By Jason Keidel
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A report on these pages had the Jets already thumbing through coaching candidates to replace Rex Ryan, the NFL’s dead man walking.
Leading the crusade is Woody Johnson, which makes sense. What makes a modicum of sense is his wingman in the endeavor, general manager John Idzik.
Idzik is equally, if not more, responsible for the fate of the floundering Jets, who just won the most wretched game of the season against the Titans, who play much like the Jets, which is quite fitting when you consider the Jets used to be named the Titans and neither is playing titanic today.
The Jets won the game because someone had to, not because they really wanted to. Nor do their fans, who see each win as a hurdle to the first pick it he draft. If you’re going to tank, then do it with purpose. The difference between two and three wins this year has an epic impact on your draft pick. So if you’re just jostling for Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota, then go get him and to hell with these meaningless, December formalities.
And then there’s Idzik, who came to Gang Green as a cap guru masquerading as a personnel man who did neither with arithmetical alacrity.
His signature moment as a GM was blowing a top 10 pick on Dee Milliner. Everyone is allowed a lame draft pick, but just not your first one. Jets fans were rather suspicious of his bona fides in the first place, considering an NFL GM is not usually the product of a head hunting firm.
Then came Idzik’s Magnum Opus as a salary cap savant, leaving $20 million in cap space on the table before the season began, rather than using the copious quid to plug the myriad holes on Gang Green’s roster.
The more cynical side of Jets fans feels that Idzik kept the cash to cost Ryan his job. You can decide if that’s the Grassy Knoll Group or if there’s some real meat to the assertion. But if Idzik wasn’t trying to ambush Ryan, then it’s hard to provide a linear or logical reason for gutting the team so plainly and publicly. It speaks directly to his competence.
So if Woody is really leaning on Idzik to build this team, then he’s relying on the very man who wrecked this team, which makes this move bewildering to even the most detached or objective observer.
Football is hailed as the quintessential team endeavor, each team as strong or weak as its 53rd player. The sport dwells in wartime metaphors, in the old-world ethos of teamwork and sacrifice and a selfless, military coda. It’s the name stitched on front of your uniform that matters, we’re eternally told.
By that blue-collar ethic, then the buck stops at the top. If we assume the men on the field are following orders, are a symphony of Xs and Os, executed as instituted, then you must go to the man who picked them and put them on the field.
It’s already common knowledge that Ryan has been vocationally gelded by Idzik, that the loquacious coach can’t even pick his starting quarterback. So if Ryan has spent this season as little more than a puppet, a carcass with a headset, then this wreck of a team is on Idzik.
Which is to say either you keep both or can both. This isn’t about ornery fans flying signs over MetLife imploring the Jets to jettison the GM. This is about the putrid product you see every Sunday. And during his galling press conference a month or so ago, Idzik said this squad, this season, was on him.
Indeed. It’s time for Woody Johnson to clean house. No top-notch coach will hop the Hudson with this boogeyman as boss. Jim Harbaugh, the jewel of every head coaching search this winter, will scoff or laugh at a staff that can’t even spend the cap money it was handed.
To borrow from Bill Parcells, the patron saint of our pro teams, no chef will commandeer your kitchen with John Idzik buying the groceries.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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