Jets right to take their time on GM

The New York Jets are taking a Ground & Pound approach to their search for a new general manager -- slow and deliberate. There's nothing wrong with that, as long they don't pull a Tony Sparano and play for a field goal. Or, worse, suffer a Butt Fumble.

During their 11 days without a GM, the Jets have reached out to no fewer than 14 prospective candidates, at least seven of whom already have interviewed for the job. To use a pet phrase from former GM Mike Tannenbaum, they're exercising due diligence. They're looking under every rock (another Tannenbaum-ism), and that's a good thing.

The Jets, one of three teams still in the GM market, are trying hard to get this right. They've made so many bad decisions over the years and decades that you can't blame them for being thorough. It's not like they've missed out on any megastar GM prospects.

What about Dave Caldwell, the former Falcons executive? The Jets liked him a lot, but he was just another name in the crowd until Thursday, when, in his first news conference as the Jaguars' GM (perhaps the first of his life), he told Jaguar Nation and the world that he wanted no part of Tim Tebow. Instant headline.

The Jets being the Jets, there's always the possibility they could turn this search into a circus. For now, let's cut them a little slack as we wait for owner Woody Johnson, president Neil Glat and their headhunter pal, Jed Hughes, to make a decision.

Under Johnson's ownership, the Jets have been a keep-it-in-the-family kind of organization, but now is the time to go outside the family and seek a fresh approach. They're doing that -- or at least trying to.

Let's dig a little deeper and examine some trends and myths that have developed during the Jets' search:

The Rex Factor: Johnson announced that Rex Ryan isn't going anywhere, and some people think the keep-Rex mandate is scaring away potential candidates. I'm not sure about that. The GM wannabes know the ground rules before they walk in the door. The Jets made it clear that Ryan is part of the package.

The one semi-big name that spurned the Jets was Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta, but was it because of Ryan? Obviously, he knows Ryan from their time together in Baltimore, but it's hard to believe that's the reason he declined an interview. DeCosta has incentive to remain in Baltimore; he's Ozzie Newsome's heir apparent. He issued a statement the day after the season, saying he's not interested in going anywhere.

A shift in focus? It's interesting to note that, after not being blown away by any of the candidates in the first round of interviews, the Jets set up meetings with two so-called "numbers" guys -- Steelers director of football and business administration Omar Khan and Seahawks vice president of football administration John Idzik. Khan was scheduled to interview Thursday, Idzik Friday.

They both specialize in contracts and salary cap, not scouting and personnel, meaning they wouldn't be a traditional GM. The Jets started the search looking for a strong talent evaluator who could rebuild a declining roster, so it makes you wonder if they've shifted gears.

Khan's résumé is eerily similar to that of Tannenbaum. Khan is 35, attended Tulane and started out as an intern with the Saints. Tannenbaum earned a law degree from Tulane, spent some time with the Saints and was named GM at 36 after starting out as a capologist.

It would be a mistake to hire a bean-counting, big-picture guy, giving more say in personnel to Ryan. He should stick to coaching, not picking players.

Thinking outside the box -- and country: The Jets are reportedly interested in Jim Popp, the longtime GM of the CFL's Montreal Alouettes. Popp recently interviewed unsuccessfully for the Panthers' GM vacancy. He's from North Carolina, played at Michigan State, coached at a bunch of different U.S. colleges and probably knows his stuff. But he has no NFL experience. This would be a bold hire by the Jets, probably too bold.