The deadweight that is Mark Sanchez and his long-term contract continues to haunt Mike Tannenbaum, even six weeks after he was fired as the Jets general manager.
Tannenbaum was a guest on NFL Network’s “NFL AM” show on Thursday morning where he answered questions from host Steve Wyche and fellow guest Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports. The majority of questions centered on Tannanbaum and his seven years as the Jets’ general manager. Most notably, he was grilled on the three-year contract extension he gave Sanchez last March when the quarterback still had two years left on his original rookie deal.
In 2012, Sanchez regressed in nearly every category, including throwing more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (13) for the second time in his four-year NFL career.
“I don’t think I would have signed a quarterback to an extension if I had known he’d have 26 turnovers,” Tannenbaum said. “That might be one of the reasons I’m sitting here with you guys.”
Most of Tannenbaum’s defense of Sanchez, which included a sidebar on how “innately competitive” the former first-round pick is in the locker room, centered on the success the Jets enjoyed in Sanchez’s first two years with the team. Those seasons saw the Jets make consecutive AFC Championship games behind a strong defense and a run-heavy offense where Sanchez merely had to manage the games.
The team won games but individually it was far from a resume that would warrant a long-term deal, especial like the $40.5 million extension that Sanchez was inexplicably given by Tannenbaum last offseason.
Tannenbaum was also on the defensive on the show in attempting to justify his trade for Tim Tebow just weeks after inking Sanchez to that albatross of a deal. Tebow didn’t work out for the Jets and played sparingly in the Wildcat offense and on special teams, never playing a single snap in the traditional offense’s setting.
The trade for Tebow was made, according to Tannenbaum, to help replicate the production lost when wide receiver and Wildcat quarterback Brad Smith signed with the Bills in 2011. Tannenbaum wasn’t ready to write-off Tebow as an NFL caliber quarterback, despite him being misused by the Jets last season.
“I could never say that. This is a guy that was successful in high school, won championships in college. He’s the type of person who is either going to be successful as a pro quarterback or die trying. He’s highly competitive,” Tannenbaum said. “Obviously there’s some skills he needs to work on. He has to be a more consistent thrower from the pocket, the accuracy.”
There were no sour grapes or hard feelings from Tannenbaum on being fired from the team he worked for over a 16-year period. Last month, Jets owner Woody Johnson named John Idzik as Tannenbaum’s replacement.
After being within one game of the Super Bowl in 2009 and again in 2010, the Jets were a combined 14-18 the past two seasons and failed to miss the playoffs. During an injury-riddled season in 2012, they showed a lack of depth and difference makers on the roster.
“I would pride myself and our decision making process in terms of bringing everyone into the room,” Tannenbaum said. “But ultimately I had final say and as leader of the team, when we fell short, Mr. Johnson made the decision and I understand it.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for all your offseason news on Gang Green.