John Idzik began his mid-season breakdown with an Oscar-worthy 20-minute monologue that covered his pride in the training staff and security team. He peppered in a long and winding narrative about his history in the Jets organization and how personally he takes the team’s 1-7 start. He also gushed about the effort of head coach Rex Ryan, whom he said he sees more than his own wife.
“It’s gut-wrenching, it’s brutal, you feel like you’ve been punched in the face. It’s painful,” he said.
Then the fun started.
Because Idzik chooses to be the type of general manager that disassociates himself from the general public, a way of operating that has achieved success in this league — but also drastic failure — these functions are often uncomfortable and combative. On Monday, that involved a reporter confrontation, thousands of words spent on non-satisfactory or non-committal answers to pressing issues and a general sense that the team really does think they are heading in the right direction despite what appears to be a simmering tire fire all around them.
Here are a few quick takeaways from an epic afternoon:
1. Idzik will not commit to Rex Ryan as his head coach beyond this season despite delivering what seemed to be some genuine, heartfelt compliments. “I got to know Rex very, very well these last 20 months or so, and the last time I checked, all the traits that make Rex Ryan our leader, our head coach, are still intact. He’s an excellent football mind … I support Rex, I continue to support Rex and our coaching staff.” This is where he went wrong, of course. After saying that, Idzik was quickly asked about Ryan’s future with the Jets and whether that support will manifest itself in another year on the sideline, or at least the remainder of this season. Idzik’s answer? “We won’t judge job status in the season. We’re purely focused on the Kansas City Chiefs. If this league teaches you anything, it’s that if you look too far into the future, the present will bite you.”
2. Idzik will not comment on the quarterback position and even got into a brief argument with a reporter that suggested the quarterback competition between Michael Vick and Geno Smith was a sham. This, mind you, was less than 24 hours after he watched the first team since 1991 to have two passers account for three or more turnovers apiece in one game. “When you’re trying to develop a young quarterback, there’s going to be rough patches. I guess there’s a balance between, when do you ride through those rough patches? Are those patches lesser in number?”
3. Idzik will not say specifically what he did wrong this season despite placing a majority of the blame on himself. That includes an incomplete evaluation on the 19 draft picks he’s overseen in two seasons (one of which, Sheldon Richardson, appears to be developing into an elite-level player), and the way that he’s handled the team’s abundance of salary cap space. He hinted that a good amount of that money will be reserved for Muhammad Wilkerson, who will earn top-five money at the position. He would not comment on the progress of extension talks, though.
4. Idzik defended the way he addressed the cornerback position, a sore spot given the depth of salary cap space and the available talent on the market. The move angered certain members of the coaching staff in particular this offseason. “We did bring in prospects at the position, and again, it has to fit for both sides. Whenever a position is hit by three or more prominent players that figure into the plans for that season, that’ll have an impact.”
5. Idzik is in a no-win position here, but he needs to approach the situation differently. Idzik was recommended for the job, in part, by a consulting firm. Amid the discussion about plans and salary cap management, we’re not sure how much emphasis was placed on actually selling his plans to the people who care. At the moment, he looks distant and, in some respects, sounds lost. Surrounded by a staff that is trying to cut questions off early after a 20-minute filibuster, Idzik is perpetuating confidence in a team that looks less competent and motivated by the week. “I need to improve in everything I do,” he said.