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Tuesday, January 1, 2013
All eyes on Woody's GM decision

By Rich Cimini
ESPNNewYork.com

The explanation that came out of Chicago on Tuesday could be repeated next January in Florham Park, N.J.

There was Bears general manager Phil Emery, after one year on the job, saying he fired longtime coach Lovie Smith on Monday after a 10-win season because of the imbalance between offense and defense.

Woody_Johnson
Hiring Mike Tannenbaum is just one of Woody Johnson's decisions.

He credited Smith with "defensive excellence" but said the offense was too inconsistent over his tenure.

Now Emery will hire his own coach after trying it for a season with Smith.

The New York Jets are prepared to try the same thing, the NFL version of the arranged marriage. Rex Ryan is sticking around, owner Woody Johnson announced Monday, but they will hire a new GM. The new football czar will be entrusted with the power to fire Ryan in 2014.

This approach can be complicated, and it comes with a set of challenges. Ryan and his new boss will have conflicting agendas.

Ryan, in make-or-break mode, will take a short-term view on roster and personnel decisions. He has two years left on his contract, meaning it's win-or-else in 2014. Obviously, the new GM will have a long-range perspective, which could lead to disagreements.

It will put Ryan in a difficult position, coaching for his job with an offense that needs a new quarterback and a major overhaul. There's a good chance it could end up like it did in Chicago, with the new GM praising Ryan for his defensive prowess but saying he couldn't get it done on offense.

In four seasons with Ryan, the Jets have ranked 20th, 11th, 25th and 30th in total offense.

Coach-GM arrangements like this have worked. Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider was hired shortly after coach Pete Carroll, but they've formed a successful tandem. They've made the playoffs in two of their three seasons together.

But for every Schneider-Carroll, there's a Mike Holmgren-Eric Mangini in Cleveland. Holmgren decided to keep Mangini in 2010, but that marriage lasted only a year.

Why did Johnson decide to take this direction? Why keep Ryan? Will he pass on qualified GM candidates if they tell him they're not interested in keeping Ryan?

Johnson didn't address the media Monday, opting to explain the new direction of his franchise in a five-paragraph news release -- a lame way to do business.

This is Johnson's first true GM search, which is why he hired head hunter Jed Hughes of the Korn/Ferry consulting firm to conduct the process.

Yes, Johnson hired Terry Bradway in 2001, but he based that on the recommendation of outgoing executive Bill Parcells. In 2006, he replaced Bradway with Mike Tannenbaum, but all he had to do there was rearrange the chairs in the staff meetings.

Johnson doesn't have the greatest reputation around the league for making big decisions.

"When is the last good decision he made?" asked a longtime GM, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "He wouldn't know what a good decision is."

So far, the Jets have reached out to at least three candidates, all of them young, rising executives with no GM experience -- Dave Caldwell (Atlanta Falcons), Tom Gamble (San Francisco 49ers) and Marc Ross (New York Giants). They soon could contact Brian Gaine (Miami Dolphins). They're the "hot" guys, each one likely to have multiple opportunities.

The Jets aren't the most attractive destination -- a holdover coach, an uncertain quarterback situation and $25 million over the cap.

"I don't think anybody who has other options will want to go there," the longtime GM said. "The only person they might get is a guy with nothing else or a guy who just wants a job."

You'd like to think the Jets have a plan here. Maybe, one of these days, Johnson will articulate it.