Note from Jeff: This is news but I also editorialized heavily. Great pains were made to separate reported fact from opinion. Please take note that John Idzik Jr. was Jeff's original choice for GM during the hiring process. Nobody is eating more crow than him, so don't take any of this personally.
For what is turning into years now, I have watched as casual and dedicated New York Jets fans alike blamed the head coach for what are the clearly outlined responsibilities of the general manager. The most recent example I can think of is blaming draft picks Rex Ryan wanted virtually nothing to do with and didn't himself select. Although there is a growing contingent of fans that want to completely clean house (as will happen in losing seasons), most people do this sort of thing in order to defend the "plan" of embattled general manager John Idzik.
A plan is a list of things that never happen. A person that favors inactivity today in order to mortgage the future of the team on an undeveloped future market that we have no clue what it will look like is a gambler, and arguably a moron as well. There have been numerous, damning, and rapidly piling-up reports or examples that John Idzik is using this season as a prolonged talent evaluation while ensuring Rex Ryan is a lame duck.
First came the offseason of sloth so many Jets fans have openly lamented. Then Idzik reached for a fifth round CB in the third round of the 2014 NFL draft (and frankly bungled the draft in general), which fans blindly and quickly attributed to Ryan. Then came Rex Ryan's public admission of his dissatisfaction with the roster, quickly followed by starting Antonio Allen at CB in a prodding, thinly-veiled statement about the roster Ryan was handed. This pattern has continued into the current week, first with a report surfacing that Idzik had planned to can Rex all along. The evidence (along with Jets fans stubborn denial) continued to pile up yesterday as reports claim that John Idzik overruled the majority of coaches and players who wanted Michael Vick to start over Geno Smith against the Miami Dolphins on Monday night.
From NY Daily News:
Sources told the Daily News that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was among the majority of people in the organization, including players, who wanted to stick with Vick. Ryan also preferred the veteran, but placated his superiors to avoid conflict on his way out.
The News reported last month that Ryan had to clear his decision to bench Smith after the Week 8 loss to the Bills with Idzik and Johnson. So, it was hardly surprising that he consulted them with five games remaining in this wretched season. This process itself speaks to a larger problem within the organization.
From Dan Hanzus of NFL.com:
The likely story here is that general manager John Idzik wants a final look at Smith before the team has to make decisions at quarterback in the offseason. Smith probably lost his opportunity to convince management he's the future at the position, but Idzik may be weighing whether Smith could still help the team if the Jets bring in another quarterback in 2015.
But the bigger story here is how Ryan is going out in New York. The man who started his Jets career by saying he wasn't going to kiss Belichick's rings is now coaching a quarterback he doesn't even want on the field.
While Mehta will pour gasoline on virtually any media fire he sees, I think he makes an incredibly valid point about the decision making process of the Jets being an organizational failure. Something stinks when new executives and coaches are forced to keep personnel from previous regimes. Something is very wrong when the coach is blamed for decisions that the owner explicitly said were the responsibility of the GM at the onset of the season. Finally, something is reaching critical mass when the head coach no longer has a say over who starts on the team he coaches come Sunday, and the opinions of his assistants and players are equally treated as immaterial.
It's understandable that the Jets would choose to evaluate a second year-QB who is much more likely to be here next year than his veteran counterpart, especially when the team is eliminated from contention by week 12. But this jumbled hierarchy of decision making and evaluation is an indictment of the fractured method by which Woody Johnson addresses organizational failures: bit by bit. It also reflects more poorly than I can possibly describe on John Idzik and the way he runs a franchise.
What do all of these developments point to? That John Idzik never had any intention of keeping Rex Ryan long term, and while he hoped his "moneyball" offseason in 2014 would pay off and make him look like a better football innovator than Chip Kelly, he knew it would likely fail and he would have his pick of coaches within a year or two. Almost every single report or development out of Florham dating back to Idzik's hiring supports this notion.
Supporters of Idzik and detractors of Ryan alike who have no substantive argument to the contrary or rebuttal of any kind dismiss this as a conspiracy theory in order to belittle the opinion, in spite of the fact that all of these developments point back to one single man whose actions are clear as day for all to see. Just this week, how many hundreds of comments derided sports media and vilified the NY Post and Mark Cannizzaro for using multiple sources to claim what many third parties and neutral observers already concluded? It doesn't matter whether Mehta or Slater or Cimini or some schmo named Jeff Parks writes it; if it's anything less than a fluff piece blowing smoke and rainbows up your collective rear end, it must just be a headline-grabber, right? Guess what, the local sports media might be obnoxious, but it's not some classical villain tying women to railroad tracks and twirling their handlebar mustache. The common answer that fans had for the Cannizzaro article was that it just "didn't make sense."
Well, has anything that John Idzik has done over the last two seasons made any sense? Apart from a couple of outliers, most would firmly answer in the negative. Even his life-breathing moves for the team, like trading for ridiculously overpaid wideout and special teamer Percy Harvin, have at least some fairly negative implications for the future of the team. I'd say Idzik is a polarizing figure if he hadn't so rapidly become a nearly universally unpopular figure in NY, with good cause.
At this point in the 2014 season, even his most loyal fans think Rex Ryan should probably move on to...greener pastures. While there are many things I will always like about Ryan, he is a woefully incomplete coach to try and run a professional organization on the field, and as a head coach he makes a great defensive coordinator and that's about all. It's time for Rex to go. But far too many of these conversations devolve into Rex versus Idzik when the picture should be larger than that. The Jets need to make wholesale changes from top to bottom in the organization, and give a new executive total control of the team. Woody Johnson has clearly muddled the administrative hierarchy and he needs to take a step back from the team. Every single staff change has kept residual people who are forced on the new regime. Brian Schottenheimer, Terry Bradway, and even Rex Ryan are the picture perfect examples of this teams tone-deaf response to failure.
It's not enough to seek out a scapegoat to placate fans so Woody can sell them another season. What is needed to facilitate sustainable long-term success in the NFL are large scale institutional changes. But one thing I am certain of:
It's for all of these reasons that I support the vocal and incorrigible attitude of the Jets fan base, and so should you. Food drives and taking the high road are all well and good, and yes you should do those things too, but these acts are not mutually exclusive. You can support a noble cause such as fighting poverty or cancer, and you can simultaneously support a trivial cause such as erecting a billboard to fire your favorite sports teams horrible general manager. Working class people have poured their lives (and the contents of their wallets) into the team, merchandise, and even the PSLs much at the behest of the team owner who has a personal responsibility to deliver a product to these virtual shareholders. Don't tell them that they are not allowed to campaign or speak out for change, the ability of people to organize and do so is one thing that makes living America so great. And the reactive, half-assed response of the franchise to fixing dysfunction makes it downright necessary.
It's not just a 4-12 or 3-13 record that will be needed to force wholesale change on the Jets franchise. What is needed now is for the (rightfully) pissed off New York Jets fans to be as loud and riled up as they can possibly be, so even Woody Johnson can hear us in his insulated bubble that we aren't going to take it anymore. Call up Florham and yell in their ears:**
JETS! JETS! JETS!!!
**Disclaimer: Please do not actually call Florham and scream in their ears. I meant it figuratively, jerk.