Sunday, May 19, 2013
Sunday notes: Idzik's first two blemishes
By Rich Cimini
A quick check on the Jets:
1. Double trouble: John Idzik has a solid plan for rebuilding the Jets, but the plan isn't foolproof, as we now know. The new GM endured an Ike Davis kind of week, as he apparently has swung and missed on his first two free-agent signings -- QB David Garrard (retired) and RB Mike Goodson (arrested). Fortunately for the Jets, they weren't huge financial commitments, but that doesn't mean Idzik gets a pass. In both cases, he took a calculated risk -- and came up short.
The idea of signing a player of Garrard's ilk was smart, but they bet on damaged goods. He spent two years out of football and his knee problems were widely known. An AFC personnel executive told me at the time of the signing, "His knee is a concern. He'll look fine in drills, but I don't know if he can take a hit." Turns out that Garrard, 35, couldn't cut it in drills, either, prompting his abrupt retirement. Now there's a hole in Idzik's quarterback plan.
Goodson arrived with character concerns. There was nothing major on his record, but he bounced from the Panthers to the Raiders before becoming a free agent, and it always raises suspicions when a player with raw talent is on the move. The questions centered on his attitude and personal issues, a league source said. The Jets took a chance, betting on his upside with a three-year, $6.9 million contract. Now his future with the team is a major question mark after Friday's arrest on drug and weapon charges. An opposing scout, familiar with Goodson's background, said of the Jets: "Do these guys do background checks?"
They do, but there's risk with virtually every acquisition. Idzik assessed risk versus reward, arrived at a value and pulled the trigger for Goodson and Garrard. If you're a Jets fan, you hope these were only two blips on the screen and not indicative of Idzik's evaluation skills.
2. How 'bout a refund? It'll be interesting to see how Idzik handles the Goodson situation. He cut the two nobodies arrested recently for possession of marijuana, Claude Davis and Cliff Harris, both of whom were signed by the previous administration. But that doesn't mean he will take the same approach with Goodson, whose contract includes a $1 million signing bonus. The bonus is divided into payouts, and I'm told he has yet to receive the full amount; he has pocketed at least $500,000. If Idzik tries to send a message and decides to cut him before the legal process plays out, it would be harder to recoup the money, according to a source. He'll have a better chance if he waits for the courts (and the league) to rule on the matter.
3. Wounded knee: Garrard missed some workouts early in the offseason program, a source said, fueling speculation in the locker room that he wasn't right, physically. In recent practices, he was sharp on his short throws, I'm told, but he labored on longer routes because he couldn't drive the ball, probably because of his balky knee. As a result, he bounced some passes. Maybe Garrard read the handwriting on the wall, seeing Mark Sanchez and rookie Geno Smith make throws he no longer could complete. Before the knee complications, the organization felt Garrard had a decent chance of emerging as the starter until Smith was ready.
4. A cool Brees: For those wondering if Sanchez still can get his career turned around, we bring you the story of Drew Brees, who received a second chance with the Chargers because of the actions of another quarterback on the roster. Brees played poorly in his third season (2-9 record, 67.5 passer rating), prompting the Chargers to draft Philip Rivers in 2004. Rivers would've started as a rookie, but he derailed his chances with a long holdout. They had no choice but to stick with Brees, who responded with his first Brees-like season. Sometimes athletes need to see the end before they can create a new beginning. Can Sanchez capitalize on his break (Garrard's retirement) in the same fashion? Food for thought.
5. The dilemma: The Jets are billing it as a fair and open competition, but is it really? Make no mistake, Smith is the preferred candidate. If he proves capable of running the offense, he'll be the Week 1 starter. But would that be the wise move? Not every rookie turns into Russell Wilson, you know. Considering the dearth of skill-position talent on offense, Smith probably would struggle. Unless he's Robert Griffin III, he could get swallowed up by the enormity of the challenge, perhaps at the expense of his psyche. The right thing to do, based on what we know now, would be to start Sanchez and make him the sacrificial lamb for a few weeks. But for this organization, which is suffering from Sanchez fatigue, there could be a temptation to ignore the right thing and do what feels right, which would mean starting fresh with Smith. Mark my words, this will become an internal debate if the competition is close.
5.a. Geno's pinnacle: This is what a longtime GM told me last week about Smith: "When I saw him against Texas [25-for-35, 268 yards, four TD passes], I said to myself, 'There's the No. 1 pick in the draft.' That's what he looked like. As the season went on, though, he never had any bring-back moments. He was a lot closer to ordinary." West Virginia lost five straight after the Texas win, dropping to 5-5.
6. All the king's men ... gone: When Rex Ryan was interviewed for the head-coaching vacancy in January, 2009, he met with four team officials -- owner Woody Johnson, GM Mike Tannenbaum, assistant GM Scott Cohen and scouting chief Joey Clinkscales. Don't look now, but three-quarters of that room is gone. Cohen became the latest casualty of the administration change, as his expiring contract wasn't renewed. Clinkscales left a year ago for the Raiders and Tannenbaum, of course, was fired.
Idzik might have an understated personality, but he has made it abundantly clear he's no wallflower when it comes to moving and shaking. He gutted the roster and gutted the front office, as he attempts to surround himself with his people. Ryan can't feel too comfortable. I have no reason to doubt Idzik's sincerity when he says nice things about Ryan, but the law of the NFL jungle usually prevails in these situations. GMs want to hand-pick their coach. Ryan needs a miracle season to save his job.
7. Survivor: One holdover expected to survive the purge is senior personnel executive Terry Bradway, who served as GM from 2001 to 2005 before slipping into a background role. It's unclear, however, if his role will change. Idzik will hire former Cards GM Rod Graves for a front-office position, CBS Sports reported. They worked together in Arizona. There was buzz in the scouting community that Idzik was interested in ex-Seahawks personnel director Will Lewis, another former colleague, but he was hired by the Chiefs. The Jets have at least three front-office positions to fill.
8. Tebow laughs: Speaking to a church group Friday night in his hometown of Jacksonville, former Jets QB Tim Tebow was asked to name his most memorable moment in 2011, when he led the Broncos to the playoffs.
"One of my favorite stories, ironically, was against the Jets," he told the audience, according to the Florida Times-Union -- a reference to his last-minute win in Denver. With excellent timing, he added, "And probably my greatest Jets highlight, I guess." At least he can laugh about it.
9. Money for nothing: Between Garrard and Drew Stanton (remember him?), the Jets spent $600,000 in signing bonuses for quarterbacks that never made it to minicamp.
10. Sloppy seconds: Smith became the fourth quarterback to be drafted in the second round by the Jets. The first three went a combined 12-29 -- Al Woodall (5-14), Browning Nagle (3-10) and Kellen Clemens (4-5). I don't think Woodall fired his agent, though.