This February afternoon is almost over in the middle of America and the Jets — along with each of the 31 other NFL clubs — are engrossed in their draft preparations at the NFL Combine workouts.
“It’s just the next step in the process,” GM Mike Tannenbaum told me inside Lucas Oil Stadium. “Our area scouts and [senior personnel executive] Terry Bradway and [VP of college scouting] Joey Clinkscales do a great job in the fall, and we’re just kind of adding to that now. We saw them down in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, we get to see them work out here, and the interviews are really important. It’s just the next step in the process.”
While many of the Jets coaches and scouts are here at Lucas Oil during daylight hours, the team personnel move down the street to an Indianapolis hotel and interview selected prospects at night. Each team is permitted to interview 60 players over the course of the combine and each session has a 15-minute time limit.
What are the Jets looking for from the prospects?
“A lot of their football acumen — some of them really separate themselves quite a bit,” Mr. T. said. “You know which guys have a better feel for their responsibilities than others and our coaches do a great job. We’re looking forward to that getting started in a couple of hours here.”
Tannenbaum and the Jets don’t rehearse their interview approach. They listen first and then see where the interview goes from there.
“It just develops as a guy comes in there, but we have the position coach leading the discussion,” he said. “We’re sitting there observing them and seeing how they answer the questions.”
A loyal boss, Tannenbaum has a scouting staff that he both trusts and respects. Area scouts have mined the country since the final selection of the 2011 draft symbolized both a conclusion and a beginning.
“They’re tireless workers, the Matt Bazirgans of the world, the Jeff Bauers, the Jay Mandolesis. They’re great, they care, they work hard,” Mr. T. said. “Joe Bommarito, Jim Cochran, Mike Davis — they all do great jobs. We’re lucky they’re here and they have such passion. Sometimes they have to watch our games listening to the radio or on the Internet, but the wins and losses mean as much to them as anyone.”
Inside a stadium suite today, the stopwatches were out and pens and papers scribbled in notebooks. There wasn’t much conversation as the Jets observed drills that will be weighted, but the gametape never lies.
“Those are interesting and they’re great for comparison purposes, but at the end of the day it’s how do they play football,” Tannenbaum said of drills such as the 40-yard dash, benchpress and shuttle run. “Rex is a natural evaluator. His input has been great. He really works at it — he watches a lot of tape. Again this is important, but it’s just another step in the process.”
During Thursday’s meeting with the media, Tannenbaum reiterated his belief that Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes will be able to thrive as teammates once again. Barring something unforeseen, the Jets starting QB and No. 1 wideout will remain unchanged on the depth chart.
“The fact that they’ve played well as Jets together under this coaching staff gives me every reason to believe that an issue that came up last year is very solvable,” he said.
Tannenbaum’s core belief is he’ll look under every rock every day to get better. The Jets are in need of safety help with both Jim Leonhard and Brodney Pool set to become unrestricted free agents on March 13, but there are multiple ways of addressing voids.
“I look at any position as a big continuum,” the GM said. “We’ll look at potential trades, potential signings in free agency, the draft, claiming guys on Labor Day.”
Tannenbaum chose not to make public if he would consider a franchise tag for NT Sione Pouha, but he would like the veteran lineman to remain with the Green & White in 2012.
“Within reason we’re going to do everything we can to keep him,” he said.
This spring’s labor harmony means a return to free agency preceding the draft. The Jets currently own choices in every round and should be in position to obtain one or more compensatory selections, but trading up is always an option for Tannenbaum.
“I do believe in quality over quantity,” he said. “That’s just based on a lot of research and what’s a replaceable part and what the odds are of success in every round.”
The search to get better is a never-ending for Tannenbaum and his crew.
Tags: Indianapolis, Jay Mandolesi, Jeff Bauer, Jim Cochran, Joe Bommarito, Lucas Oil Stadium, Mark Sanchez, Matt Bazirgan, Mike Davis, Mike Tannenbaum, NFL Combine, Santonio Holmes, Sione Pouha
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