- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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Nine days after firing longtime general manager Mike Tannenbaum, the New York Jets still aren't close to finding his replacement.
After interviewing four candidates, the Jets have decided to expand their search for a new general manager. New York will interview three new candidates Thursday, including former Chicago Bears GM Jerry Angelo, according to league sources.
Angelo, who was fired from his post in Chicago after the 2011 season, is the only known candidate with experience as a GM. He was the Bears' GM for 11 years, compiling an 87-73 record and building the team that reached Super Bowl XLI.
The Jets have reached out to no fewer than 12 potential candidates, and that number is expected to grow. They're expected to conduct more interviews on Friday, which means the search probably will continue into next week.
The Jets clearly were not blown away by any of their original four candidates, prompting team officials to cast a wider net. The franchise is under intense pressure to make the right choice.
Not only did the Jets stumble to a 6-10 record, but they've been lampooned since the end of the season. They've provided plenty of tabloid fodder, with Rex Ryan's well-chronicled getaway to the Bahamas, his infamous tattoo and the clumsy, eight-day delay before their season-ending news conference -- a violation of the NFL media policy.
Owner Woody Johnson still wants Ryan to be a major presence in the organization. That became apparent Tuesday at their joint news conference. Despite the losing season, Johnson gave an effusive vote of confidence to Ryan, also revealing that Ryan will be involved in the latter stages of the GM search.
Johnson confirmed that Ryan is part of the package, meaning the next GM has to retain the coach for at least one season. Johnson said he hasn't received any negative backlash from potential candidates.
"I really haven't had any reaction, no," he said. "I think everybody feels like they're pretty fortunate to have Rex because of what they know. They know he's a good coach and you can't always say that. It takes one of the uncertainties out of the equation."
Not everyone feels the same way.
"It's an absolute recipe for disaster," said a longtime GM, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It's a marriage by proxy."
Amid the Jets' recent embarrassing headlines, they're still looking for a GM. Consider their odyssey:
Two landed other GM jobs: Former Atlanta Falcons director of player personnel Dave Caldwell was hired by the Jacksonville Jaguars and former Indianapolis Colts vice president of football operations Tom Telesco landed the San Diego Chargers' GM job.
One declined an interview (Baltimore Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta); one canceled his interview (former Cleveland Browns GM Tom Heckert); and one postponed to pursue other options (Green Bay Packers director of football operations John Dorsey).
49ers director of player personnel Tom Gamble was considered the early favorite, but his interview didn't go as well as expected, according to league sources. Caldwell became the next hot name -- he was invited back for a second interview -- but league sources suspect he used the Jets as leverage against the Jaguars.
The Jets also met with New York Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross and their top in-house candidate, Scott Cohen, who served as Tannenbaum's assistant GM for five years. People close to the organization believe owner Woody Johnson will give strong consideration to Cohen because he's already familiar with Ryan.
The Jets' job would be a homecoming for Gaine, who will meet with team officials later this week. He grew up in Pearl River, N.Y., attended Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey, played briefly on the Jets' practice squad and became a scout under Bill Parcells. He followed Parcells to the Dallas Cowboys and Dolphins, ascending to the front office.
Gaine was a practice-squad tight end for the Jets and Giants. Former Jets teammates Wayne Chrebet, Marvin Jones and Anthony Becht gave their endorsements, tweeting that Gaine would be an excellent choice.