Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — John Idzik stood in front of the masses at the Jets’ facility in Florham Park, N.J., on Thursday and boldly laid out the future for a franchise in dire need of a star map.
The new general manager may not have given the types of specific answers that the fans wanted, but he made sure to offer everyone a taste of the trajectory that his ship will travel in the coming years.
The former front office man with the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers paid homage to everyone and everything required of him. He lauded the Jets’ organization and the facilities and told the fans that if nothing else he’s not worried about what’s to come.
Now, whether you believe him or not is up to you, but he did sort of restore order to a galaxy filled with many black holes.
And, perhaps most importantly, he made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t a puppet hire, put in place to bow down to every one of Rex Ryan’s demands. I got the impression that the buck will truly stop with Idzik, regardless if the decisions made are ultimately proven right or wrong.
The NFL is a strange place. It’s been proven time and again that one bad season doesn’t necessarily mean a long and arduous rebuilding process. The Jets were 6-10 in 2012 with a roster that didn’t exactly scare anyone, primarily on the offensive side of the ball, but it’s not a roster so devoid of talent to think no matter what the Jets do this offseason they won’t be at least competitive next season.
But that’s not what Thursday was about. The press conference introduced a man that may in fact be owner Woody Johnson’s new love interest. Reports have surfaced of late that Johnson may not be as enamored with Ryan as has been widely reported. That’s not to say that Johnson doesn’t look at his coach as his son, but it may mean he’s adopted another son, perhaps one with way more upside in all things franchise building.
And that’s what the Jets need right now, not bravado and pomp and circumstances and back-page headlines, but quiet and steely confidence and a plan. Idzik appears to have one in theory, and that in itself is a far cry from the thought process the Jets had to close the 2012 season.
Idzik has been criticized for not being a true “football guy,” but he himself said that he has no reservations about his abilities to help put together a football team that not only wins, but wins over the test of time. Look no further than the cultures he helped cultivate in Seattle (currently the NFL’s “it” franchise), Arizona (the years leading up to the Cardinals’ Super Bowl appearance) and San Francisco (an organization on the upswing over the last decade and now just a win from ruling the empire).
Come hell or high water, Idzik is going to amass draft picks. His plan is to build an enormous talent pool, one that will give him a much larger margin for error as far as his reputation goes for assessing players. The Jets won’t hope and pray for the best from four picks in seven rounds, as we’ve seen before. They will sit back and truly play the field with multiple picks in multiple rounds. If you need proof, look at what Idzik had a big hand in creating with the Seahawks. They have 10 picks in the upcoming draft and are by many accounts already a fancy pick to get to the Super Bowl next year in East Rutherford, N.J.
But to get all of these draft picks, Idzik is going to have to make some shrewd decisions, ones that will likely put him at odds with Ryan from time to time. The big one, of course, will be deciding what to do with all-everything cornerback Darrelle Revis. As I reported Wednesday, the Jets have already had discussions with the Revis camp about possibly trading him. It’s believed Johnson has soured on the whole idea of trying to sign Revis long-term, not because he doesn’t want Revis in the fold, but because it’s not feasible right now to build a young team and have one player making $16 million per season, a ballpark payout you know Revis will want considering he signed a low-ball deal three years ago and then went out and basically solidified his standing as possibly the best defensive player in the game.
Despite Idzik dancing around the question on Thursday — he said everyone needed to cut him some slack because he just saw his office for the first time — he’s going to look long and hard at the Revis question. And if you believe all that he said about building a franchise through the draft and using free agency more as a vehicle to find needed role players, logic suggests Revis will eventually be traded. However, it’s important to note here that Revis is not a guy bad teams dump to cut salary, as you see from rebuilding teams all the time across all the major sports. He’s the franchise right now. He’s the guy that brings back the building blocks for all that the Jets hope to be going forward. You don’t just trade this guy to cut payroll, because in truth the Jets wouldn’t save all that much anyway, since Revis will only make $6 million next season with incentives. You trade him for the opportunity to become big-time players in the draft.
Which is what the Jets need to be right now, and Idzik knows it.
Then there’s the Mark Sanchez question, another inquiry that Idzik talked around but I believe will address in short order.
Getting rid of Sanchez and the $17 million in dead money that would crucify the Jets’ salary cap next season is a Herculean task, one that probably no GM is capable of today. Idzik spoke of liking Sanchez as a prospect when he was at USC. He spoke of how Sanchez will be part of the pool of players the front office will assess under a high-powered microscope. If there’s a way to move him out, I think Idzik will explore it, but reality is you can almost certainly bet that Sanchez will be back and possibly the starter next season. Now, before you roll your eyes at that notion, please understand the Jets will be installing a version of the West Coast Offense under new offensive coordinator Marty Morninwheg. That offense’s success is predicated on the short and intermediate passing game, something Sanchez, at least at one time, executed fairly well.
If the Jets can’t move that albatross of a salary, at least they will have Sanchez in the right type of system to have him succeed, should he be the starter. If someone like a Matt Moore is brought in instead, at least you know there will be a healthy quarterback competition in training camp. Either way, the Jets will be in better shape at the position than they were at the end of the 2012 season. No one is expecting miracles, just at a minimum competence at the position. It’s possible that the introduction of the West Coast Offense could restore some semblance of order to the chaos.
Personnel aside, at the end of the day the Jets will only go in the right direction if Ryan swallows some of his pride and lets Idzik do the job he was brought in to do. Personally, I think Rex has always wanted a competent GM in place, someone to chew his ear one minute and challenge him the next, while all the while keeping the franchise’s finances in check. But Ryan is going to have to learn how to temper his enthusiasm a bit. If he wants a certain player, either through the draft or free agency, he’s going to have to make a strong case that goes beyond the “well, this is my team” mantra.
Ryan needs to defer to Idzik, not the other way around. I think the new GM respects this coach and wants him to succeed. Nobody wants to lose a year just to make more coaching and front office changes next offseason. The best thing these two can do is find a middle ground that leans toward what’s best for the Jets going forward, not what fuels Rex’s ego based on hunches. And I say that because Ryan’s track record of assessing players isn’t what he thinks it is.
And the best thing Idzik can do is stick to the course he’s laid out. The Jets have lacked conviction for years, often flying by the seat of their pants in the personnel department. They have made some wise decisions, as the recent draft selections of Muhammad Wilkerson and Jeremy Kerley have illustrated, but those two are the exception rather than the rule.
Idzik needs to be true to his word. If he is, and the Jets build something to remember, he’ll own this town.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
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