Friday, January 18, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Is Idzik a good hire?
By Rich Cimini
Quick takeaways on the news that the Jets have decided to hire former Seattle Seahawks vice president of football administration John Idzik as their new general manager:
1. What they did: The Jets veered off course. They set out trying to find a GM with deep roots in scouting and personnel, but they chose a longtime executive who made his bones on the business side, dealing mostly with salary-cap management and contract negotiations. The Jets will present Idzik as a hybrid -- he attended personnel meetings in Seattle -- but that's not his area of expertise. Like former GM Mike Tannenbaum, he's a capologist making the crossover. They needed a leader who sees the world from a scout's perspective, not an executive who learned his football in a room.
2. Narrow view: This was a shortsighted decision. Owner Woody Johnson wanted someone to clean up the messy cap situation ($19.4 million over) and the number of bloated contracts. The real problem is a thin roster. One of the candidates told me the Jets need to replace 12 starters, conservatively. Yes, the Jets have contract issues, but they're in this cap predicament because of poor talent evaluations, overvaluing players such as Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes and David Harris. They're paying Holmes like a top-10 receiver; any personnel man worth his stopwatch will tell you he's not even in the top 20.
3. Outside the box: This move smacks of the 1980s Jets, when they always left the league scratching its head because of against-the-grain decisions. Seven teams were in the GM market. The first six opted for executives with personnel backgrounds; the Jets went the other way. Are they smarter than everyone else? As one longtime GM told me, "This isn't the time to put a cap guy in charge."
4. The Rex factor: The big question is, what does this mean for Rex Ryan? In the short term, it could mean more influence in personnel matters. Like Tannenbaum, Idzik probably will lean heavily on Ryan for input. Ryan can pick defensive linemen (Muhammad Wilkerson), but that's about it. We all know he has a blind spot when it comes to offense. He pushed to draft Sanchez in 2009 when the scouts wanted Josh Freeman. This sets up a potentially dangerous situation: The coach should coach, the GM should pick the players -- except, in this case, the GM has never picked players. How do they fill the void? Maybe assistant GM Scott Cohen sticks around in a personnel role.
5. Chucky: Idzik is stuck with Ryan for at least a year, but he controls Ryan's fate in 2014. Cue the Jon Gruden rumors. Idzik spent 11 seasons in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' front office, overlapping for three years with Gruden -- and one of those years produced a Lombardi trophy. If Idzik decides to replace Ryan and wants to stay in his most recent past, the obvious choice is Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell -- if another team doesn't scoop him up.
6. Brains: I've heard a lot of positives about Idzik. Smart guy, I'm told. Graduated with honors from Dartmouth, where he also played football. Earned a master's degree from Duke. But it takes more than brains to succeed. The Jets, with the circus atmosphere, need a grown-up in the room, someone who can change the culture. Idzik grew up in football; his father, John, was a longtime NFL assistant, including three seasons with the Jets in the late 1970s. Ryan's father, Buddy, too, is a former Jets assistant, and you just know they will try to sell that at the news conference, as if that obscure connection will somehow bond them.
7. Branching out: Idzik has made an effort to learn the football side. In recent years, he got involved in personnel, trying to absorb the Xs and Os. He was a wide receiver at Dartmouth and had a cup of coffee as a low-level college assistant, so we're not talking about a board-room bean counter. But he's never been in charge of a pro or college scouting department. Said one league source: "Football is more about instinct than IQ. This isn't IBM, it's football."
8. In like Flynn: The Jets need a quarterback and Idzik's former team, the Seahawks, might be looking to trade one -- Matt Flynn. He signed a free-agent contract last year for three years, $19.5 million, but he never saw the field because of Russell Wilson's emergence. Seattle officials say they're willing to listen to offers; Flynn's contract is tradable.
9. Organizational philosophy: Expect the Jets to remain active in the trade market. In recent years, the Seahawks have been one of the most aggressive trading teams, acquiring the likes of Marshawn Lynch and Leon Washington. The Seahawks are an organization on the rise, and Idzik played a role in that. But they've had their share of hiccups, too -- bad contracts (Sidney Rice, $41 million) and bad draft picks (LB Aaron Curry). Until Wilson, there was quarterback instability.