clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

R.I.P. John Idzik, Sr. (1928-2013)

John Idzik, Sr., father of NY Jets GM John Idzik, Jr., died last Tuesday, December 3, 2013.

John Idzik, Sr.
John Idzik, Sr.
Photo via Wikipedia

The father of NY Jets GM John Idzik Jr. has died. The senior Mr. Idzik was a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A star high school back, Mr. Idzik went on to be a four year letter man defensive back at the University of Maryland, graduating in 1951. After college Mr. Idzik landed a series of assistant coaching jobs with U.S. college teams, as well as the CFL Ottawa Rough Riders, before landing his first, and only, head coaching position with the University of Detroit in 1962. He stayed with the University of Detroit through the 1964 season, after which the football program there was discontinued.

In 1966 Mr. Idzik landed his first NFL job, coaching the backs with the Miami Dolphins through 1969. He is generally given credit for convincing the Dolphins to draft RB Jim Kiick in the 1969 draft. At the time Kiick was considered too slow for the NFL. Kiick went on to a very successful career in Miami, part of Miami's famed three headed RB system featuring Kiick, Mercury Morris and Larry Czonka.

Mr. Idzik left Miami to coach the backs with the Baltimore Colts in 1970, where he won his first and only Super Bowl as part of the Colts' staff in January 1971. Two years later the entire Colts coaching staff was dismissed, and Mr. Idzik was hired as Offensive Coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1973, where he coached through the 1975 season.

In 1976 Mr. Idzik was hired by Jets Head Coach Lou Holtz as Offensive Coordinator. Mr. Holtz selected Walt Michaels as Defensive Coordinator. After one disastrous season in NY, Holtz resigned and Michaels was retained as the new Head Coach. Michaels chose to keep Mr. Idzik on as Offensive Coordinator. The late 1970's with Michaels and Idzik proved to be a sort of mini revival of Jets fortunes after the horrific post Super Bowl III period. After going 34-64 from 1970-1976, the famed 1977 draft brought the Jets an unrivaled bounty including Joe Klecko, Wesley Walker, Marvin Powell and Dan Alexander, among others. The result was back to back 8-8 seasons in 1978 and 1979, which in those days represented a high water mark of sorts for the Jets. This set the Jets up for their Sack Exchange glory days of the early 1980's, though neither Michaels nor Idzik would stay on long enough to enjoy those days.

As Offensive Coordinator Mr. Idzik was responsible for the development of Joe Namath's anointed heir apparent, 1976 #6 overall draft pick Richard Todd, from Namath's alma mater, the University of Alabama. Todd struggled mightily in the Idzik years, eventually losing his starting position in 1978 to unheralded Matt Robinson, a 1977 ninth round pick out of the University of Georgia. Robinson was arguably even worse than Todd, but developed a somewhat undeserved reputation with Walt Michaels as a winner. This set the stage for Mr. Idzik's eventual fall out with Mr. Michaels, as Idzik backed Todd and Michaels backed Robinson. Mr. Idzik resigned after the 1979 season, at least partially over the Todd/Robinson rift. Somewhat ironically, Robinson left via trade to the Denver Broncos less than 2 months after Idzik's departure. The Robinson deal, which netted the Jets 1st and 2nd round draft choices from the Broncos, was in effect a reverse Tebow deal to the nth power, in which the Jets fleeced the Broncos for multiple high draft picks in exchange for a terrible QB who completed less than 47% of his passes and started all of 7 games the rest of his short career.

John Idzik, Sr. presided over steadily improving Jets offenses that ranked 25th, 19th, 12th, and 9th in the NFL. While those numbers seem modest, they were clearly headed in the right direction, and fell back to 20th the year after Idzik left. That 9th ranking also represents one of only five top 10 offenses the Jets have had in the last 40 years.

Mr. Idzik unfortunately left just prior to the light bulb finally turning on for his protege, Richard Todd. After suffering through 4 seasons ranging from mediocre to terrible under Idzik, Todd finally blossomed briefly under Joe Walton, leading the Jets to the playoffs with back to back near Pro Bowl caliber years with the Sack Exchange Jets of 1981 and 1982, before sinking back into mediocrity the final 3 years of his career.

John Idzik, Sr. had his last coaching job in 1981-1982, coaching the Baltimore Colts' backs. The 1981 Colts team set an NFL record for points allowed (533), set an NFL record for fewest sacks (13), and set an NFL record for fewest punt returns (12). The following year, 1982, it was the offense's turn to collapse, including one game against the Buffalo Bills where the Colts' offense did not manage to cross the 50 yard line the entire game. The Colts cleaned house after that winless 1982 campaign, famously choosing Hall of Fame QB John Elway with the first pick of the 1983 draft, only to have Elway refuse to play for what was perceived at the time as the worst organization in football. Mr. Idzik never coached again.

After being forced into retirement in 1982 at the age of 54 by the Colts debacle, Mr. Idzik settled in Chadds Ford, Pennsyvania. He briefly considered coming out of retirement in 1990 to accept the Head Coach position with the Rome franchise of the fledgling International League of American Football, but the league folded before its inaugural season.

Mr. Idzik's Jets legacy lives on in his son, John Idzik, Jr., the current GM of the Jets. Gang Green Nation extends its deepest condolences to John Idzik, Jr. and his family for the loss of his beloved father. The entire Jets community is saddened and diminished by Mr. Idzik, Sr.'s death.