Many moons ago — 14 years to be precise — Mike Tannenbaum was a rookie general manager conducting his first NFL draft and faced with making a high first-round pick he hoped would shape the Jets for the long term.
This was not at all dissimilar to what Joe Douglas was facing shortly before 10 o’clock Thursday night when pick No. 11 arrived at his doorstep.
Tannenbaum had the fourth-overall pick in the 2006 draft and he chose left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson. All Ferguson did from there was become a 10-year starter who started all 160 games of his career and never missed a single practice.
Douglas can only hope to be that fortunate with his first pick as a GM — Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton, a 6-foot-7, 364-pound monster who the Jets envision as not only Sam Darnold’s bodyguard but a road grader for running back Le’Veon Bell.
“The biggest beneficiary of that pick should be Sam Darnold,’’ Tannenbaum told The Post on Friday. “Becton is an older-school, power tackle. He’s going to set a very firm pocket. He establishes what a Joe Douglas player is. I think it’s a great first pick for him, because Joe Douglas talked a lot about the offensive line. So that really lined up well with his vision for the team.
“Becton is generational. He’s 364 pounds and he ran a 5.1 in the 40. There were some quarterbacks who didn’t run that fast. I love Becton from a mindset standpoint and what he stands for.’’
Becton played 21 games at left tackle and 12 at right tackle in college. Tannenbaum, who was in the Miami front office when current Jets coach Adam Gase was the Dolphins coach, said he doesn’t believe it matters which side Becton plays for the system Gase runs.
“In Adam’s offense, he loves to throw the ball outside the numbers in the quick game,’’ he said. “Left and right is important in that offense, but more important is the athleticism of those tackles to get out on the perimeter, and Becton is faster than you think. I think you’re going to see dramatic improvement in Darnold because of [George] Fant [the tackle the Jets signed this offseason] and Becton.’’
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Tannenbaum, to this day, still marvels at Ferguson’s stability and consistency and how it changed the Jets line for a decade.
“D’Brickashaw Ferguson set what may be the most unmatchable record in the history of North American team sports,’’ he said. “In his career, D’Brickashaw Ferguson missed one snap. It was on a Hail Mary where [cornerback] Darrelle Revis was actually the left tackle. He never missed a practice. In his entire career, he was never listed on the injury report. He never got medical treatment once in his career. Ever.’’
Tannenbaum will never forget the lead-up to that 2006 draft, of course not knowing what was ahead of him in Ferguson and center Nick Mangold in the first round and the anchors they’d become on the Jets offensive line.
It was much the way Douglas clearly felt going into this draft in that there was no question that fixing a broken offensive line was priority No. 1.
Who knew it would take 14 years before the Jets would draft another offensive lineman in the first round before Thursday night?
This is what Tannenbaum vividly recalled saying to his coaches and scouts entering that 2006 draft:
“Look, I don’t care if John Elway was in this draft, we can’t block [New England’s] Richard Seymour, we can’t block [Miami’s] Jason Taylor, so if we don’t help anybody up-front, whether it’s Chad Pennington or whomever, nothing matters, we can all go home right now. We stink on the offensive line.’’
“We lost two quarterbacks in seven snaps the year before ,’’ Tannenbaum said, referring to Pennington and Jay Fieldler suffering season-ending injuries, within minutes, in a Week 3 loss to the Jaguars.
Enter Ferguson and Mangold in that next draft. The Jets, who finished 4-12 in 2005, went 10-6 and went to the playoffs in Ferguson and Mangold’s rookie season in 2006. They went on to have a winning record in four of the next five seasons, making the playoffs three times.
“D’Brickashaw and Mangold were foundational players,’’ Tannenbaum said. “We won a ton of games with both of them.’’
Joe Douglas can only hope for the same after conducting the top of his maiden draft with the same conviction Tannenbaum did his 14 years ago.
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