John Idzik has fallen silent as the Jets season has just about slid off the playoff map, showing no accountability at time when it is needed most.
He has been spotted from a distance on weekday mornings across practice fields, blending into the background as Rex Ryan absorbs the body blows.
The Jets’ feel-good start has morphed into a mess. The team is hemorrhaging. Two of the new general manager’s top 3 draft picks were benched last week en route to a third consecutive loss. Rex Watch is officially underway.
Fans want answers. Someone will pay. Someone must pay.
Idzik hasn’t said a word during the freefall, apparently content with letting his inherited head coach and players fend for themselves.
Woody Johnson praised Idzik before the season opener for “making the building more unified,” but has that really happened in the past 11 months?
“I don’t know him any better than I did before (when Idzik was hired in January),” an organizational source told the Daily News.
Idzik’s work ethic is beyond reproach, according to people in the organization, but he has remained insulated. It’s hard to blame him for being strategically guarded given the circumstances.
Johnson presided over a shotgun wedding with Idzik and Ryan that had little chance of lasting. For all the talk about the GM and head coach’s similar backgrounds — they’re both sons of coaches — there were inherent conflicting interests that would ultimately bubble to the surface.
Ryan’s short-term need for success after missing the playoffs for two seasons wasn’t the top immediate priority for Idzik, whose primary goal centered on purging the roster of some of the bloated contracts doled out by the previous regime to better position the organization to build for the future.
“Woody handled the whole thing wrongly,” a source familiar with the details of the owner’s decision-making process. “He should have cleaned house and let Rex hit the road. It was a terrible formula from the outset for everybody. For Rex. For John… It was a bad dynamic.”
Johnson, of course, doesn’t need to be fair to anyone. It’s his team. He reserves the right to handle matters as he best sees fit, but this setting invited problems that have only become magnified during the team’s current tailspin.
The Jets’ lack of firepower (20 points in the past three games), coupled with slow-developing rookies, has proved disastrous for Ryan, who likely needs to win at least three of the final four games to have a realistic chance of salvaging his job.
Idzik’s lack of a strong personnel background certainly didn’t help his head coach’s cause.
Despite Professor Ryan’s claim this week that Idzik’s first draft class deserves an A+, there’s no debating that just about all of the drafted rookies have underwhelmed to this point. Idzik’s “competition” mantra has been largely selective with any ties going to the new GM’s draft picks (as they should).
Geno Smith’s regression since his three-touchdown performance against the Falcons in Week 5 is troubling for a franchise desperately searching for an answer at the most important position. First-round cornerback Dee Milliner’s season-long struggles raise questions about the wisdom of that selection. Third-round OL Brian Winters has been terrible. Fifth-round OL Oday Aboushi has been inactive all season. Sheldon Richardson is the lone bright spot. (Of course, Idzik had to trade Darrelle Revis to have the opportunity to draft Richardson).
It’s unfair to make a definitive final judgment on Idzik’s first draft class after three quarters of a season, but even he would probably concede that the early returns haven’t been favorable… if he actually publicly voiced his opinion.
The GM made his most recent public remarks on Nov. 4, the day after the Jets upset the Saints to improve to 5-4, with a playoff spot still in sight. He fielded 20 questions, admitting that Ryan’s future will be dealt with “in due time.”
Idzik declined a Daily News interview request outside the locker room after the Jets’ third consecutive loss last Sunday. Wednesday morning the Jets told reporters Idzik’s father had died of natural causes, releasing the news Saturday evening.
Idzik’s friends told The News that it’s not in his nature to handle media matters. His disdain for that part of the job, people close to him contend, makes it easier for him avoid it and go harder in other areas like scouting players.
However, Idzik owes it to the Jets fan base to be accountable when the players that he signed or drafted struggle like they have in recent weeks.
The GM’s former co-workers admitted that he’s essentially learning on the job when it comes to personnel matters, leaning on evaluators around him in the organization to make it through his first year. Of course, Idzik ultimately is culpable for signings that haven’t paid off (see: David Garrard, Mike Goodson, etc).
“John works his (butt) off,” one former co-worker said. “He’s very bright. He’s very opinionated. He’s very stubborn. He’s very stoic... Right now, he’s going to be a hostage to somebody else’s thinking.”
That’s a disconcerting notion for an organization that hasn’t had a sterling track record in recent drafts or free agency. The Jets will have $20-25 million in cap space (plus an additional $16.5 million after Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes are cut) this offseason.
There’s more than enough money (and draft picks) for Idzik to fast-track the rebuilding process, but his silence amid the team’s downturn is telling.
He’s been unwilling to do what his embattled head coach and players have done for weeks: Accept responsibility for recent failings.