Put down the torch and pitchfork fans. Take a deep breath. Rome wasn’t built in a day, or ten. Today the New York Jets top men, John Idzik and Rex Ryan, went out of their way to drive that point home.
In what appears to be a heavy handed public relations initiative, Ryan and Idzik sat down with Eric Allen of the New York Jets Official Website.
These sort of interviews are not uncommon, but the fact that they were released just days before mandatory media availability at the Spring Meetings raises eyebrows. Speculatively, the organization may hope that these interviews will serve as a balm for irritated fans and accusatory media. Following the maelstrom that was the first forty-eight hours of free agency, Idzik and the Jets caught a lot of flak for their conservative approach.
Despite the heavy dose of “team speak” and regardless of motivation, Idzik and Ryan seemed sincere and provided Jets faithful with some interesting nuggets. While they were asked about such hot topics as Michael Vick and concerns at cornerback, both refrained from specifics in favor of generalities. However, during a related conference call, Ryan spoke very highly of Ras-I Dowling and Darrin Walls in particular. Dowling, when healthy, could easily compete for the starting job and Walls’ two year contract should speak to the team’s plans for him.
Idzik touched (lightly) on the Vick’s impending visit to Florham Park. The GM said that having a source with “inside knowledge” on a player (see: Marty Mornhinweg) is helpful in the recruiting process. He also mentioned that free agent visits are as much about a player scoping out a team as the team evaluating the player. These are both factors to keep in mind when it comes to Vick and the Jets.
Idzik and Ryan clearly had a theme, however, that overshadowed any specifics they dropped. Both coach and general manager appeared to be content with their offseason work thus far. Both made a point to highlight the return of some key contributors from 2013: Pace, Colon, Cumberland, Walls, Lankster, and Bellore. They went on to express their belief in the core already in place. Beyond that, Idzik and Ryan clearly see the roster as a work in progress.
The Jets significant remaining cap space is not burning a hole in their pocket, rather, it is being saved for a rainy day. Idzik specifically mentioned his preference for flexibility regarding the cap. He hinted that when opportunities present themselves (read trades or camp cuts), he wants to be in a position to take advantage.
In the past ten days we have learned much about Idzik’s strategy regarding team building. The man is calculating and deliberate. He spoke at length about how he assigns values to players:
“Our evaluations are, in the most simplistic form, three fold: you find out about the player, you find out about the person, and then you place a value on that and how it would mesh into what you have here.”
With this strategy in mind, consider what Idzik had to say when defining winning:
“When we define winning, it’s not winning the first week of free agency, it’s not winning the draft, it’s not winning our preseason games. It’s winning going forward in what we do. It’s sustainable success.”
Sustainable success. Long term consideration. Think about it, when was the last time these terms were associated with the Jets organization? What Idzik is preaching is nothing new. It has been the strategy of dynasties and perennial winners for ages. Build through the draft and supplement through free agency.
So far this offseason, Idzik’s unflinching faithfulness to his pre-determined values has driven away at least one player that we know of (Dominique Rogers-Cromartie). Perhaps Idzik has too much conviction and not enough flexibility. Then again, perhaps Idzik’s one year, six million dollar evaluation of Rogers-Cromartie was right on the money, given that he has had one solid season and hinted at retirement.
Unflinching in the face of ire from fans and the media, John Idzik and his front office staff will continue on their set trajectory. Free agency is not over. New trade possibilities arise. The draft is just seven weeks away. Patience is a virtue, it is a long off season.