GM Idzik eager to please, plots turnaround

Jerry Beach, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Like most executives, John Idzik uttered his share of talking points during his first press conference as the Jets' general manager Thursday morning. He spoke of emphasizing constant competition within the 53-man roster and of building a "sustainable winner" with a collaborative effort he titled "the collective we."
Idzik's most interesting talking point was also the one he used most frequently. Four times, Idzik expressed his disdain for what he called "misperceptions" and said that he preferred to deal in reality.
Perhaps Idzik was trying to erase the image that the Jets replaced one cap guy, Mike Tannenbaum, with another. Idzik comes to the Jets after spending six years as the Seahawks' vice president of football administration, but he is a football lifer who spent childhood summers attending training camps with his dad, former Jets assistant coach Jack Idzik, before playing collegiately at Dartmouth and beginning his professional football career by serving as an assistant coach with the Aberdeen Oilers -- of the British American Football League.
"If you want to answer perceptions, I would ask you to just go back to the numerous people that I've worked alongside in my NFL career," Idzik said. "Football is at the root of who I am. I've been a football guy ... since I was six years old."
Or perhaps Idzik was firing a salvo on behalf of the man who just hired him. The overwhelming perception of Woody Johnson is that he is presiding over a circus act franchise in a constant state of turmoil.
The Jets interviewed 10 men before hiring Idzik, which gave off the perception that Johnson was having a tough time finding someone willing to take the job and the unique challenges that come with it.
The Jets, who are 14-18 the last two years, are expected to be well over the 2013 salary cap of $121 million but have more than 10 percent of that number locked up in guaranteed salaries for Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes. Idzik inherits a headstrong head coach in Rex Ryan and will be working for an involved owner in Johnson.
In addition, the Jets created more headlines and got more airtime than any 6-10 team in history last year, when Tim Tebow fielded many more questions at press conferences than he did snaps at quarterback and Ryan seemingly spent at least one press conference per week answering questions about an anonymously sourced story in one of New York's tabloids.
After the Jets postponed Ryan's season-ending news conference on Dec. 31, Ryan went on vacation to the Bahamas, where he was captured sunbathing and sporting a tattoo of his wife Michelle wearing only a Sanchez jersey.
And as if on cue on Thursday afternoon, Darrelle Revis Tweeted that he was "speechless," presumably because of the CBS Sports report Wednesday night that the Jets are looking to deal Revis, who is due for free agency following the 2013 season.
Idzik said he didn't sense an organization in disarray when he visited the Jets' facility for the first time Thursday morning, when he said he was impressed by "the entire building" coming down to meet him during breakfast.
"It's up to me and everybody here to join together," Idzik said. "I don't sense dysfunction or anything like that."
If he does, will Johnson give him the autonomy to change the culture? Johnson seems to enjoy the celebrity and football insider status that comes with owning the Jets, which is certainly understandable.
Prior to the 2009 draft, he joined Tannenbaum and Ryan for a secretive get-to-know-you dinner with Sanchez. Earlier this week, Johnson accompanied Idzik and Ryan to the Senior Bowl.
Johnson generated some guffaws during the 2012 season when he said the Jets had to cut down on their "foot faults" and that the Jets should have done a better job of preparing for J.J. Watt - who tipped three passes in the Texans' 23-17 win over the Jets in October - by either not throwing " that area or throw[ing] extremely high."
Johnson reportedly told general manager candidates this month that Tebow was forced on him. (He denied those claims Thursday) Yet Johnson told CNBC in August that " can never have too much Tebow" and told the network in October that Tebow would remain with the Jets through the end of his rookie contract in 2014.
Johnson spent $635 million on the Jets in 2000 and has turned them into a billion-dollar operation. He can run the team as he likes. But the best organizations in football - the ones the Jets are chasing - are owned by men who realize the best way to succeed is by cultivating stability and then letting that speak on their behalf.
Five of the six AFC playoff teams this year also reached the postseason last year, and four of those teams -- the Patriots, Ravens, Texans and Bengals -- have had the same head coach/general manager combination for at least the last five years. Ryan, meanwhile, is the Jets' sixth head coach since 1997 and Idzik the team's fourth general manager since Johnson purchased the team in 2000.
The owners of the AFC's elite franchises are synonymous with anonymity. Did anyone outside of Baltimore recognize Steve Bisciotti when he was presented with the Lamar Hunt Trophy after the Ravens beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship game on Sunday?
Speaking of the Patriots: Robert Kraft used to jet around the country on scouting missions, a la Johnson. After the Patriots selected Tebucky Jones in the first round of the 1997 draft -- mere months after Bill Parcells bolted the Patriots for the Jets so that he could buy his own groceries without Kraft tossing items into his shopping cart -- Kraft declared Jones, whom he'd helped scout at Syracuse, could be a "press corner."
Three mediocre seasons later, Kraft fired Pete Carroll, hired Bill Belichick (after Belichick's one day as the head coach of the NYJ, of course) and got out of the way. Since then, the Patriots have won 11 division titles, five AFC Championship Games and three Super Bowls.
"I'm happy to let our results and our organization speak for itself," Kraft told The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy prior to the Patriots' first Super Bowl win in February 2002.
Finding a quarterback, deciding what to do with Revis and restocking a barren roster are all ample challenges for Idzik. But convincing Johnson to be as similarly satisfied as Kraft may end up becoming Idzik's biggest task.

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