MOBILE, Ala. — Rod Graves laughs about the meeting now. It was the early-1990s on a practice field at Duke University when he saw his old friend John Idzik.
The two had been ballboys together with the Philadelphia Eagles, both the teenage sons of members of the Eagles organization. Graves had lost track of his old friend before running into Idzik, then a graduate assistant for the Blue Devils, while on a scouting trip for the Bears.
Idzik told Graves that he had been working at IBM after graduating from Dartmouth with a degree in mathematics when he decided to quit and take an entry-level football job at Duke.
Jon GarciaGANG POWER: John Idzik (right), who will be introduced as the Jets new GM at a press conference today, sits with owner Woody Johnson and coach Rex Ryan during Senior Bowl practices yesterday.“He told me, ‘I just had this nagging desire to get into pro football,’ ” Graves, fired as the Cardinals GM on New Year’s Eve, recounted this week. “He said, ‘I quit my job at IBM making six figures. Here I am a GA on salary on Duke University.’ I said, ‘What in the hell have you been drinking?’ At first, you had to think he was off his rocker.
“It ended up working out very well for him.”
Idzik will be introduced this morning as the new general manager of the Jets at a news conference at the team’s headquarters in Florham Park, N.J. The 52-year old son of a coach has risen from a low-level assistant coach at Duke to one of the most powerful jobs in the NFL.
The questions will be plenty today for Idzik, who faces what figures to be the ultimate test of his 20-year career in the NFL. He joins a Jets team coming off a 6-10 season that has salary-cap problems, uncertainty at quarterback, a roster lacking much star power and an inherited head coach.
Graves, who brought Idzik to the Cardinals in 2004, believes the Jets found the perfect person to fix their team.
“He’s probably one of the brightest guys I’ve ever worked with in terms of dealing with rosters and players and the finance behind player salaries and so forth,” Graves said. “He’s very well organized. I think he does a great job at future projections and roster management for making decisions today that will allow for flexibility down the road.He’s very good at that.”
Idzik attended the Senior Bowl practices this week here, his first duties as Jets GM. He sat yesterday alongside Jets owner Woody Johnson, who flew down to spend some time with his new hire. He and head coach Rex Ryan have spent the past three days getting to know each other. Their relationship will be under close scrutiny. Ryan, who has two years left on his contract, could be coaching for his job this season with Idzik as the person who controls his fate.
Idzik, Ryan and Johnson all declined to speak with reporters this week, waiting for today’s formal news conference.
Plenty of other people were talking about Idzik at the Senior Bowl. The hire was praised in NFL circles. Idzik is a popular person with agents and with fellow executives. Many of them believe he will not only help the Jets on the field, but also improve their image off of it, where they have been characterized as a circus under Ryan.
According to a source, Johnson did not want anyone who had ever worked with Ryan before. Part of what he was looking for in a new GM was someone to rein Ryan in.
“They hired a grown up,” one league source said. “He will change the culture there. He is just what [Ryan] needs.”
The only knock on Idzik has been his limited personnel experience. He spent the past six seasons as the Seahawks vice president of football administration. His primary responsibilities were negotiating contracts and managing the team’s salary cap. But he also did some scouting for the Seahawks last year. Idzik’s son attends Wake Forest and Seahawks GM John Schneider said Idzik did a lot of scouting in that region for the team.
“He’s a lifelong football guy,” Schneider said. “He’s been raised in the industry. He has a strong passion for the game. He has knowledge in scouting, coaching, obviously his salary cap work.”
Idzik grew up with his father coaching in the NFL. His father even spent three years as the Jets offensive coordinator under Walt Michaels in the late-1970s. Idzik played wide receiver at Dartmouth and never shook the football bug.
He eventually joined the Buccaneers in their personnel department and spent 11 seasons there, rising up to assistant GM and helping build a Super Bowl winner. Graves brought him to Arizona as the senior director of football operations and then he went to Seattle.
Now, his football life gets another chapter. No one thinks he’s crazy for walking away from IBM now.
“I think the Jets organization is getting a very smart, even-keeled man,” Schneider said. “He is a team player but he has very strong beliefs. I’m sure he’s expressed those beliefs to Mr. Johnson.”
Somewhat of an interesting comment - you wouldn't think that needed to be said, but with what's gone on around these here part, its certainly relevant.
And that's not to say that Tanny wasn't a grown up. Part of the problem in the Tanny era is that he was saddled with certain expectations from Upper Management and had to proceed accordingly. Another problem was that Tanny wasn't the traditional football exec and had some unconventional/non-traditonal approaches. Some worked, some didn't.
At the end of the day, while I would have liked to have seen a more personnel-oriented choice, Idzik seems like a supremely competent guy and guy who can be trusted to not only conduct a positive draft but also to re-right the direction of the Franchise.
It will be interesting to see what stories (or what actually happens) come out about the QB position in the next several months.
Said it before and I will say it again, LET THE MAN GO TO WORK before passing negative judgements. I cannot believe that Schein, who always tells it like it is on Jets postgame, would have anything negative to say at this time about this hire.