Mike Tannenbaum doesn’t spend his days inside the Jets’ training facility anymore. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t intently follow the most polarizing team in the league.
The Jets are off to a notable 3-2 start, as the man who held the position of general manager for seven seasons travels another career path.
Tannenbaum represents coaches, front office personnel and broadcasters. He has built an impressive client list, including Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Cincinnati Bengals running backs coach Hue Jackson.
While his new role has him active in a variety of tasks, he still feels a great tie to the organization that employed him for 15 years.
“There’s a lot of people there that I had a big say in them being in that building,” Tannenbaum told FOXSports.com in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “From a human being standpoint I watch them as closely as any other team.”
For as many new faces — including starting quarterback Geno Smith — who are inside the organization, the foundation has remained intact.
In fact, during Monday night’s primetime upset of the Falcons, the team flashed its potential. The Jets even resembled the team that went to consecutive AFC Championship games by playing stout defense, turnover-free football and relying on a grind-it-out running game.
That hasn’t always been the case this season as their rookie quarterback’s first five games have been turbulent.
“I think the Jets are playing well,” Tannenbaum said. “[Marty] Mornhinweg has done a nice job with Geno Smith and using their personnel. I think Marty has done a really nice job so far.
“The season has a long way to go, but there are a lot of players there that have played at a high level before. That core has won a lot of games together. In terms of the AFC and the six playoff spots, it’s going to be wide open and obviously they’re in the thick of the race right now.”
Last week, head coach Rex Ryan flirted with the idea of having Smith wear a color-coded wristband, which would assist him in knowing how conservative or aggressive he should be on each play.
Although Smith’s 11 turnovers, including eight interceptions, were deemed a problem, he looks like he has rectified that issue, at least for 60 minutes.
“It’s really hard nowadays to develop quarterbacks,” Tannenbaum said. “They’re all under such microscopes. I think if we were having this conversation in three years, a lot of the AFC is going to be talked about with the EJ Manuels, the Geno Smiths and the Ryan Tannehills. They’re all going to have their ups and downs. It just comes with the position.
“Geno made some really nice throws [against the Falcons]. Obviously, he’s had some bumps in the road, but they all do. The key is to find ways to win games without relying on the quarterback position.”
Smith, of course, has assumed the starting quarterback duties because Mark Sanchez tore his labrum in his throwing shoulder, which necessitated season-ending surgery on Tuesday. Tannenbaum was heavily invested in Sanchez’s career, trading up to select him in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft and giving him a contract extension just over a year ago.
Tannenbaum offered some encouraging words and believes that the fifth-year quarterback can still be a starting quarterback.
“There’s no question,” Tannenbaum said. “If he gets back to that level. It’s not a hope or a projection, but just two years ago he scored 32 touchdowns. He had 26 throwing and six rushing. That was back in 2011 and that’s something that I think he can get back to. I’m sure he’ll get another opportunity once he rehabs his shoulder.
“If you just look at [his career] objectively, he accomplished quite a bit. Last year didn’t go well for any of us, but there was a lot more good than bad. When it’s all said and done, Mark is going to have a really good NFL career.”
Sanchez played an integral role in the team’s success, but Ryan was the ringmaster of all the hype surrounding the team. Ryan has tried to somewhat curb his audacious personality in front of the cameras.
“Rex is still who he is at his core and that’s what we love about him,” Tannenbaum said. “He’s just a very innately confident person.
“He’s going into his fifth year now and we all learn as humans. Rex is different today than from who he was on the first day of the job, but that’s just part of the maturation process of sitting in that same seat for quite a while.”