By Kristian Dyer
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Over the next 48 hours, New York Jets general manager John Idzik will have the chance to prove that he was the right hire seven months ago to finally reverse the curse on this franchise.
When owner Woody Johnson made Idzik the man to replace Mike Tannenbaum, a general manager who now receives a bad rap but who oversaw a successful time with the Jets that included consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances, he was looking for a dynamic culture shift for a team that had been labeled a “circus” the past two years. In Idzik, the Jets got someone who was cool, calm and calculating with a button-up approach and a no-nonsense style. In short, he is the perfect foil to current head coach Rex Ryan, in that Idzik rarely tips his hand or shows his emotions in public.
But over the next two days, Idzik will have to whittle down a roster of wannabes and hopefuls along with some underperforming veterans if he wants to build a team that will stand the test of time by NFL standards. This is where he must establish a new identity for the Jets and not repeat the patterns of the past.
This means that Idzik can’t play sentimental favorites. He can’t hand jobs to players based on their salary or their draft stock, or the name on the back of their jerseys or the fact that he brought them into the team. So far, he has done just that.
Last week when he narrowed the roster down to 75 players, Idzik made the tough call to cut fan-favorite Braylon Edwards, among others. It was a move that didn’t exactly resonate on the Twittersphere, as Edwards is akin to a legend among the current crop of Jets fans, despite his declining production. He also cut ties with Joe McKnight, one of the game’s most dynamic kick returners who came with significant baggage this offseason. Both moves carried risk. Both moves could well backfire.
But both moves required courage and daring. And both moves had to be made.
Now will Idzik continue to do the same, even with players he has brought in this offseason who haven’t performed well — or with his draft picks who may not have earned a spot on the final roster?
The real test and real measure of a general manager in this league is his adaptability to the ever-changing flux of an NFL roster. What makes teams great, like the New England Patriots and the New York Giants and the franchises that are perennial winners, is that they make personnel decisions devoid of emotion and a sense of obligation. They look at a bottom line that is measured solely in wins and championships.
Not tickets or jersey sales or primetime television slots. Simply wins, and Idzik must focus on that alone right now.
He will have to be levelheaded and clear when it comes to the best interest of the team, and not worry about his reputation. That means that a draft pick such as Will Campbell, taken this year in the sixth round, should be on the chopping block despite him being an Idzik selection.
Idzik inherited a roster that was very top-heavy, with big money tied down to players like quarterback Mark Sanchez, left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and linebacker David Harris. Those players may not be able to go this year or even anytime soon, but the tough decisions must be made on a host of other positions on this team.
In the past, the Jets have been bound by a short-term approach to team building, one that focused on stars past their prime and big names to draw crowds. It left the team with losses and without direction. Now, Idzik must steer the future of this team away from its own quick-fix past.
The decisions won’t be easy, but his job will be judged by them.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the Jets for Metro New York and also contributes to Yahoo! Sports. He can be followed for news and random tweets at @KristianRDyer.
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