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Inside The War Room: The Story of Drafting Mark Sanchez

Every year, football fans across the globe wonder what exactly will transpire across different NFL war rooms during the Draft. What are GMs saying? How many people are in the room? How hectic is the war room when making a selection? Mike Tannenbaum gave some insight into the Jets’ process when deciding not only to take quarterback Mark Sanchez from USC, but to also trade up from the 17th pick with the Cleveland Browns to select Sanchez. 

Coming off of a year that saw the Jets fail to make the playoffs after starting the year 8-3, New York decided to head in a different direction by hiring Rex Ryan as the new head coach. “We, as an organization, really wanted to get a young quarterback paired with our new head coach,” Tannenbaum states. That year, there were three quarterbacks who were seen as sure-fire first-round picks: Matthew Stafford from Georgia, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Freeman from Kansas State. 

Tannenbaum and company figured out that they wanted Sanchez based on three reasons: his arm strength, ability to play well in big games, and really good athleticism. Besides his physical traits and collegiate accolades, Tannenbaum remarks that “it was amazing how many people showed up at his high school. It was clear that he was incredibly well thought of amongst his friends and his peers. He was clearly in charge. He was a man among men.” 

Eventually, Tannenbaum and the Jets knew that if they wanted Sanchez, they were going to have to trade up to get him. They did so with a familiar face, former HC Eric Mangini who had been hired as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns; however, this situation came with its fair share of anxiety. 

“It felt like a lifetime. One minute… nothing going on. Two minutes… nothing happening. Three minutes. I’m having people look at me like ‘Mike, this is our franchise quarterback. We have nobody at quarterback.’ I’m like ‘I know who we’re dealing with,’” Tannenbaum recalls. Finally, New York got a call from Cleveland and realized they had finally got Mangini to commit to trading back. 

Part of the holdup in the deal for the fifth pick was due to the Jets including players in the trade. To get this deal done, Team A (the Cleveland Browns) and Team B (the New York Jets) had to have matching phone calls from both of the respective teams to the league office. Both phone calls had to be identical to each other in order to ensure that the trade could go through. This would not have happened if the Jets were not including players on their roster in the deal. Part of the reason why there aren’t many players included in the deal is for this reason. Physicals are a huge part of it as well. The Jets were able to get the deal done with 45 seconds on the clock, which was huge since if time expired, the team with the sixth pick would then be on the clock. 

“I call up Mark Sanchez. I say ‘Mark, hey, this is Mike,’ and with that it just explodes in the background. You literally cannot hear a thing. I mean, it felt like there were 10,000 people, and I just remember covering the phone with my hands and saying ‘turn it in. Sanchez is a Jet.’ We turn in the card, and the rest is history.”