NEW YORK (WFAN) — Mike Tannenbaum is a Mark Sanchez supporter.
Sure, it may not always seem that way. But the Jets general manager made his feelings clear on Thursday morning.
“Actions speak louder than words,” he told WFAN’s Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton at the team’s Florham Park complex. “We traded up for Mark, we just gave him an extension (in March). He’s our guy and I’m really proud to say we drafted him. And you look at what he’s done this summer, he’s really — in our minds — improved quite a bit.”
LISTEN: Tannenbaum with Boomer & Carton
Speaking of support, Tannenbaum said there’s “no question” Sanchez has enough targets lined up to succeed on the field — especially with new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano in the fold.
“No question about it,” said Tannenbaum. “I believe in these coaches, I believe in these players. And coach Sparano did a lot of great things in Miami. He gets painted with this broad brush of ground-and-pound, but last year they had four players that averaged 15 yards or more catching the ball. And that was one of the things that Rex and I saw in Tony that we really liked.”
But not everyone agrees. There was plenty of immediate feedback — mostly negative — on Twitter, where former Giants offensive tackle and current NFL analyst Roman Oben posted, “I heard that. What is Mike T smoking?”
Tight end Dustin Keller has been one of Sanchez’s favorite go-to guys, so there should be no problem there. Same with the ailing Santonio Holmes, if the drama between Sanchez and his No. 1 wide receiver is truly over.
There’s rookie Stephen Hill, a player with a high ceiling but not yet NFL-tested. After him? Chaz Schilens and Jeremy Kerley, two wideouts who haven’t broken the 400-yard mark once in five combined seasons.
Tannenbaum admitted the offense, held without a touchdown in two preseason games, has looked rough. But to be fair, the trio of Holmes, Schilens and Kerley haven’t seen any in-game action.
“In the middle of August, does it look perfect? No,” he said. “We embrace the hard work. But I think by opening day … you’ll be excited about the offense.”
As for the Jets’ most intriguing weapon, Tim Tebow, Tannenbaum was asked what he’d do if fans start beating the drum for Sanchez’s backup.
“We’re not going to make a decision based on (a) popularity contest,” he said, calling it a “hard hypothetical to answer.”
“It’s always going to be about what gives us the best chance to win, and clearly we’ve won a lot of games with Mark in his first three years,” he added. “I think Tim is going to enhance our offense.”
It would help if Sanchez and Tebow had some time in the pocket. The Jets’ offensive line has been shaky at best, and most of the heat is on right tackle Wayne Hunter.
Tannenbaum wouldn’t commit to Hunter starting Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills. He’s been “encouraged” by the play of Austin Howard, who could get the nod instead, and said the position is something the team will “continue to evaluate and look at.”
Later on Thursday, coach Rex Ryan announced that Howard would get the start Sunday night against Carolina.
“There’s things about Wayne where we can think he can be effective for us in certain roles, and we’re going to look at that,” said Tannenbaum. “Again, it’s only been two games, but there are some things that Austin’s done that are encouraging.”
After last season’s 8-8 finish, Tannenbaum called for improvement from Sanchez. But that’s not to say he was placing the team’s disappointments squarely on the quarterback position. At all.
“First of all, I wasn’t good enough last year,” said Tannenbaum. “So I’m not trying to put the blame on Mark. It starts with me. I could have put a better roster together, we could have had better depth last year.”
Tannenbaum said last year’s finish was “catastrophic” to his starting quarterback.
And it seemingly gave Sanchez extra motivation to make sure 2012 won’t be a repeat.
“This guy’s never had a losing season going back to high school, USC,” Tannenbaum said. “Just watching his growth and maturation — and what he’s done on the field going back to May, I’m really excited about Mark.”
Do you agree that the Jets have enough weapons for Sanchez? Be heard in the comments below…