John Idzik had to know he would be putting out fires as the new general manager of the Jets, but he probably didn’t anticipate that the welcome mat would be engulfed in flames.
Hello. Nice to meet you. Some weather we’re having! So are you trading your best player or what?
That was his introduction on Thursday, because he hadn’t even toured the team’s complex before he was hit with his first typical Jets controversy. One report had owner Woody Johnson looking to trade cornerback Darrelle Revis. Another had Rex Ryan against any such move. Revis, later in the day, said he was “speechless” on Twitter, but given recent Jets history, he won’t stay that way for long.
Welcome to Florham Park!
Idzik, to his credit, did not board the first flight back to Seattle. But the new GM missed a chance to diffuse the controversy, choosing to not even offer a lukewarm statement of support for his best player.
“I haven’t had a chance to sit down and go through the roster, so I think it would be presumptuous to say anything,” Idzik said, as if he was talking about a back-up long snapper.
This, without question, will be the first major test for the new guy, and the answer should be an easy one. Yes, Idzik might be able to trade Revis for a few young players or draft picks that’ll aid in the rebuilding process.
But if Idzik is a good general manager, he won’t view Revis as an asset. He’ll recognize him as a cornerstone. He’ll find a way to keep the superstar in a Jets uniform until the day he retires, then go about fitting the necessary pieces around him to build a winning team.
Honestly, what is the rush to trade Revis? Or maybe this is a better question: How does a team that gave big-money contracts to the wrong players – ala Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes – not give one to a player who actually deserves the long-term commitment?
Forget the idea that some team is going to shower the Jets with draft picks the way Minnesota did for Herschel Walker all those years ago to fuel a Dallas dynasty. There is a reason a deal like that will never happen again: It was panned as one of the worst in sports history.
Revis, coming off ACL surgery, will never get fair value in a trade. Great players rarely do. He is a superstar in his prime and a leader in the Jets locker room, and Idzik didn’t do himself any favors on his first day by failing to acknowledge that in his introductory press conference.
“I haven’t had a chance to sit down and go through the roster, so I think it would be presumptuous to say anything,” Idzik said. “One of our first steps is to go through our roster in great detail, that includes Darrelle and everybody on the roster.”
Maybe this was just the contractor negotiator in Idzik, not wanting to give Revis’ agents more press clippings to leverage against him -- you know, like the ones Ryan has provided for years in gushing over a player integral to his defense. The only time Idzik heaped praise on anyone during his introductory press conference, he was talking about his wife and three kids.
It is clear from the beginning that, where Ryan is compulsive, his new boss will be cautious. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. Jets fans want less sideshow and more success, and if Ryan was an eight-flavor ice-cream sundae on his first day, then Idzik was a bowl of vanilla.
But it would’ve been nice to see a little more conviction from the new boss. Idzik talked a lot about seeking input – the college drinking-game words of the day were “collaborative effort” – when the Jets really need one strong voice to set the agenda and put a rudder on this ship.
Idzik needs to establish himself as that guy. He said the right things about the draft being a “lifeline for us,” and that the team needed to be “judicious in free agency.” The idea that Idzik isn’t a “personnel guy” is overblown – he’s been with enough successful teams to identify good football players, and to know that the Jets don’t have enough of them.
Revis is one of them. In some ways, trading him might be the easier path. He wants an enormous salary and, unlike his holdouts as a rookie and two years ago in training camp holdout, has the leverage. He can become a free agent at the end of the season, and Johnson reportedly has little confidence that his team can re-sign him.
Make no mistake: Johnson doesn't really want to trade Revis. He wants to trade his agents, Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod, who are not the most popular people in Florham Park.
Idzik will have to deal with that dynamic. He takes over a team that is $19.4 million over the salary cap for 2013. He inherits a starting quarterback who, in the opinion of the head coach, has to “erase his hard drive.” He has to rework his roster to add more depth and talent at every skill position.
And, if that’s not enough, he has to figure out what to do with the most accomplished player on his roster. The Jets are a better team if he keeps Revis as a cornerstone, not use him as a trade asset. It won’t be easy, but a good general manager always find a way.
Steve Politi: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @StevePoliti.