FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Frustrated Jets fans have taken to the air to vent.
A plane with a banner urging the team to fire John Idzik circled several times above the practice field for about 20 minutes Wednesday as the players went through drills while New York’s embattled general manager watched.
The banner — in red, 5-foot uppercase letters — read “FIRE JOHN IDZIK” as it flapped behind the small plane. The plane arrived minutes after the media got to practice as Jets players began stretching.
“That was a first,” quarterback Michael Vick said after practice. “I think that was a bit extreme. That money that was spent on that jet fuel could have been given to some type of charity. Believe me, there are people out here in the world that need it.”
Rookie safety Calvin Pryor didn’t take too kindly to the banner, either. But it comes with the territory of being 1-8 in the Big Apple.
“This place, when things go bad, some people can be kind of ruthless and not care about anyone else’s feelings but their own,” Pryor said, according to Newsday.
According to NJ.com, Pryor was overheard telling Vick: “Nothing surprises me about New York anymore. After today, nothing.”
Backup quarterback Geno Smith admitted he was bothered by the banner. Offensive lineman Willie Colon called it “disheartening” — especially while preparing for a tough opponent in the Pittsburgh Steelers — and took issue with a reporter questioning whether anyone spoke with Idzik.
“You think anybody had the (guts) to say something to John Idzik, our GM?” he said. “That’s a dumb question.”
As it buzzed above, it appeared many players tried to ignore the plane after taking a quick glance — as Idzik stood on the sideline. Owner Woody Johnson was also attending practice, and was seen speaking with Idzik and Ryan at one point.
“Trust me, I get it,” Ryan said after the 1-8 Jets practiced. “I know our fans are really frustrated. There’s no doubt about it. Obviously, we’re very frustrated. Everybody is. We want to win. I personally don’t think it’s appropriate. We’re working our butts off — John, everybody — to find a way to win.”
The plane stopped circling shortly before the 30-minute period in which the media is allowed to attend practice.
“It’s annoying,” Vick said. “You see that and you’re out there trying to practice and put everything into practice and all of your efforts and then you see something that becomes a distraction.
“Then, there’s a whole bunch of negative thoughts that start going through your head and everybody’s attention is up in the sky as opposed to the practice field.”
Vick added that his teammates did a good job of maintaining their focus.
“I just think some of this is a little over the top,” Ryan said.
Ashley Chalmers, owner of Jersey Shore Aerial Advertising, told The Associated Press that his company flew the banner over the facility under a subcontract from another company and it cost a “frustrated fan” — identified only as a female — less than $1,000.
Chalmers’ company often flies banners with either corporate advertising or personal messages — “Will You Marry Me?” — over sporting events and beaches, but it was the first time it had one fly over the Jets’ practice facility.
“I saw the team down there and, to be honest, I kind of felt bad for them because they’re having such a bad year,” said Chalmers, who piloted the plane out of Central Jersey Airport. “I didn’t realize how big this would become and I’m kind of stunned.”
Chalmers added that there’s “absolutely a chance” the banner will fly again Sunday over MetLife Stadium for the Jets’ game against the Steelers.
“I’m upset because, and I understand the billboard thing and all of that stuff out there, and then this,” Ryan said, “even though I recognize the fans are in pain and we all want to win, but to place it on one person, I don’t think it’s fair.”
Ryan said the banner “maybe a little” crossed the line, in his opinion, but added that the fans have the right to do whatever they want. The coach added that Idzik is “tough,” when asked about the GM’s reaction.
“It wasn’t something he was overly upset with,” Ryan said. “I’m sure he wasn’t pleased with it.”
Neither Idzik nor Johnson was available for comment.
Idzik, in his second season as the Jets’ GM, has been highly criticized as the team is off to a terrible start that includes eight straight losses. He gave a state-of-the-team address last week, in which he opened with a 19-minute statement that included Idzik taking responsibility for the Jets’ situation, but he also rambled at times without definitively stating how the team would turn things around.
That drew the ire of many Jets fans who have flooded sports talk shows and websites with their disappointment with how Idzik has handled things.
Among their gripes are the lack of depth at cornerback, failed draft picks — only five of the 12 from last May are on the active roster — and the failure of Geno Smith to prove himself as a franchise-type quarterback.
The Jets are also hoping to not lose a franchise-record ninth straight game when they play the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium on Sunday
Ryan has been on the hot seat all season, his sixth with the team, but there’s also growing sentiment among fans that Idzik should also be fired with the Jets likely to miss the postseason for the fourth straight year.
“It’s just like kick a man while he’s down, all right, we understand that,” Vick said. “People do that. Some people want to see other people suffer. I think at the end of the day, we all have a job to do, we are all professionals, and some things don’t go right.”
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