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Jets Predraft Press Conference

Courtesy Of The NY Jets

Transcript of the New York Jets predraft news conference with Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum, director of player personnel Terry Bradway and director of college scouting Joey Clinkscales, and members of the Jets media on Thursday:Â

Tannenbaum: Good to see everybody. I just have a few opening remarks and then we’ll open it up for questions.Â

I just want to first of all thank everybody, in particular the coaches and the scouts, for all their hard work for this entire process. Most importantly, the two guys up here with me, Terry Bradway and Joey Clinkscales. Along with Eric [Mangini], we’ve been spending a lot of time together. One other person I wanted to thank publicly is a gentleman named Jason Mandolesi [Coordinator, College Scouting]. He replaced a guy named John Griffin. I think John has been here 100, 150 years. Jason stepped in, has done a great job.

The other thing I wanted to point out, Eric has this term, “former heads of state,” in particular Dick Haley, Marv Sunderland and Jesse Kaye all played real integral roles. Their experience and wisdom have been great for us.Â

Just a quick overview of the off season. I really felt like the March of ’07 offseason started last fall with the re-signing of Bryan Thomas. It was an example of just being proactive, trying to build from within, keep our players. Then we re-signed Jerricho Cotchery to an extension, he had one year to go, which I felt was important.Â

In addition, just some other quick highlights. The trade of Thomas Jones, re-signing of Anthony Clement, Bobby Hamilton and Wade Smith, signing Kenyon Coleman from the Dallas Cowboys. With that, where we stand right now, we have 21 of our 22 starters back. That’s important for Eric and me because we want to have as much flexibility going into the draft as possible.

As I’ve said before, I really do think this is an ongoing process. Between now and Saturday night, Sept. 8, is a critical time. Between today and obviously the draft is the biggest part of it, but until Saturday night, Sept. 8, it’s up to us from a personnel standpoint to try to improve this roster. We will work throughout the whole summer, into the early fall, to try to do that.Â

We have four players over in Europe — Blake Costanzo, Zarnell Fitch, Matt McChesney and Jamie Thompson.

Currently for the draft we have our first round pick and we have two twos. We initially had No. 37, but as I think you know, we exchanged that with Chicago for the 63rd pick to acquire Thomas Jones. We have a third. We don’t have our fourth. We have a fifth and a sixth. The sixth is actually from Tampa because we traded a sixth round pick [to Dallas] for Pete Hunter, acquired one [from Tampa] for Doug Jolley.Â

Two other things I’d like to point out, which are important to us organizationally. I’m sure we’ll talk about this over the press conference today. We truly go by what we see. That’s an important philosophy of Eric’s, mine, the entire organization.Â

Two guys in particular I wanted to point out are Bryan Thomas and Jerricho Cotchery. I think those are two guys who really excelled under Eric last year. It’s just important to note that in ’05 they had not done a lot. Last year, looking at Jerricho, 19 catches in ’05 with no touchdowns, wound up with 82 receptions and six touchdowns last year. Bryan Thomas’ sacks went from 3½ in ’05 to 8½ in ’06. I think it’s examples of guys taking advantage of great opportunities.

With that said, looking at last year’s drafts, we had 47 starts from the draft class. Brick [D’Brickashaw Ferguson] and Nick [Mangold] started every game. Then in addition, we had other starts from Leon [Washington], Drew [Coleman] and Brad [Smith]. In addition to that we also had five undrafted free agents still on the club — Joe Kowalewski, Stacy Tutt, Wallace Wright, Jamie Thompson and Ed Blanton. They played in a total of 10 games. So, again, that’s another example of our philosophy to try to go by what we see, the best players playing.Â

With that I’m going to turn it over to Terry for a minute, then we’ll go from there.Â

Bradway: What I’d like to do is just explain the process a little bit like we do every year. This is a process that started last May with our scouts, with the NFL scouting combine. We follow that through the fall with the school visits, reports, then the All Star games, the Indy combine, then our spring reports. We include our coaches also in that process once we get to the spring.Â

We evaluated over 1,000 players this year who we felt were prospects. That was more than one report. We evaluate over 1,400 players who we considered to be eligible for this year’s draft. With that, there were over 5,000 reports written by our coaches and our scouts.Â

The one thing we did this year — we keep expanding and improving on this area — is our interview process. We start that at the [college] all star games. We carry it through the combine with our 30 visits here and also our coaches at the combine in what we call the satellite room. We have personally interviewed extensively over 200 players in that process. We have 382 players we consider to be draftable. Of that number we’ve discussed about 200 in our meetings.Â

We did it a little bit differently this year. We started our offensive meetings in the beginning of April. We spent the first week of April doing the offense. The next week I think we brought 34 players in here, including four local players, who we were able to do in addition to the 30 allowed by the league.Â

This week we are finishing up our defense. We should be done with our defense by tomorrow, which will give us the weekend to work through, set the board. Then on Monday we’re into draft week where we do our reviews of the board with Mike and with Eric, with Joey, with JoJo Wooden and then also with our scouts on other occasions.Â

We’ve had our medical meeting. We’ve had our psychological meeting. Next week we’ll be involved with Steve Yarnell and security, also get a chance to visit with Mike Westhoff to get his view on the special teams.Â

Every year we try to improve the process. I think now, even in the second year with Eric, with Mike, our scouts have a real good feeling of what kind of players we’re looking for, how they fit the system. I think we’ve had great dialogue in our meetings. We’re looking forward to getting the board set and discussing strategy next week. We can talk about some of those things later.Â

I’d like to turn it over to Joey now to discuss the overview of the draft in his mind. I think, again, we had the good fortune, like Mike said, of having Dick Haley, Jesse, I’ve been a director of college scouting, and now Joey. I’ve been so pleased with the way our meetings have been held. I think the tempo has been great, the flow of ideas. I think everybody feels like they’ve had input in doing this. I thank Joey for that. I’ll let him discuss the draft a little more in depth.

Clinkscales: I don’t have a lot to say. I think in this year’s draft, there’s a lot of value and depth at a lot of positions such as wide receiver, defensive back, corner, safety. I think it’s important for this organization to find the right people to come in here and create competition. We’re going into the draft this year with, in my opinion, no particular glaring need. But we do want to come out of the draft having created a lot of competition at every position where we take a player.

On having the roster set before the draft …

Tannenbaum: I feel pretty comfortable where the roster is right now, having 21 of 22 starters back. We want to have as much flexibility as possible to take advantage of opportunities in the draft, maybe trade up, trade back, see what opportunities present themselves.Â

On whether you emphasized character too much on some picks with emphasis on the third-round selections in 2006 …

Tannenbaum: I’d say it goes back again, I really attribute [Chicago Bears GM] Jerry Angelo for this wisdom where he always said that the tape sets the floor and the character sets the ceiling. I think that’s a short way of saying you can’t have one without the other. The attributes of the players we took in the third round last year are the attributes we still believe they have this year sitting here in April of ’07.Â

This is an important time of year for the whole organization. The players are working really hard in the off season program. It’s something Eric believes in, I believe in. I saw it happen in 1997 when we all came in and Coach Parcells really emphasized that. You could see the players on the team getting better.Â

I cited, too, in the opening statements, I think Anthony [Schlegel] and Eric [Smith] are both working hard. Like I said, it’s an important time of year for everybody. They’ll have opportunities, like all our players will, come training camp.

On movement on draft day …

Tannenbaum: It’s interesting, just going back to last year, for example, where we were, having a fourth pick, I think things started to heat up even this early. Being at 25, it’s really hard to have those discussions at this point in the game because those really won’t happen I don’t think until a week from Saturday. You can have preliminary discussions with other teams, which we will. I think those are really hypothetical in nature. You really don’t know how it’s going to unfold. I just think when those talks happen are primarily dictated by where you’re sitting in the draft.Â

On whether the NFL’s new personal conduct policies have influenced the player interview process …

Bradway: I don’t really think it’s changed. I think it’s a philosophy we’ve had for a while now. Actually it intensified when Eric got here. We know what kind of guys he wants, these core values that are important with these players that we select. From that standpoint it hasn’t really affected us. We’ve been looking for good guys. But like Mike said, we’re looking for good players, too. You got to get that balance in there. That’s what we’re trying to do.Â

On whether the Jets will try to acquire more picks …

Tannenbaum: It’s really interesting because I’ve seen it go both ways where we’ve traded up to get a particular player, traded back for volume. Again, working at this since ’97, I think we wound up with 10 picks that year. Some worked out better than others. I think we want to go in with flexibility. I think last year’s draft is a great example. I believe in the course of those two days we traded both up and back. In the second round alone we initially traded down, picked up an extra sixth-round pick in ’06 and a two this year, then we traded back up to get Kellen [Clemens]. I think the second-round pick of 2006 is just a very good example of being patient, being a good listener, and then sitting there with the other people in the room trying to make the best decision for the organization in a short amount of time.Â

On taking reputation into account when evaluating players …

Tannenbaum: That’s why we have these great guys up here, Joey and Terry on the staff, who go in depth. Eric has this great expression of saying, “The truth, let’s find out the truth.” I don’t know if you saw Sports Illustrated this week. Very interesting article. Talked about Danny Ainge and unfortunately the passing of Dennis Johnson. I was a big Celtic fan growing up. It was interesting because one of Red Auerbach’s defining moments was when he traded Rick Robey to the Phoenix Suns for Dennis Johnson. Dennis Johnson had a reputation of being a cancer in the locker room. When Dennis walking into the Celtic locker room, they nicknamed him “Chemo.” I just passed that article out to the scouts.Â

The point that I learned from that article, and I believe in here, it goes to someone like Steve Yarnell in 2000, with Laveranues Coles, to find out the truth. Obviously there were some issues or the perception of issues with Laveranues. Laveranues has been a very good player, good person for the team for a long period of time. I feel confident in our process. I feel confident in the people executing the process. We want to get the right information. Our players come from all different parts of the country, shapes, sizes. As Eric was saying, we want to get down to the truth and find out who these guys are.Â

On whether players from wealthy backgrounds can be successful NFL players …

Tannenbaum: I think it’s hard to categorically say if someone is instinctually motivated based on socioeconomic positions. If it was that easy, we wouldn’t have to send everybody out. I think we need to be thorough and find out obviously about their background, how they handle adverse situations, how they dealt with bumps in their life, how they dealt with prosperity. In the league, we have all those ups and downs. We want to make sure that people consistently react to those different types of situations.Â

On the Jets’ goals going into the draft …

Tannenbaum: The object of the exercise for us, we wanted to have as much flexibility going into the draft. We have 21 of the 22 starters back. To sit here and say that we need position A or B, I couldn’t tell you that except to say that we want to add a lot of players at every position. I don’t anticipate taking a punter. But beyond that, I think everything is fair game.Â

On how the Jets evaluate their needs …

Tannenbaum: [For example] Kenyon Coleman. But again, just because we add somebody in free agency, we’ve done this in the past, we’ve had a guy in veteran free agency, taken that same position in the draft. [Eric] Barton and [Jonathan] Vilma are good examples of that. One in free agency, one in the draft. Kenyon has been working hard. We’re cautiously optimistic with him. We think he can come in and give us some meaningful reps and help us out. Just because we took Kenyon early in free agency, I couldn’t rule out us not taking a defensive lineman early in the draft if that was the best available player, he met all the criteria we’re looking for. I wouldn’t say because we did this in March we wouldn’t do this in April.Â

Will Larry David be in your war room?

Tannenbaum: [Smiling] Who’s in our war room is somewhat confidential. I don’t think he’ll be there that day. We admire his passion and his insight. Just so you know, Eric is always coaching we spent some time out there [in Los Angeles with David]. Eric coached him up on some of his shows. We expect to see some improvement on his side as well.

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