By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
If you know anything about how the Jets operated prior to this offseason, you are very much aware that Florham Park, N.J., was the NFL’s version of the Wild West.
But then John Idzik rode into town on an old paint, as a lawman with a unique gait and unassuming drawl, and things started to change.
Prior to his arrival, the nights were filled with mayhem on the dirt-covered streets and the saloons featured plenty of intimidation of town’s folk who simply wanted nothing more than to wet their whistles after a long day of hard work in the blazing sun.
Call it an overused cliché if you want, but the Jets needed a new sheriff or a mysterious stranger to materialize, one that knew he couldn’t round-up all the outlaws in one sweep but was willing to change things regardless of the timetable of the impatient. They needed a thinking man, someone who specialized in making a town prosperous, someone who had a vision of an outpost of ill repute one day turning into a true spot on the map the next.
Idzik, at least so far, seems like the guy in the movies who is more than willing to draw his revolver in a duel, but one that’s not filled with rage or intent on settling old scores, or at least settling them quickly. He’s conducted himself during this offseason as a gunfighter or card player waiting for a twitch or a tell.
And he seems like he’s not going to draw or show his hand until the time is absolutely necessary.
No, Idzik is not Ted Thompson, Thomas Dimitroff or Ozzie Newsome. He’s got a long way to go before he can even be mentioned with those general managers as far as building a powerhouse franchise is concerned. But he’s also not Mike Tannenbaum, the previous lawman who was run out of town after throwing down his green sash.
Idzik is the guy with a vision of a better Florham Park, and he’s got the backing of the town’s richest man, which we all know goes a long way towards real change. Though this rich man is flawed, he’s also not stupid. Woody Johnson needed someone with a clue and now he’s got him.
And if you look at the moves that have been made so far, or, more specifically, the ones that haven’t been made, you can rest a little easier. The Jets are not about robbing stagecoaches anymore. They’re into working for a living.
For his part in this story of the search for justice and a fresh start, Darrelle Revis is like the last remaining member of the gang that at times couldn’t shoot straight. He was never the rabble-rouser, but was the guy that commanded the respect of everyone else in his posse and the majority of the law-abiding citizens. His vision never included spilling blood for the sake of spilling blood, but always was all about doing whatever was necessary to attain vast wealth. Though the people in town respected him, they always felt like they were being held hostage, like he was the cowboy that you looked at never really sure of where his true allegiances stood. Perhaps he was just here to make his fortune before moving on to greener pastures, regardless of what he told you.
The showdown between the town’s anti-hero and the stranger that just rode in was inevitable. And so far the stranger is refusing to draw, because sometimes in a gunfight it’s better to wait out your adversary, see who’s got the true gumption with every eye watching.
Idzik is playing Revis like an old, dusty banjo right now. And he’s giving the members of the media, some of whom are squarely in the Revis camp instead of doing the professional thing by not picking sides, nothing to work with. Revis may still be traded, but Idzik is not going to let anyone influence how the deal gets done, if it gets done at all.
When a town is under new management, the flow of information changes. Reporters ran amok in 2011 and 2012, free to write whatever they wanted while hiding behind sources cloaked in black hats and bandanas. You can already tell that a reporter’s job in this town is going to get a hell of a lot harder in 2013. Sources, specifically the unnamed variety, are going to dry up. And if they don’t, considering the precedent Idzik is in the process of setting, both reporter and source will need to be heavily scrutinized once they combine on a story that they think their audience needs to know.
The Jets finally seem to have a front office structure. All information will flow through this general manager. I get the impression if anyone not named Idzik or Johnson reveals state secrets to anyone he or she will spend considerable time in the hoosegow. I think Rex Ryan, he of the Tannenbaum green sash gang who for whatever reason avoided the hangman when the new law and order swept through the town, will be, as far as his boisterous personality goes, relatively muted. And if you are the Jets and their fans, that’s what you want. Ryan needs to worry about the on-field product. Let Idzik do the talking. If he fails to coach up this team there will be even more “Wanted” posters all over town than there are now.
The Jets have a responsibility to themselves to be fiscally responsible. They also owe it to the fans that shell out absurd prices for PSLs to put something resembling a competitive team on the field. Idzik is trying to shoot a bunch of whisky bottles off a distant rock with one bullet. Now, you could get all annoyed because Mike Goodson, Antonio Garay and Willie Colon are not household names, or you could look beyond your need for the quick fix.
If Idzik has done nothing else he’s made one message clear: training camp will be about competition. No steep investments in players, long term or otherwise, will be made until guys prove their worth, and the Jets’ so-called salary cap hell — they are approximately a respectable $11 million under right now — will be a distant memory as early as next offseason. The three guys Idzik signed last week are hungry football players, guys who want a chance to make their names known. They are willing to fight for starting jobs. They also add depth at positions the Jets absolutely had to bolster. Do they make the Jets better? Well, they don’t make them worse when you consider the players that walked off into the sunset. This idea of a mass exodus is being overblown, the loss of LaRon Landry aside.
The competition at quarterback is beginning to take form. Sure, David Garrard is in no way a sexy signing, but he is a smart signing, because he has something to prove and, when healthy, won’t turn the ball over 50 times in two years like another signal-caller I could name. Kevin Kolb has been rumored as a potential target and, yes, he too is not a messiah, but he knows the Marty Mornhinweg offense. Kolb and Garrard will absolutely push that other QB much more than Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy, an idea that Tannenbaum inexplicably thought was practical.
And there will be more moves that will surely annoy the fan base, but they won’t be moves made simply for the sake of being made. The Jets need numbers and bodies with at least some ability if 2013 is to avoid becoming an embarrassing year. They need guys without any laurels to rest on. They need positional battles and intensity in camp, and they need guys who can assimilate into this new family, as opposed to the fractured household this team became during the previous two seasons.
You cannot judge Idzik the talent evaluator for at least two years. That’s how long at a minimum it will take to assess the 2013 draft and any player he signs. But you can judge him now on the change of message and the organizational approach to how things are done. And if you don’t like what you have seen so far you either have to open your eyes or resign yourself to the fact that you’ll never be happy.
Getting back to Revis, I can say with confidence that regardless of what his future ends up being, the Jets will come out of this in a better place than they were in at the end of the 2012 season. They will either get a very good package in a trade or they will sign him to what will be deemed as a fair contract by both sides.
I can say this because Idzik doesn’t have an itchy trigger finger. He’s a thinking man’s lawman.
And while it seems like the tumbleweeds are blowing through the streets of Florham Park right now, they won’t be for very long. Parity in the NFL isn’t an old wives’ tale. It happens with regularity.
And Idzik just got a stake in a Faro card game, with no intention of letting the next gang to blow into town beat the banker.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
Are you happy with the moves the Jets have made so far this offseason? Do you have confidence in Idzik to fix the franchise? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …