Stock Watch: Jets Building a Winner the Right Way

It wasn’t that long ago that all of the NFL “experts” and pundits out there considered the New York Jets to be a complete and total joke. The team was considered to be such a “circus” that wouldn’t even be able to find a new General Manager because the job was so undesirable. They were so hopeless that their head coach was on the hot seat and might be fired midway through the season. They had to trade their best player away and didn’t stand a chance heading into 2013, or 2014, or any time soon for that matter. You remember all of that, right? Well not only does that all look silly as the Jets are in playoff contention after seven weeks, but the Jets are in the process of building something great here. And this time, they’re doing it the right way. 

The Jets are far from a finished product, of course, but they’re clearly on the right path toward building a long-term winner, which is something Jets fans have craved seemingly forever. Let’s take a look at Idzik’s plan so far and what the next steps will be toward building a legitimate contender here in Jets Land.

Cut Dead Weight, Give Young Players a Shot – I wrote about this back in May when the Jets roster was starting to take shape, but this was an extremely important first step as Idzik was able to cut bait with a lot of players who had success with the Jets and may have been retained under the previous regime. Players such as Sione Po’uha, Bart Scott, Bryan Thomas, Eric Smith, Brandon Moore were all let go and are currently out of the league. Others such as Mike DeVito, Laron Landry, Shonn Greene, Matt Slauson, and Dustin Keller were all allowed to leave rather than being overpaid to stay, which was key. None of those players were worth the money they received, and just as importantly, the Jets had replacements ready to step up and fill those spots.

Young, hungry players like Bilal Powell, Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, Jeff Cumberland, Vlad Ducasse (ok, so not all of these worked out), Quinton Coples, Damon Harrison, Kenrick Ellis, Demario Davis, Darrin Walls, and Antonio Allen were all given the opportunity to grab jobs and run with them. In addition to those guys that were already on the roster, the Jets also have plenty of rookies starting and playing big roles, such as Sheldon Richardson, Dee Milliner, Brian Winters, Brian Bohanon, and of course, Geno Smith, which brings me to the next point…

QB They Believe In + Legit Offensive Coordinator – It was painfully obvious John Idzik wanted nothing to do with Mark Sanchez and if his contract wasn’t what it was, releasing him would have been one of his first moves. The hard part was finding a QB they believed in and one that they could build around. When Geno Smith fell into his lap in the 2nd round of the draft, Idzik had his man. Almost as importantly, the Jets had already found their new offensive coordinator in Marty Mornhinweg, and for the first time since…umm… since forever maybe, they had a legitimate offensive coordinator who could properly develop a quarterback.

Since the start of the season, Geno has obviously had his share of downs, but his progression as a player has been undeniable and he’s shown enough flashes to make us think that the Jets finally have something they can build around. The days of Paul Hackett, Brian Schottenheimer, and Tony Sparano butchering our quarterbacks and setting offensive football back decades are finally behind us. Jets fans are not used to this, but it’s ok to have confidence in our QB and OC working together.

Stockpile Draft Picks – One of the biggest reasons the Jets fell apart the last two seasons was because of Mike Tannenbaum’s tendency to trade away the majority of his draft choices. That resulted in the team’s “middle class” being severely weakened and the lack of depth was astonishing. Idzik believes in building through the draft, and since taking of the Jets, he’s shown that by stockpiling draft choices.

Darrelle Revis was traded for a 1st round pick in 2013 and a 3rd round pick in 2014, which may end up being the first pick of the round since the Bucs have become all the horrible things everyone said the Jets would be and then some. Players like Keller, DeVito, Landry, and Greene were all let go and will result in compensatory picks in the 2014 draft as well. In next year’s draft, the Jets are looking at probably 11 or 12 draft choices, which is obviously way more than the team has had in a long time. Consider this: Between 2009 and 2011, the Jets had a total of just 13 picks, which is incredible to think about. Having nearly that many in a single draft will give Idzik the flexibility to take some chances with his picks, or package some up to move up and select a player that he truly covets. In fact, that’s the next step in the plan to turn the Jets into a true championship contender…

Get Playmakers – Idzik and Rex Ryan have teamed up to do a great job setting the foundation for the team going forward, but there is still work to be done. There are some terrific building blocks on both sides of the ball, including the probable QB of the future, so now the next step is bringing in some legitimate playmakers, particularly on offense to help the team take the next step. The Jets clearly lack explosive players on offense, and with all of those draft picks, you have to believe wide receivers and tight ends are going to be targeted. No quarterback is going to thrive without weapons around him, and if the Jets are going to put all of their eggs in the Geno basket, they need to give him what he needs to succeed. The Jets never did this with Mark Sanchez, and we saw how that turned out. None of us want to see a repeat of all that, so the next step in the championship plan is to get Geno some playmakers that he can grow up with and just let them be. No changing the receivers every year. No Plaxico Burress. No Derrick Mason. Give him some consistency and let them grow together.

Of course, the draft isn’t the only way to bring in players, and with Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes coming off the books after 2013, the Jets will also have a ton of cap room available to bring in some complementary players. It’s important not to rely on free agency to fill all your needs, however, and John Idzik knows this. A lot of that cap room is going to be needed to extend the contracts of players such as Mo Wilkerson in the the near future, but you can expect the Jets to bring in some veteran help to complement the core of the team. I would expect to see the team pursue a veteran safety and perhaps a tight end, while targeting an explosive wide receiver and perhaps a running back through the draft. This is the way smart franchises go about building their teams. Surround the QB with talent, don’t overpay in free agency, and use your draft picks to build the core of the team. Finally, the Jets are following the blueprint.

Extend Rex (and Marty) – I sound like a broken record at this point, but it’s imperative that the Jets extend Rex Ryan and his entire coaching staff to give the team some stability. Everybody will be in this together going forward and they can truly start to build something special that will hopefully result in many good years. Building a team with a bunch of quick fixes and making a run for a year or two isn’t the way to build a team as the Jets pretty much did in 2009 and 2010. With a head coach in place that the entire team loves and believes in, a quarterback that can win games and continue to improve, and more players brought in to surround the core, the Jets can have the foundation in place for a team that consistently make the playoffs and make a run. They’re quite there yet, but the pieces are all starting to fall in place. The Jets are building something special here, and this time they’re doing it right.

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And now, an abbreviated edition of the Stock Watch as the Jets head into a pivotal matchup against the Bengals…

SELL: Bill Belichick – He cheated. Again. He got caught. Again. He lost. He cried. He complained. Sorry, Bill.

BUY: Chris Ivory – The yards per carry last week were low, but the big story was that Ivory showed he was able to handle the running back load and take 30+ carries in a game. He moved the chains and kept drives moving, while Tom Brady had to sit on the sideline, which was key. Ivory is fresh and healthy and these next few games will be huge for him as the Jets and Marty are clearly ready to let him handle the load and see what he can do. I expect good things.

SELL: Jeff Cumberland – I don’t know what the hell that was last week, but Cumberland had an atrocious game. Yes, he dropped a touchdown, but the play that really drove me crazy was when on 2nd and 10, he received a pass out on the left flat and went out of bounds a yard short of picking up the first down, which led to a punt after a failed 3rd and 1. That was just inexcusable, and I expect better things from him because he can be a threat in the passing game.

BUY: Kerley and Nelson – Both of these guys stepped up huge and were reliable targets for Geno. Kerley especially has emerged as the go-to guy on the team, and Geno has clearly shown he is very comfortable with Nelson, despite him only being here for three weeks.

BUY: The Defensive Line – Yep, the DL is still awesome. Carry on…

BUY: Win in Cincinnati – This will undoubtedly be a tough game, and the Jets have a tendency to fall on their faces after a huge win, which is definitely a concern. That being said, the Bengals are way overrated and I think the Jets defense is going to get after Andy Dalton all game long and do just enough on offense to pull out a huge win, 20-17.

Author: Mike Donnelly

Mike Donnelly is a Staff Writer and life-long Jets fan, who was previously a featured columnist at multiple other New York Jets and fantasy football websites. He lives and works in finance in the NYC area and will help lead our Jets and NFL coverage in 2013.

  • @femme40

    Great article.

  • mike

    what i’m most encouraged by is that this is what idzik was able to do with less than no cap space and the sanchize still getting paid. whatever happens the rest of this season, things are going to open up for him in 2014. i’m very excited to see what he has up his sleeve when he actually has some room to work.
    great article.

  • John C

    That Cumby play was bad – he didn’t even turn his shoulders toward the line – ran straight out of bounds.

    In the draft, we still need young talent at LB, OT, and RB. We need a proven ballhawk at Safety or CB. A couple of mid-level free agents, and a good draft, and we’ll be in good shape for the near future.

  • YardJet

    Loved the article. This is one of the best things about watching the Jets this year – its a learning year for a new, younger core while we wait out some big contracts. If they stcik with what appears to be the plan and make good choices in the draft and FA, we should be a top team.

  • JT

    There’s 1 of 2 names I’m hoping to hear when the Jets pick next year: Seferian-Jenkins or Van Noy.

  • Lidman

    DeVito was a solid Jet and contributing to the top overall defense in the NFL. Simply put he played the one position the Jets didn’t need. I don’t know if it’s obvious he is being ‘overpaid’. Similarly, Matt Slauson gets rave reviews in Chicago. He played the entire 2011 season unable to raise one of his arms above his shoulder, and had major reconstructive shoulder surgery, so simply looks like he’s fully recovered. He’s playing on a 1yr deal, for $815k. Is getting a solid, starting NFL OLman for that price is ‘overpaying’? I’m not debating whether either guy should or shouldn’t have been kept. I just think grouping them with Landry and Greene is wrong.

    As for Idzik, has he really brought in some ‘studs’? Colon has been OK, but that’s it. Dewan Landry isn’t a guy who has made a huge difference either. Ivory has some time to prove his worth, but Goodson has been a bust. For as great as Richardson has been, Milliner at 9 has looked overmatched. Geno has worked out and hopefully Winters is a keeper too. We can give him some credit for Nelson and I guess Winslow. My point is let’s not anoint this guy as a genius, the way the NYG were celebrating Jerry Reese, a few years back. Let’s see him have some sustained draft success. The Jets are better because of Harrison, Mo, Allen, D Davis and the improvement of Harris, Wilson and Walls. On offense, Hill, Powell, Howard, Cumberland and Kerley have all improved. They were here before he was.

  • Joe Caporoso

    There is a chance he drafted the DROY, OROY and found a starting Guard in the 3rd round. He also set the Jets up with 40M of cap space next year and 12 draft picks. Let’s give him a little credit. Nevermind pulling Nelson, Cribbs and Winslow off the scrap heap for the minimum and having them all be contributors. Jets don’t beat TB without Winslow and they don’t beat NE without Nelson and Cribbs.

  • Anthony

    @mike

    I’m not sure what less than no cap space means, but the Jets were not in a bad cap position when Idzik took over. They cut 5 players and lost 30 mil in cap costs.

    Keller and Greene will not result in any compensatory picks either btw. The formula has to do with playing time and Greene will not qualify, and Keller may never play again.

    I do not disagree with the premise, but there were a few more details that were glossed over a bit. Revis was traded for a conditional 4th that could be a 3rd if he is on the roster next league year (who knows with Tampa now).

    The Jets did draft to surround Sanchez with weapons in Keller, Holmes, Edwards, Cotchery, McKnight and Greene. They failed, however. They inexplicably gave up on that nucleus for no appreciable reason and ultimately reaped what they sowed.

  • Anthony

    @Joe

    This 40Mil worth of cap space you speak of is not nearly as easy to get to as I think you believe. The Jets will enter next year with around 12 mil without doing anything.

    They will then look to cut Sanchez and Holmes who combine for about 16.5 bringing the jets to 28. To get to 40 we need to cut Cromartie (9.5) and Harris (5) which I am not prepared to say are certainly in the short term best interests of the team. Calling it closer to 30 mil (assuming goodson gets cut), the Jets will look to lock up Austin Howard, Mo Wilkerson and Snacks Harrison long term.

    Then they will have to set about finding a legit #1 TE, WR, RB and as you pointed out, they desperately need a legit OLB to replace the gaping hole in versatility known as Calvin Pace.

  • KAsh

    I think your entire take on Idzik is off. I understand you want to paint him in a heroic hue, but it does not do justice for what Idzik has done and how he operates. It also leads you to mistake what he is likely to do for what you want him to do.

    I do not understand how Idzik’s dislike for Sanchez was “painfully obvious.” He sure did not do much to try and replace him. He avoids any of the other possible FAs and gets Garrard, who had been out of the game for two years because of injuries. He does not use either of his two first day picks, and waits all the way until the seventh pick of the second day to draft Geno, who is the hands-down BPA in the draft at that point. He does not even try to trade up for Geno, even though a bunch of teams that can use a QB were drafting in front of him. Sanchez and Geno split reps in training camp, and only once Sanchez gets hurt does the front office start saying “the only guy left is the one we were going to start anyway.” And after seven weeks in which Geno is the only option to start, the team still refuses to name him its starter for the season.

    As long as the competition was fair, Idzik did not care who won. He always keeps his options open. On a team lacking offensive talent at all positions, he went after pure value in at least the first two rounds of the draft. He made only obvious cuts, which MT claims were already planned. He signed low-risk contracts with little guaranteed money, most of them for only one year. With the exception of Aboushi and Campbell, who have not played for an honest evaluation to be possible, his roster cuts ignored experience and potential in favor of current talent.

    Idzik, for the most part, has been non-egoistic. He is cautious. He will not extend Rex until the end of the season, until he is certain he is the best option going forward. His plan for the team has been “whatever works.” So far, he has not tried to shape this team according to some grand vision. He has just built the strongest team he could.

    The next offseason will be Idzik’s real test. He can find cheap FAs off the scrap heap on the cheap. Can he get prized FAs without overpaying? He knows how much is too much. Can he seal the deal without being outbid? He knows how to sign guys for low-risk. Can he commit enough money to get the higher-tier players?

    In free agency, Idzik will probably first extend the guys on the team he wants to lock down, then fill holes with mid-level talent. He will probably get a new FS, a new OLB, a new TE, and a new WR if Holmes is not extended. He will try not to enter the draft with a glaring need.

    In the draft, I expect Idzik to go for value again. The roster simply lacks either talent or depth at all positions, with the exception of, maybe, the d-line. It would be more interesting if he tries to trade up for a player, but I just do not see it happening. I do not think Idzik is the type to fall in love for or need a player so much that he gives up multiple picks for him. Idzik is more likely to settle for whatever playmaker falls to him. He would choose training up twelve lesser playmakers rather than eight better ones.

  • JetOrange

    @Kash
    Outstanding,fair and balanced.

  • Mark Phelan

    Certainly steps in right direction.

  • Lidman

    Joe..

    I don’t think Idzik has been bad or good. As many have said, a number of the cuts he made were obvious. The team was old. The majority of the players who’ve stepped in, were with the NYJ last year. I can’t give Idzik credit for that. Geno has been solid, but he’s the only player he’s brought in that has made a true impact on this team. Goodson has been an abject failure. Ivory is incomplete. So, while you tout his ‘scrap heap’ finds, I’m citing decisions he made to commit significant cap space to. I could also say his decision to trade Revis has weakened the team. Revis was still under contract and his cap number was lower than the $13mm in ‘dead money’ that is currently against the NYJ cap. I can’t be positive, but if it’s true S Richardson was their highest rated player, a case can be made they take him at 9. They took Milliner because they knew Oakland liked him as well. Yes, I know Revis wasn’t likely to resign, but he could have helped this season, or even been traded in season. Finally, if it’s true he forced Rex to put Sanchez into that NYG game, that’s hurt the team. First, just look at the NFL landscape and how many teams might have offered a conditional pick for Sanchez. More, with the arrival of Marty Mohrninweg (I’ll give him credit for this), who is to say Sanchez wouldn’t be thriving with a real play caller? No, now the Jets will waive good bye to a 26y old former 5th overall pick and get nothing. I’m not saying I prefer Sanchez to Geno. However, I am about extracting the most possible value of any player. In this case, I think he failed.

    I’m just putting the brakes on a bit. Just like should with Geno, let’s not go proclaiming Idzik to be the next Bill Polian or Ted Thompson. Let’s see how he does over the next couple of drafts.

  • Frank Antonelli

    @Lidman. You’re an idiot. That was a great article and spot on.

  • Frank Antonelli

    Facts:
    (1) Rex has more playoff wins than Belacheat during the time he’s been HC of NYJ.
    (2) Rex’s defenses have been ranked higher than Belacheat’s defenses every year he’s
    been HC of NYJ, despite the fact that Belacheat is a supposed defensive genius!
    (3) Rex has beaten Belacheat four times in five years, more than any other time in the league.
    (4) If Rex had Brady and Belacheat had Sanchez, the Jets would have won multiple Super Bowls and Belacheat would have finished last at least twice and have lost every game against the Jets.

    Check these stats out:
    (1) First Downs: Jets 27 Patsies 21
    (2) Penalties: Jets 9-45 Patsies 7-100 (funny people complaining about Jet penalties)
    (3) Time of Possession: Jets 46:13 Patsies 23:40
    (4) Total NET Yards: Jets 383 Patsies 295
    (5) Third Down Conversions: Jets 11-21 Patsies 1-12
    And all you hear is that the Jets were lucky to win! The haters keep on hating! GO JETS!

    The clown media talked about a six game losing streak to the Patsies. That was regular season but they conveniently overlook the fact that the most important game in the last seven games was won by the Jets. We beat the Patsies in the playoffs!

    If you haven’t seen this interview by Ray Lewis on Rex Ryan, you’ve got to see it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjuJpZ3z1Lw

    “It basically starts off: ‘The strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf,’ ” Dunbar said. “And I think Mo is our wolf. When we sit in that D-line room, we talk about not one of us is going to beat you, all six of us that dress on game day are going to beat you.

    “We’re going to be a bunch of crazy wolves, hyenas, whatever you want to call them. And we’re going to search together. ‘Cause we’ve got a saying: Together we eat.”

    FEAR THE JETS!

  • LIJetsFan

    Frank, Great vid, thx 🙂

    Lidman, can you say Debbie downer?

  • David from Haifa

    Besides the skill positions, we will also need an OLB to groom.

  • Paul

    Come on why do we need to call people idiots. Everyone is entitled to their option and sometimes some of what is said is valid. I come to this sure because the writers are good but I don’t always agree on what the say I come here because they are passionate Jets fans and so are the readers. We’re not all as blessed with knowledge and insight I am new to the ins and outs of football not a former player just an avid fan learning what I can from watching and reading. So lets just all agree we’re fans that are willing to embrace change so long as its in the right direction. So far the Jets have done this but before I make predictions off one good game I need to see more. Being a Jets fan makes you skeptical, this team has been cursed by passionless owners with nothing but their greed for making a profit allowing what decision are being made. For once I am glad woody has not gotten involved and let competent workers do their jobs. All of us just want the Jets to be competitive with a chance to succeed. Lets enjoy the ride and hope for the best none of what happens is in our control any ways. Go Jets looking forward to the future.