As it becomes more and more apparent that John Idzik is going to get the opportunity to be the Jets General Manager, as first reported by our friend Brian Bassett, I wanted to look a little into how he does and how he does not fit in with business as we know it around the Jets. Of course if he doesnít get hired then I guess this is a bit of a waste of an article. Anyway by going outside the organization this is really a radical departure for the Jets and uncharted territory for Woody Johnson. Remember that Terry Bradway essentially set up the scouting department and Mike Tannenbaum the cap philosophies for the franchise many many years ago. Hiring Idzik likely means a shakeup in the front office with people being reassigned or moved out completely.
What Is the Same?
While Idzik has held prominent positions with three franchises my opinion is that, for a younger executive, it is usually the most recent job that carries the most weight, in this case it was working for the Seattle Seahawks. I could see four areas that really stood out in interviews with Johnson and three areas that mesh well with the current system.
First is that he is primarily a cap guy but also comes with a scouting background as his story is that he worked very hard around his former teams to get tutored in the scouting aspect of the game. Woody has been around Tannenbaum for a long time and I think believed in having that business side run the team, which has to be a reason why they brought in so many business people to interview for the job. Idzik is very similar in that regard. He is a cap guy first and foremost just like Mr. T, but he can also sell the fact that he understands more about the football side of it and knew early on he wanted to be a GM and the only way to do it was to improve his weak areas. Thatís a perfect combo for Woody.
Secondly is that he comes from a trading organization. People seem to think the Jets are the only team in the NFL that trades players. Its not true. Since Mike Holmgren moved out they have been a trading organization and cap guys are always in the middle of these moves as they were attempting to reshape the franchise. It began in 2009 with a trade of Julian Peterson for Cory Redding. In 2010 they traded for Leon Washington, LenDale White, Charlie Whitehurst, Stacy Andrews, Kentwan Balmer. Chris Clemons and Marshawn Lynch. They traded away Daryl Tapp, Josh Wilson, Seneca Wallace, Lawrence Jackson, Rob Sims, and Deion Branch. In 2011 in came Clinton McDonald and out went Kelly Jennings and Aaron Curry, in one of the first real baseball style deals in the NFL. In 2012 it was Kellen Winslow, Jr coming to Seattle and Barrett Rudd, Tarvaris Jackson.
Thatís a ton of trades and if you are familiar with my work I do analyzing the Jets cap you know that the Jets are a roster filled with trade possibilities. The track record fits right in with what the Jets can do and he is going to be well aware of the teams around the NFL that are willing to deal such as the Lions and Seahawks as well as the idea of trading away overpaid talent to get out of a deal even if it means getting little back in return. Many of these moves were just trading long term messes for short term ones. Having an inside working knowledge of Seattle, who I think could be interested in Tim Tebow for Matt Flynn, is a huge help in this regard since they are a trading team. This is right up the Jets alley and far more in line with what Woody knows than say if they hired from the Steelers organization.
Positional cap distribution is a similarity. Using the cap estimates that I have from 2009-2011 you see similar spending patterns per position. The 3 year corner average is 9.34% of cap for the Seahawks and 9.6% for the Jets. RB is 9.5% to 9.03%. WR is 13.5% to 12.4%. The Jets LB spend and spend on punters and kickers was a bit higher but in general their roster building philosophy was the same. The reallocation would primarily come from shifting more money into the offensive line probably from the linebackers. Now my numbers Iím sure are a little bit off since I donít have access to the real numbers but they should be ballpark accurate and again I think this was something that he could present very well to the Jets brass and explain how he can work with the current roster and tweak it to get more in line with what he wants. Its not an overhaul that would be necessary.
Finally you look at what he was a part of once Holmgren left in terms of coaching. First was Jim Mora, Jr. An outspoken players coach Mora was kind of handed to the Seahawk regime from Holmgren himself as Mora would later lobby for Holmgren to stay in a position of power with the team. Despite a large financial commitment made to Mora, a deal which Idzik likely was part of negotiating, they walked away. They followed that choice up with another outspoken players coach, this time with a defensive background, in Pete Carroll. It shows an ability to one accept Rex Ryan for at least a season and also that he can philosophically accept the type of coach Ryan is if he chooses to keep him around for more time.
What Doesnít Fit
From a philosophical standpoint the cap management is completely different. The Jets have been an organization that has limited signing bonuses and focused heavily on guaranteed salary. The Jets favor offseason roster and reporting bonuses which can be a both a blessing by helping avoid holdouts and a nightmare as you have to make really quick decisions to cut, trade or renegotiate players. The Jets have always believed in heavy workout participation and pay players well to report to the offseason program. Seattle does not do that. I think they have only three significant workout bonus players, two of whom are on old CBA style rookie contracts where you almost had to put them in, and two roster bonus players. In contrast the Jets have 6 players with roster/reporting bonuses and 15 workout bonus players, of whom only Kyle Wilson falls into the old CBA rookie category. This may not only mean changes but a desire to overhaul current deals.
Name value acquisitions are not a big thing out in Seattle. Since 2008 the Jets have been all about the splash and that was not just a Tannenbaum trait as it comes from the organization. Favre and Faneca and to a lesser extent Pace were all big splash moves in 2008. Bart Scott was the prize of the Jets 2009 recruiting class. You had Cromartie and Holmes in 2010. Burress in 2011 and Tebow in 2012, not to mention the Sanchez extension. There was also a serious push for Nnamdi Asomugha in 2011. The Jets like to make noise. Seattle didnít. Their big signings were names like Zach Miller and Sidney Rice. If fans were considering names like Mike Vick or Phil Rivers I donít see that kind of fit with Idzik.
The cap spend is a bit different. Now while I pointed out the fact that the positional spend is similar the way those positions are broken down is way different. Since 2009 the only players on the Seahawks that I believe ever carried a cap hit over $10 million were Marcus Trufant (2010, 2012, and 2013) and Sean Locklear. I think there have been 17 total over the $8 million total. The Jets have 7 players this season set to count for $10 million or more on the cap. Now in fairness those numbers are a bit inflated for the Jets and the over $8 million club is 22 which wont be that far away from the Seahawk total once the bloodletting begins this offseason, but Iíd still consider it a difference. What it boils down to is Idzik would likely not sign off on back to back offseasons where you give big money to Ferguson, Mangold, Revis, Harris, Holmes, Cromartie, etcÖHe will draw a line somewhere and I guess the Jets did not do that in the last few years.
Im not sure what I think of how Seattle was run as being a model of success. I know that they are a hot team because of the success they had, but it was a very long process. The teardown of that franchise began in 2009 and it was pretty rough. The team won a grand total of 19 games in 3 years post Holmgren. They had the one trip to the playoffs with a 7-9 record. In Idzikís time there the team was 44-52. Thatís not to say that is his fault as he came into a team that had a really nice run and it was time to break it up. But I donít look at 11 wins as meaning anything. How many people anointed the Detroit Lions in 2011 as the next great thing? How did they finish in 2012? Right back where they came from. We were all ready to proclaim that the Jets had arrived after 2010 and they are right back where they began. Now Seattleís QB looks like the real deal but you never know in this league.
Will the Jets fanbase be willing to suffer through three bad seasons to fix things? I know its easy in February for all of us to say break it down we need to rebuild, but come December when you are 3-10 that type of thought goes out the window. Now Idzik should have more financial resources in New York than they had in Seattle, but I donít know if that means that much in the NFL unless you are coming from the non-spending teams like the Chiefs and Bengals. Most teams are on a level playing field and its not like Seattle didnít spend.
On the plus side they have had some terrific draft picks which are really the backbone of the team up in Seattle. That has been a really bad area for the Jets and they desperately need improvement in that regard. That said itís been their depth picks that have been great while their top picks have not panned out. Since 2007 you had Josh Wilson starting 24 games in 3 years before being traded. Lawrence Jackson was gone in two years. Aaron Curry was an epic bust. James Carpenter has started 16 games in two seasons and Bruce Irvin, picked in 2012, still has a ton of questions surrounding him. Russell Okung and Earl Thomas are both studs that were selected in the 2010 draft. No idea why they got it right there but in their other 5 tries all whiffed badly. Im not sure why its been so poor where their mid rounds have been spectacular, but that is a little worrisome.
In terms of free agency I donít see them being much more impressive than the Jets. The QB search has been awful before Wilson. Since 2009 starters included Matt Hasselbeck, Seneca Wallace, Charlie Whitehurst, Tarvaris Jackson, and in 2012 it was supposed to be Matt Flynn. The last three were handpicked guys to lead to Seahawks. Its bargain basement QB shopping and I dislike that idea in the NFL. They handed Sidney Rice a $41 million dollar deal with $15 million in guarantees and Zach Miller a $34 million dollar deal with $13 million in guarantees to which they have given the Seahawks 82/1232 and 63/629 respectively in two years with the team. While Marshawn Lynch did have a great season for the Seahawks they gave him $17 million in guarantees. I tend to think if this was the Jets we would have killed every one of those moves because they donít sound much different than what the team has done in the past.
So as I finish writing this I can definitely see why this hire was made. There are a lot of areas where Idzik fits in very well with this organization and roster as presently constituted. I think he has been in a position where he has had to help tear down a roster before and the coaching situation is one he has been involved in before as well. Hes not afraid to trade away sunk cost players. I think the draft a lot of players philosophy is one the Jets need to take and that will fit nicely in with the way the cap will likely be run here. Hopefully some of that mid round magic comes with him because that is the area that worries me with the hire. It seems as if free agency will be minimized now so you cant swing and miss in the draft. Hopefully he can hit a home run in his first draft with the teamÖ