Monday, January 27, 2014
Seattle East mode? Good sign for Jets
By Rich Cimini ESPN.com
Jets GM John Idzik will be at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, rooting for his former employer.
The New York Jets have gone 45 straight years without a Super Bowl, and now the big game has landed in their backyard. It might seem like the classic so-close-yet-so-far story -- a tease -- but Super Bowl XLVIII actually provides hope for the Jets.
In an era of wide-open passing attacks that produce video-game numbers, the Seattle Seahawks are a championship team built on old-fashioned tenets -- strong defense and a physical running. No matter how much other people try to change the game, the Seahawks refuse to eliminate the blue from their collar.
Basically, they're an upscale version of the Jets -- and that's not a knock on the Jets. No, it's validation that they're not too cool for old school.
"I wouldn't call us Seattle East, but there are parallels," Jets general manager John Idzik, a former Seahawks executive, said Monday in a phone interview.
He provided a few.
"Physically, they're a fast, athletic defense," Idzik said of the NFC champions. "Sounds familiar, doesn't it? They play a physical brand of football on both sides of the ball, and that comes from being strong up front. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? It sounds a little bit like us. There are definitely some similarities."
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The Seahawks have a player-friendly coach, Pete Carroll, who made his bones on the defensive side of the ball. The Jets have Rex Ryan, the East Coast version of Carroll.
The Seahawks play an aggressive, man-to-man defense. So do the Jets.
The Seahawks pound the rock with Marshawn Lynch -- aka Beast Mode. The Jets have Chris Ivory, whose punishing running style mirrors that of Lynch.
The Seahawks found their franchise quarterback, former third-rounder Russell Wilson, after the first round of the draft. Idzik took the same approach in his first draft, picking Geno Smith in the second round. Smith isn't close to Wilson yet, and his development ultimately could determine if the Jets reach the Seahawks' level.
But don't forget, the Jets are only one year into the Idzik program. The Seahawks have been building for four years under the leadership of Carroll and general manager John Schneider, Idzik's former colleagues.
"You could see this coming," Idzik said of the Seahawks' journey to the Super Bowl. "Nothing in this league is a given, but to see it come to fruition is kind of cool."
Idzik spent five years in the Seahawks' front office, mostly managing the salary cap and handling contract negotiations. He was a holdover from the Mike Holmgren regime, but he quickly became a fan of the Carroll-Schneider philosophy.
Idzik expressed his admiration for the Seahawk Way, calling his old organization "a conglomeration of great people. This totally isn't a surprise. They're very good at what they do." He went on and on about the Seahawks, but he kept striking the same chord.
He emphasized the "synergy" between the front office, the coaching staff and the personnel department, a same-vision relationship that he believes has enabled the Seahawks to find some of their best players in the later rounds of the draft.
We mentioned Wilson, but there's also cornerback Richard Sherman, fifth round. Safety Kam Chancellor, fifth round. They also found talent in the trade market (Lynch) and free agency.
Idzik said the Seahawks have a "clear profile" of the characteristics they covet in players, some of whom he described as "plug-and-play" and others that "needed time on the runway." People forget the Seahawks went 7-9 in each of Carroll's first two seasons, finally clicking in 2012.
"The tenets of what we're doing here strike some similarities to what has happened in Seattle," said Idzik, who will attend Sunday's game and will be rooting for his old team.
Idzik delivered a strong first draft, netting five starters, and now we'll get a chance to see how he operates in free agency with actual money to spend. The Jets should be more than $30 million under the salary cap, giving them the flexibility they didn't have last offseason.
As for that Seattle synergy that Idzik described, it's hard to quantify, but it certainly appears that he and Ryan have a solid relationship. Idzik extended Ryan's contract, revamped the front office last offseason and tweaked the scouting staff. In theory, his people are in place. Now all they need is more players.
Idzik said he's not copy-catting the Seahawks' blueprint, but there's no doubt he's trying to incorporate Seattle's best into the Jets.
What about his former team's chances Sunday?
"Now," Idzik said, "I'd like to see them finish it off."