Transcript of Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan’s post draft news conference Saturday afternoon:
??TANNENBAUM: To just wrap up all the transactions for today, we drafted Joe McKnight and also John Conner. We traded Leon Washington to Seattle and released Alan Faneca. Just looking at all these moves, in part or together, we’re excited about what Joe can do for us, not only running the ball but in the passing game. We think he’s a dynamic player and we’re really excited to get him where we did in the fourth round. Relative to John Conner, he’s a tremendous fullback, one of Rex’s favorite players available in the draft.
With Leon, we had a great conversation with him. I’ll never bet against Leon Washington. I’ve said that many times before, both on and off the record. We just felt managing the team both short-term and long-term that this was really in the best interest of our team. He’ll get a fresh start out in Seattle. I expect he’ll do great things out there. But we felt with getting the returner in Kyle Wilson, what Joe McKnight should be able to do for us offensively, in addition to having Brad Smith and Jerricho Cotchery, we feel like those jobs will be covered by a number of players. We felt looking at Leon’s contractual situation that it was going to have to happen at some point sooner or later, and so we felt that when we had the opportunity to go out and get John Conner, that’s when we decided to make that decision.
With Alan, I couldn’t say enough great things about Alan Faneca. I know I’m a better person being around Alan the last few years, the husband he is, the father, the teammate, the player. He gave us two incredible years, but along with Woody [Johnson], Rex and I, our job is to make the right decision, not the easy one. And with Alan, we felt like it was time to move on. Vlad Ducasse and Matt Slauson will compete for the starting left guard job. The best player will play there. Rob Turner will back up at center, and that’s where we are as an organization.
We’re done for today. We’ll add some free agents tonight. We’ve added core players that we think can help us short-term and long-term.??
On if there was a contrast between Faneca’s production and his contract…??
RYAN: Number one, you evaluate all your players, not just Alan, but you evaluate all your players. We feel good about Matt Slauson, we feel good about Vladimir stepping in and competing for that job. We never would have let Alan go if we didn’t think that one or both of those guys could do the job. It’s a tough decision, and Alan is coming off of nine straight Pro Bowl appearances. This decision wasn’t easy. He did a good job for us. Like we said before, he was a great teammate, but in this business you have to move on. That’s what we are staying to. We are trying to win a Super Bowl. We are trying to win one this year, just like we go into every season with that in mind.
We just thought that the best opportunity we had would be that we battle with Matt Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse and let’s see what happens. We feel good about both of those players. Alan’s definitely going to play in this league again. I have no idea where but by releasing him now, it gives Alan an opportunity to go where quite honestly he wants to go. We’re not looking to trade him and send him to a place where he doesn’t want to play. We gave him the respect that he is due, and this allows him to go where he wants to go.
??On the decision to break up one of the best offensive lines in the league…??
RYAN: You’re going to stay the same, get better or get worse. We’re getting better. That’s why we made the move we made.??
On if Washington’s contract or injury concerns forced the trade…??
TANNENBAUM: The real driving force was the football decision of having Joe McKnight here and having the returners we have now in Kyle Wilson, Brad [Smith] and Jerricho [Cotchery]. We feel like all of those jobs are going to be covered by a number of players. Long term, it would have been very difficult for us to re-sign him at the end of this year, knowing the other challenges we are going to have. Once we had McKnight on the board, seeing Conner on the board, we just felt like that was the best thing for the team. Knowing that it would be hard for Leon to be here by opening day, to get a fullback of John’s caliber we felt was worth it.
I’ve said it many times: Leon is one of the most fascinating people I have ever met. He is unbelievably inspiring. I go back to that rookie minicamp in 2006. He could not catch a punt, he was below average. And now he is a Pro Bowl returner, and that’s because of his work ethic. He has an unbelievable work ethic. If you look at his lower-body strength, for someone his size, and the number of tackles he breaks, it’s because of his work ethic, and he was an offseason award winner. So you stack up the 80 guys, and he was number one. I would never bet against him, but we have to make the hard decisions. The hard decision was, long-term, it would have been hard to keep him.
Now you look at our backs, it’s going to be LaDainian [Tomlinson], Shonn [Greene] and Joe McKnight. We’re excited about those three guys. We think they can do a lot of things together. Like Rex said, even with the addition of Santonio Holmes, we’re going to be a run-first offense. That’s not changing. We felt like once we had Joe, we could move on from Leon.
??On the difference between this year and 2007, when the Jets made changes at left guard…??
TANNENBAUM: Every situation is a little bit different, and certainly 2007, things didn’t go as well as we had hoped, no question about that. But fast-forward to April 2010, when Rex, myself, Brian Schottenheimer and Bill Callahan looked at it, we think Vlad Ducasse is tremendous. We’re excited to get him. Matt Slauson did a lot of good things for us last year. A lot of that stuff isn’t headline-grabbing, but what he did for us either in practice or in the weightroom was really encouraging. So we feel like we have two guys there that will compete for a job and be surrounded by two front line players in [Nick] Mangold and D’Brickashaw [Ferguson].
??On if Faneca slipped in his production over the past two seasons…??
TANNENBAUM: I would say that when you look at Alan last year, we led the league in rushing, we went to the AFC Championship Game and he started every game. He did a lot of great things. We just felt, as Rex said, that when we looked at it carefully for us, what was in the best interest of the Jets and in terms of where we want to go, that line couldn’t stay together forever. Now is the time. Again, the easy decision would have been “Let’s try to get through another year.” But that was not the correct decision in our minds.??
On if Washington’s agent pushed for a long-term deal or threatened to hold him out of training camp…??
TANNENBAUM: Actually, it’s just the opposite. He had signed his tender, so obviously if a player signs his tender, that changes the dynamics of a holdout. You will have to speak to them but If I were to speculate on that, by signing a tender, he had all intents and purposes to be here.
??On if the Jets could have retained Washington’s rights for 2011 with another one-year tender…??
On why the Jets wouldn’t want to keep Washington for the next two years…??
TANNENBAUM: Once we had McKnight, that is what really finalized the decision for us.
????On dealing with distractions…??
TANNENBAUM: That’s just not the way the world works. We get paid to deal with distractions. It was funny. I told the whole organization they were not allowed in until noon on Thursday, because I wanted everyone to get out because I knew it was going to be a long three days. Anyway, so I’m playing catch with my son and I’m like, “Daddy’s got to go to work now.” And he’s like, because he’s 3½, “Can’t you just call your friends from here?” And I’m thinking, “Jacob, these aren’t necessarily my friends [laughing]. That’s not who we deal with every day.”
What we deal with is issues and challenges, and there’s going to be issues that come up this year. I already have a pretty good idea what they could be. That’s what we get paid to do is deal with issues, and I won’t look at them as distractions. I always say we’ve got to embrace challenges and if you don’t come in every day feeling great about being here and embracing these challenges, you’re in the wrong job. We weren’t going to hold a pity party because we were in the “Final Four.” We had definite needs that we assessed for this organization and we started.
Rex set the tone the Monday night after we lost the AFC Championship Game. We went from him getting Mick Jagger treatment in Indianapolis to being at the baggage claim in Mobile, Ala., and we were off and running. And we set the tone that Monday night that we promised ourselves that we were going to do everything we can to get better for 2010. And “Final Four” rules or whatever, we’re going to improve the team. That’s the mindset we have.
On making a number of moves despite the Final Four rules…??
TANNENBAUM: Yes, we’re going to try and do that every year. But my point is much more fundamental. Whatever the rules or the challenges or the distractions we have, we embrace that. I draw energy from that. We’re here to solve problems and again, like with Leon, he did a lot of great things. But at the end of the day, economically, role-wise, injury, when you look at all those things together, the decision for us was really predicated that we had Joe McKnight and those gaps could be filled. Managing this team, short-term and long-term, we felt that’s what was in the best interest of the team.
??On if Washington’s place on the team would’ve been secure if McKnight were unavailable…??
TANNENBAUM: Yes, I don’t like to answer hypotheticals, but I think that’s a fair assumption.
??On what the team’s chemistry will be like with the new acquisitions…??
RYAN: Well, I felt that was definitely a strength of ours last year. I think it’ll be a strength of ours again this year. We have great people in our locker room. I think the team knows that we’re driven to win a championship here and that we’re not wanting to be complacent, like “Just stay. Let’s just keep this group” and all that.” We kept the nucleus of our football team. We did lose some excellent football players, but we’ve added a lot of tremendous players. And again, everything we do is for the betterment of our football team.
It’s easy to stand pat because, you’re exactly right, we have a lot of great people that have left our building, but we’ve got a ton of them still in it. I think, again, this will be a strength of our team. They’ve got to understand, and everybody out there, that we are committed to winning a championship here. That’s it. Like I said before, it’s the best Jets team I’ve been around, and I’ve only been here two years. But that last one went to the AFC Championship Game. So I’m betting on this team, and I think this team is going to be special. We’re out to prove it, and again, I know there will be criticism. But the beauty of this thing is that we get to prove it on the field. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most.??
On filling in the team’s depth chart…??
TANNENBAUM: Yes, I always go back to the same thing. Adding players, it’s a continuum. I’m sure we’ll claim one or two guys who got drafted today over Labor Day. That’s not going to grab headlines, but you look at the Jim Leonhards, the Bart Scotts, the Brandon Moores, the Jamaal Westermans up and down our roster, they’re good football players that weren’t drafted. I’m banking on our scouting department that we’re going to sign a couple players here in the next couple of hours that will have a good chance of making our team. We added David Clowney, a good player that was drafted by Green Bay, that does a great job. It’s up to us to keep looking for players, not only tonight, but over the summer.??
On the status of the defensive line…??
RYAN: [Kris] Jenkins is back, but obviously we don’t have Marques Douglas and we don’t have Howard Green, some of the guys that played. We expect Ropati [Pitoitua] to step up, be a contributor. We’re going to put Vernon Gholston in a position where we think, him backing up Shaun Ellis, is going to give us an opportunity to get more athletic at the position. I think that’s going to be something that we look forward to, and so that’s why I never felt that it was a need to jump up and take a defensive end when our plan all along was to put Vernon in a position where he can be successful. I think we did that. When we were able to pick up Jason Taylor, that allowed us to make that move.
??On if Gholston is permanently a DE…??
RYAN: Right. We wanted to go through the draft and see where we were, and then make that decision.
????On if they ever imagined in Mobile they would make the offseason moves they’ve made…??
TANNENBAUM: I was just hoping that the car rental place was going to stay open [laughing]. Opportunities come and you just don’t know when they’re going to come along. We just take our sheet and say, “Here are our needs, here’s the trade possibilities here the restricted free agents, here the guys that got cut, and here are the UFAs that we can’t touch, and what’s best for the Jets?” We just methodically move along and I answer every call, every e-mail. I tell the guys you don’t know where the opportunities are going to come. We never leave the office every day until every call and every e-mail, except once in a while maybe from the media [laughing], is returned.
That’s our charge. That’s our obligation. I love it. I draw everything from it, and hopefully we take those opportunities. I think this year they really aligned. When [Antonio] Cromartie was available at the combine, we felt, “Hey, we could upgrade the corner position.” When Taylor became available, there’s a pass rusher we wanted to add. Kyle Wilson being there at 29, there’s somebody that could play in the slot for us. As they come along, you know, Santonio [Holmes], we just have to be prepared and we feel good about our preparation.
?On the challenges of having different personalities on the team…??
RYAN: Well, the great thing is, even the new guys that we added, they wanted to be Jets. They wanted to come in here. They wanted to be part of something that I think everybody realizes, “Hey, look, we are a team that’s going forward. We are a team that the expectations are set extremely high.” Any competitor would want to be in that situation. So, they’re coming in. Cromartie’s in here and he’s wowing everybody with his athleticism and working his whatever off. But really, that’s what’s exciting. You see LT working every day and all that. They want to be part of this. We’re going to get this team close.
Now, did we take a hit by losing some outstanding football players and outstanding men? Absolutely we did. But we’re bringing in some excellent people as well. I know that when you look at it on paper, we brought in two former NFL Man of the Year Award winners, things like that. We’ve got some special people in here. We bring in Santonio Holmes, an outstanding young man. You guys met him. Has he had some problems and all that? Absolutely. So have I. So has probably everybody in this room. Everybody’s had issues.
But I think when you look at it, we’re all in there with the same thing in mind, and that’s to win a championship. Everybody wants the same thing, and that’s to win. We’re about being a team and I think everybody realizes that.??