The Jets' search for a new general manager kicks off Friday with the start of the interview phase. There are six known candidates for the position, with former Browns GM Tom Heckert, 49ers director of player personnel Tom Gamble and Packers director of football operations John Dorsey scheduled for interviews this weekend.
Heckert is the only person on the Jets' list with GM experience, which is a bit troubling. Like other teams in the GM market, the Jets appear to be focused on young, up-and-coming talent evaluators. Everybody is looking for the next Thomas Dimitroff (Falcons GM).
That said, don't discount Heckert. There were rumblings Thursday that he's deemed a strong candidate by the Jets -- that is, if he doesn't wind up in Kansas City with former colleague Andy Reid. There are five GM openings and most of the teams are interviewing the same guys, so it sounds like it'll be a game of musical chairs.
Anyway, here's a closer look at the Jets' situation, examining the candidates and others who should be candidates:
Heckert: There are two schools of thoughts on him, based on people I've talked to in the scouting community. Some see him as a good football man who got caught up in an ownership change and never got to finish the job in Cleveland. Others look at his record with the Browns (14-34) and find it hard to believe the Jets would go for a recycled GM who got fired only a few days ago.
"He has more qualifications than anybody on their list, but guys usually don't get recycled that quickly," a longtime GM told me. "It would defy logic."
Prior to the Browns, Heckert, 45, worked for the Dolphins and Eagles. In Philadelphia, he teamed with Reid to build a lot of successful teams, but Heckert never had final say until he got to Cleveland.
Gamble: He's one of the "hot" candidates, and there are some who believe he's atop the Jets' list. He comes with the blessing of Bill Polian, who is the godfather in this year's GM searches. Teams are coming to him for counsel, and he gave the Jets a glowing recommendation of Gamble.
The thing is, there's competition. Gamble already has interviewed for the Jaguars' vacancy, and he reportedly will meet with the Chargers, too. The head-coaching situation could be a factor for him. In San Diego, he'd be able to hire his own coach. The Jets and Jaguars have coaches. The word on the street is that the Jets are telling potential candidates they won't be considered unless they agree to keep Rex Ryan for a year.
Gamble's stock has risen because of the 49ers' success. Their roster is loaded with talent, and not just first-round picks. If the Jets hire him, will he try to acquire QB Alex Smith?
Dorsey: He, too, has been mentioned as a possibility with the Chiefs, if Reid gets hired. Dorsey, 52, probably has the most well-rounded resume among the candidates, because he has worked in both college and pro scouting, but he has spent virtually his entire adult life with the Packers -- as a player, scout and executive. That means he has been exposed to only one way of doing things -- in a small market, no less.
Dorsey followed Mike Holmgren to the Seahawks in 1999 as the director of player personnel, but returned to the Packers after only 14 months. He turned down an opportunity last year to interview for the Colts' GM job. Curiously, Dorsey hasn't been linked to the Chargers' opening -- odd, because one of his mentors, former Packers GM Ron Wolf, is coordinating the search as a consultant.
David Caldwell, Falcons, director of player personnel: The Jets have received permission to speak with Caldwell. He's getting a lot of love from the Jaguars, who already have interviewed him twice, according to reports. He's also on the Chargers' list.
Caldwell, 38, is young, but we know owner Woody Johnson isn't opposed to hiring young executives. He made Mike Tannenbaum the GM when he was 37. Like Gamble, Caldwell worked for Polian, so that probably will help his cause. He has spent the past five years with Dimitroff, one of the smartest guys in the business.
Interesting note on Caldwell: His college roommate at John Carroll University was Greg Roman, the 49ers' offensive coordinator. Just throwing it out there. Obviously, Gamble also has a Roman connection.
Marc Ross, Giants, director of college scouting: In addition to interviewing with the Jets, he'll meet with the Jaguars, Chargers and Panthers. Ross, 39, has interviewed for at least three GM jobs in previous years, so he's definitely on the radar.
The Princeton-educated Ross doesn't have as much scouting experience as the other candidates, but he works for a quality organization that does things the right way. He has contributed to some excellent drafts, but Ross lacks experience in other areas of the football operation. Plus, would someone from the Giants really want to work for the Jets?
The Jets will satisfy the Rooney Rule by interviewing Ross, a minority.
Scott Cohen, Jets, assistant GM: The top in-house candidate has worked alongside Tannenbaum since 2008, devoting most of his time to pro scouting. He has uncovered a few unheralded players, namely Austin Howard. Cohen is a well-respected football guy, but it would be a tough sell to the fan base, promoting a Tannenbaum lieutenant after a 6-10 season.
Outside looking in: The most qualified guy out there might be former Bears GM Jerry Angelo, but it doesn't appear as if the Jets have contacted him. How is that possible? He built the Bears' 2006 Super Bowl team and compiled a .543 winning percentage in 10 years. He's a proven talent evaluator and knows how to run an organization.
If the Jets are hellbent on finding the next rising star, they should talk to Dolphins assistant GM Brian Gaine, who is well-regarded in league circles. He's a Bill Parcells disciple, having worked with Parcells with the Jets, Cowboys and Dolphins. He's familiar with all areas of the operation -- draft, pro personnel, salary cap, etc. Plus, he's a New York guy.