non-contractual, non-economical.

On Leon Washington…

I would say that we are definitely going to tender Leon, unless something happens differently with the CBA, which is always a possibility. Our plan right now is we will tender Leon. We expect him to be back. In terms of a long-term deal, we will just see how that goes over the off-season. Leon is a remarkable guy. I had some time with him Thursday night before we went to Indianapolis and he was as excited and as nervous as if he was playing the game. He is a Jet and we are really fortunate to have him. He has an infectious personality, highly competitive and our plan now is to tender him because he will be restricted under the CBA and then we will go from there.

On Braylon Edwards…

Similar situation as with Leon. We will tender Braylon and expect him to be back as well. He would have been unrestricted, but right now the way the rules are, he'll be restricted. I thought Braylon's contributions were really what we thought they would be. What's interesting about it is sometimes Rex doesn't get the credit of being the big team builder from a standpoint with a defensive background. Braylon really caused a lot of problems when Rex went against him and that wasn't just in the passing game. In terms of how people had to defend our run, he felt Braylon made a big difference over the course of the season. I think some of Braylon's contributions were not just stat-driven. He was a great blocker and I think some of the defenses, again, the way they look at us were quite different after we acquired him.

On how he is going to tender Washington…

We're not sure yet. We need a little bit more time. There's some fairly complicated rules in terms of draft classes and who you can tender at what level. So we will take a close look at that as well.

On how the uncapped year affects contract bonuses for Rhodes and Jones…

You still have budgets you have to hit. You still have targets that you have to be at. Also, we don't know what the new system will be and you have to be prepared that you can transition from uncapped to cappped as well. I certainly don't know what [a deal] might look like, so we have to be prepared for that as well. These are always tough judgment calls and we will always do what's best for the Jets. In both of their cases, we hope that they are back.

On if they will bring in a veteran backup quarterback…

We are going to tender Kellen [Clemens]. Whether or not he gets another offer as a restricted free agent, we'll look at that. I thought Kellen had a great relationship with Mark [Sanchez]. Coach [Bob] Johnson out in California is a guy that they both used collectively at different years, but they have a relationship with him. They have the same agent. I think they have a really good relationship. I think Mark's success towards the end of the year, Kellen definitely had a part to it.

If another team comes along and is interested in Kellen, we will certainly evaluate that. When we traded for Kevin O'Connell, that was certainly a thought in my mind. We may not have Kellen forever. That was something that Ron Wolf always talked to me about. Get a quarterback every year. I like to deal from a position of strength when it comes to that depth. Would we bring in a veteran? Sure. That's something we would consider, but I like Kevin O'Connell, I like Erik Ainge, and we'll see what happens with Kellen.

On if Clemens will be tendered as a second-round draft choice…

Yes. That's his original draft choice. Again, that's kind of in pencil right now. There are some nuances to draft class and who you tender and how that could affect other restricted free agents in that same year.

On why further discussions are needed with Rhodes…

Again, my expectations are he will be back. As far as questions about more discussions, that is something you could ask Kerry about. From our standpoint, it's more in the context of how can we get his performance to be consistent. When Kerry played well, he played very well as we have seen him do in the past. There were some games he didn't play as well as he hoped and we hoped. Maybe that's a better question for Kerry, but that's our perspective.

On Lito Sheppard and upgrading the secondary…

We have not finalized any decision on Lito yet, but what's interesting from my standpoint, I have been around Rex now for a year. He loves small guys, which is really the antithesis of what you would think of a big, blitzing defense. He loves DBs. The other interesting thing about Rex is if you would chart our inactive list over the 19 games, he's really a fascinating guy. He's a very game-plan-specific defensive playcaller. There were games, like our home opener against the New England Patriots, where we had four defensive linemen active and I was like "Wow, I can't believe we are doing that." After the game I'm like "Of course we are doing that." There were some games we had six defensive linemen.

If I'm doing my job well, when we get to September of 2010, we will have depth at every one of the position groups on defense so Rex and Mike [Pettine] can go to their bag and say, "This week we want six defensive linemen and this week we only need four." Rex is really interesting in how he is so game-plan-specific and how much our inactive list changes every week. I think we do need to add depth to our secondary and that will definitely be an area we look at for the off-season.

On Mark Sanchez's knee…

He will be ready well before training camp. No decision has been made if he'll have a procedure. I know it's been reported that he had that second opinion yesterday. We will look at that collectively, but he will be ready well before camp. Nothing has been decided as of right now. That's really where we are.

On if Sanchez suffered another injury toward the end of the season…

I would just say there may have been some small tweaks along the way, but if there's any procedure, it won't be anything significant. It's going to be much more of a rehab situation, more preventive, strengthening, things like that. He will definitely be ready before camp.

On if Sanchez will be ready for OTAs and minicamp if he has a surgery…

I'm not sure exactly which camp or what date. Nothing has been decided as of today. This will not affect [training] camp and my best understanding as of now is he will be ready before camp.

On if they have a timetable for when Sanchez would have a procedure done…

It would certainly be much sooner than later, because right now nothing has been decided. We are going to keep the lines of communication open and make a decision pretty soon here.

On it sounding likely that Sanchez will need some type of procedure…

As you know, I'm an expert on the injury report, so it's questionable to probable [laughter].

On it sounding like they have already mapped out a timetable for Sanchez to have a procedure done…

Nothing has been decided yet, but we are closely looking at that option. Again, nothing has been finalized. As soon as it is, we'll let you know. I know it's been reported, but anything that's done, he will be ready.

On if the streamlining of the coaching staff was to cut costs…

A lot of that was contracts that were expiring and that was really the plan all along. That really was what most of that situation was. Those guys all helped us this past year, but that was a plan that Rex and I had for quite a while.

On the difficulty of getting back to a conference championship game…

I think it says a lot about Rex Ryan that here is a guy who went to the AFC Championship Game two years in a row. I think the Baltimore Ravens do a great job. I think what it says is that Rex is a heck of a coach that he can get there two years in a row. I think it says a lot about his football acumen and how fortunate we are to have him. As I said in my opening, we are 0-0, and I remember clearly what the off-season of 1999 was and what our expectations were and how much it changed.

We are going to be invigorated by what happened, but also realize that come six, seven weeks from now, we have got to be humming and we need to have the best off-season of anybody in our division. That's really where it starts. I'm really proud of the fact that over the last five years how few injuries we have had and the player development we have. That's a real tribute to Sal [Alosi] and John Mellody and that's the foundation of our program.

On if the team's focus will be to strengthen the secondary to get past the Colts next year…

I think you start by trying to beat Chad Henne, Tom Brady, and trying to win the division. There's a lot of good football in our division. If I'm doing my job well by next September, there will be depth all along the team. You look at the draft this past year. We had Thomas Jones and Leon Washington, two Pro Bowl running backs, and we drafted Shonn [Greene] and that was a great lesson for me that all of these guys, over 16 games, they've got to play. It's a long season. Depth is an area that we are going to attack at all positions and it's something that's necessary to have sustainable success.

Going back to J.P. [Pelzman]'s question, certainly in the secondary, we will definitely be addressing the depth there, because it's a passing league. We have to be able to defend the pass. You're dealing with great throwers in our conference. Just look at Carson [Palmer] to [Philip] Rivers, just on and on. Obviously, New England can throw the ball as good as anybody.

On his evaluation of Vernon Gholston…

He has not played as well as he has hoped or we would have hoped. The attributes of why we drafted him is what gives me hope there, which is really a great work ethic. He's 23 years old and this is going to be an important off-season for him.

On if Gholston will be back next season…

Yes, my expectations are he'll be back.

On how the new stadium will impact the team…

I would think it's going to give us a big shot in the arm from the standpoint that it's going to be loud, state-of-the-art. We have great fans. It was invigorating to see how we traveled. For all of you that were in the pressbox in San Diego, behind our bench was a sea of green, and I think that energy and the 5,200 people we had here this past Saturday just to watch the buses leave shows that we have great fans. Now they are going to have the best stadium in the world. It's going to be great. We are really looking forward to it.

On if he's concerned that Gholston doesn't love football…

Well, from where I sit, and looking at all of the objective information I get every day, I think he does. He's never missed a workout, doesn't miss practice. I have no objective information to say that this guy doesn't love football. He may be quiet but that doesn't mean he's not passionate. From where I sit in the world, it hasn't been lack of effort. He came out early. He's still young. I have no reason to think that because of those attributes that he still can't improve and help us.

How will his career turn out? We are not sure yet. Collectively, we have seen players struggle and develop and they develop at different rates. I was very proud of D'Brickashaw [Ferguson] to make the Pro Bowl. If you talk to Sal, he'll tell you how much of a great off-season Brick had and working on his weaknesses and now he's going to be playing in the Pro Bowl. My glass is half-full on Vernon, and that's based on the process we have here of trying to really get to know these guys before we select them.

On what is missing from Gholston…

It's really the production. It hasn't been there. He's going to get another off-season with these defensive coaches and I agree with Rex. They are going to do everything they can to try to get it out of him and I know it's important to Vernon, but he has to do it. He has to do it once the bullets are flying. I'll say this. He started the first four games of the year and maybe didn't show up in the stat sheet but we were 3-1 and we went up against some pretty high-profile offenses in Houston, New Orleans and New England. He did some good things. He just has not produced at the level we had hoped.

On if the team doctors recommended that Sanchez have surgery…

Without getting into the specifics, I think everyone is on the same page. It's not going to be anything major. We expect him to be fully healthy well before camp.

On if it will hurt his development if Sanchez misses OTAs and minicamp…

You don't want to have anybody miss any time, especially a young quarterback, but we'll balance that with a medical procedure that may give him more stability in there and give him a chance to play without any worry about that whatsoever. Those are fair points and those are the judgment calls we have to make and really look at what's going to give him the best chance to be successful over the whole season.

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