By Ernie Palladino
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If Tom Gamble becomes the Jets’ new general manager by week’s end, Woody Johnson will not have made a horrible choice.
Of course, whoever ends up stepping into Mike Tannenbaum’s former position should be questioned as to why any supposedly straight-thinking executive would want to pilot that shipwreck. Signing up with the dysfunction and disarray that has become as much of the Jets culture as that sexy tattoo has become part of Rex Ryan’s arm could amount to nothing less than career suicide.
But assuming the 49ers current director of player personnel does possess all his marbles and has, indeed, made a measured decision, Johnson will have made worse choices. And if he gives Gamble the power to structure a team his way, Gamble might just be able to turn the Jets around by, oh, the end of the decade.
Just being facetious there. Gamble won’t get that much time to rebuild. Five years is more like it, tops. But his success with San Francisco does offer indications that the Jets’ personnel situation on both sides of the ball could change well before the outer limits of that time frame.
Bet that one of his first moves would be to get quarterback Alex Smith over here. With Colin Kaepernick permanently installed as the Niners’ starter, Smith would probably welcome a change of scenery and a basic walkover if he’s put in an open competition with Mark Sanchez. As inconsistent as Smith may seem, he’s been through more mental ups and downs than Sanchez and has weathered them all, which automatically makes him mentally stronger than the fragile Sanchez.
Smith’s had coaches who haven’t believed in him. He’s had playoff success when Jim Harbaugh did believe in him. He lost his job to Kaepernick when Harbaugh lost the faith. How bad could a spot on the Jets be, especially with a player’s coach like Ryan? And especially if that player’s coach is told by a higher-up, “Hey, this is your guy, so get used to it.”
Getting Smith here could be problematic, however. He’s signed in Frisco for the next two years at $7.5 million each. At this point, the Jets could probably get him for a mid-round draft pick, but fitting him in with Sanchez’ $8.3 million salary and $12.8 million cap hit would certainly be a challenge.
Still, it’s probably worth a shot. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to see Gamble take that chance, or at least try.
On top of everything, Gamble comes highly recommended by the eminent Bill Polian. He might be the next best thing to the 70-year-old franchise-builder who declined Johnson’s offer to interview. Can’t blame him for wanting to stay far, far away from the Jets’ circus.
It actually would be advantageous for Johnson to sign Gamble by Tuesday, when Ryan returns from his Bahamian photo layout to address the media. The two of them, old buddies from the time Ryan’s dad, Buddy, coached the Eagles and Gamble’s father, Harry, served as Philly’s president, could stand together in a show of new solidarity, and proclaim to the world that a new age has dawned in Florham Park.
Even if it doesn’t happen like that, it’s fine. If something indeed changes in 2013, it won’t be because the new GM arrived a day sooner or later. Cultural metamorphosis is the key. A guy who had a direct hand in drafting or procuring the Niners’ eight of nine Pro Bowlers of 2012, of turning a loser into a winner the last two years, would not be a bad choice.
No matter when he arrives.
Is Gamble your choice? Make your case in the comments…