New York Jets – A Reasonable Basis For Optimism

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The approach of General Manager John Idzik has become the most recent divisive issue among New York Jets fans. Like any other fanbase, there is always going to be a player, coach, front office member or other issue that is going to be a primary point of contention.

Towards the end of the regular season, it was the validity of keeping Rex Ryan as the head coach. Throughout the year, it was the long term future of Geno Smith. Before that, it was Mike Tannenbaum, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow…and on and on and on. This is all a natural part of the cycle of following or covering a team.

When it comes to Idzik, there are those slamming their fists on the table demanding action and saying he missed the boat in free agency. There are others saying he has a master “plan” and none of his decisions should be questioned. Readers of this site may think I fall into the latter category. While I admittedly lean closer to it than the other way, my feelings on Idzik and how the team is being run is more nuanced than that.

I’ve never been a big believer or sympathizer of the “poor, old tortured New York Jets” mindset. It may have something to do with my age (27) but I do not see this organization as a cursed, miserable heaping pile of sadness it is often stereotyped as being. The past 16 seasons (so, the bulk of my viewing life) have seen the Jets be .500 or better 12 times. They have reached the AFC Championship Game three times, won seven playoff games and reached the postseason seven times.

Yes, I am aware of the zero championships. Yet, the simple reality is that over the last decade and a half the Jets have regularly been better, more competitive and more well run than two thirds of the teams in the NFL. It does sting that two of those teams are not the New England Patriots and New York Giants for obvious reasons but that doesn’t relegate the Jets to being the east coast Cleveland Browns.

This is part of the reason I’m not interested in what many “public” Jets fans have to say. I don’t enjoy the incessant pity and whining people like Mike Greenberg put out there. “Look at me, I’m a Jets fan. It is so horrible and every transaction or decision they make feeds directly into our never ending spiral of sadness.” I just don’t see it or feel that way about the organization.

Like every team, the Jets have made their share of poor decisions over the past sixteen years and had embarrassing moments and disappointments. However, on the whole this has been a regularly competitive, well run team, to the extent that since ’98 there has only been THREE seasons (2003, 2005 and 2007) that they truly stunk and were not competing for a playoff spot in the stretch run of the season,. And, in all of those seasons an injury to Chad Pennington was to blame.

What we have seen in the NFL is that if you can keep yourself in the playoff race and get hot at the right time, any team can steal a championship. Obviously, the more seasons you maintain that level of competitiveness, the better odds you have, hence the benefits of building a long term sustainable model.

I was a fan of many things of Mike Tannenbaum did here, apexing with his construction of the 2010 team, which was a very legitimate Super Bowl contender and a team that was absolutely capable of winning a championship. They snoozed through the first half of their AFC Championship Game (something Rex Ryan gets too much of a pass for from many fans) and missed their shot. The team paid the consequences the next three seasons for Tannenbaum’s decisions on giving away draft picks, missing on too many draft picks and handing out bad contracts. He had a good run here but it was time to move on…and the Jets, as they have many times since 1998, made the right decision and did just that.

Why am I more defensive of Idzik than some? I liked the hire. I liked the rebuilds he was around prior to coming here. I liked a publicly professed focus on building through the draft and a judicious approach in free agency. I liked locking down the information around the team and limiting leaks. If the Jets go 7-9 this year, many will call for both Idzik’s and Rex’s head, I won’t. Seattle went 7-9 their first two years with their current management, stayed the course and it paid off.

Nobody is saying the Jets are going to turn into the Seattle Seahawks or that everything they do should mirror what happened in Seattle. These are different rosters and different situations (…and that Russell Wilson guy isn’t here). I don’t necessarily think Idzik has some “MASTER PLAN” written on a large scroll in Florham Park and everything that has happened since he came was pre-determined and beautifully orchestrated like season two of House of Cards. There has been questionable moves but it is just so, so early. It is early in this offseason and early in Idzik’s tenure. Twelve draft picks is something to be very excited about. The ease with which they should be able to lock up Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison long term is something to be very excited about. That beast man-child Sheldon Richardson is something to be very excited about. Signing one of the top 25 wide receivers in football as he enters his prime is something to be very excited about.

The overall tenure of the moves and decisions Idzik has made since coming here suggests the construction of a sustainable model. A model that will allow the Jets to continue being routinely competitive the next 4 to 5 years, which will put us at two decades of generally solid football. Maybe the next time the Jets reach that AFC Championship Game, they will be ready to play in the first half, or will avoid a Peyton Manning onslaught or remember to field kickoffs in the breezy Denver air.

Forecasting doom for this team is mathematically inaccurate if you are looking at a recent sample size, of both how the organization has fared the past 15 years and the history of teams who focus on building through the draft over free agency. I don’t know if John Idzik is the next great NFL GM but I am willing to give him a fair shot.

  • http://twitter.com/RobbyJerzee Robby Jerzee (@RobbyJerzee)

    LOVE GREENY COMMENT.Some days wish he rooted for Giants.Hate hearing the whining

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    While Idzik most likely does not have a “Master Plan” of scripted moves, I think he has a “Master Plan” that involves building through the draft & focusing on low risk/high value free agents.

    I wonder how much of the fan frustration with him stems from the transition from Tanny’s media-friendly management style that clearly sought out the spotlight (Hard Knocks, Tebow press conference, Draft Day movie, etc) to Idzik’s more business-like style of utilizing the advantages inherent in ‘playing your cards close to your vest.’

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    In addition, as a Jet fan that has lived through the Joe Walton & Rich Kotite eras, the current crop of complainers really seem like a bunch of cranky toddlers who missed their naps.

  • http://medicfl1.wordpress.com MedicFL1

    As a fan of the JETS for more than 40 years (let’s leave it at that) I would simply add that while John Idzik has an excellent resume and I’m sure his rebuilding will pay off, fans will always complain.
    As you point out we have come close so many times and I believe that – that has a large part to play in the frustration of JET fans.
    There is always one piece missing. It’s hard to see the great players on our team(s) over the years not get rewarded with that Super Bowl ring.
    The SACK EXCHANGE, MARTY LYONS “giving him the business Penalty (an NFL first), the team moving to Jersey, Ken O’Brian, Boomer, Vinny T.coming off the couch to come in and win, working out at Greg Buttles gym & watching players do the same.
    Okay, okay, I’ll stop. I know some true fans are crying right about now about the missed opportunities.
    New Yorkers are a tough, resilient group of people and die hard fans. It’s JETS/Mets/Islanders or the complete opposite, yet one thing holds true. We stand by our JETS teams and enjoy the play makers we do have.
    Will we find another QB that can be as powerful in the NFL as Joe Namath was without ever posting 90% ratings?, We haven’t yet but we’ll keep trying and until then, keep complaining. That’s what we do when we feel no one is listening.
    I firmly believe Rex Ryan is the coach that can get us there. He reminds me of Parcells and if Idzik thinks the draft will do it for us, even against the roar of the crowd, let’s get behind Woody and give John that chance.
    New York can make you or break you and Idzik ifs taking that chance. We have no choice but to see if he’s right about Geno and the draft So let’s enjoy another year of JET FOOTBALL.

  • PhillyTheJet

    Love the article. The complainers complain when we are 8-8 and say we are the “worst” team in the league. True Jet Fans recognize the talent we have and dont cry about what we dont have, and no matter what, no matter who is signed, no matter who is drafted, true Jet fans never stop believing…. and all the talk and scrutiny about Rex last year and to those who still feel he should have been fired i just have one thing to say.. Defense wins championships (Baltimore/ Seattle) so everyone shut up and be happy we have the greatest defensive mind in football
    -IN REX WE TRUST-

  • https://vimeo.com/user1277282 Simon Gribben

    I am with you, Joe, 100%. Good straight talk. Go Mules!

  • Ashish

    You on twitter Joe?

  • David

    This is where I disagree wholeheartedly with a lot of you: I hear people say that Rex should not be in any trouble if he misses the playoff this year. Since when does missing the playoffs 4 years in a row constitute someone keeping his job? You can talk about 8-8 last year all you want, but guess what, it was a MISSED PLAYOFF season!

    The NFL is too easy to turn things around: Indianapolis brought in a new GM, new coach, new QB, new players and went from 2-14 to 9-7 and a playoff berth; Jim Harbaugh was brought in to San Francisco and that team went from a 6-10 to 8-8 team to 3 straight NFC Title games and 1 Super Bowl appearance; Andy Reid in one season took Kansas City from 2-14 to 11-5 and a Wild Card Berth.

    If Rex doesn’t make the playoffs this year, he is DONE as the NY Jets head coach and John Idzik is squarely on the hot seat for 2015.

  • LeeBur

    David- you might be right. But who is out there that you would want to replace Rex?

  • KAsh

    @David

    Indianapolis played that entire 2-14 season with a backup QB and both before and after that were led by a quarterback acknowledged as one of the best, Peyton being probably the most widely acknowledged player in the entire NFL and Luck already a solid heir to the throne. (The whole reason for the 2-14 season was that the rest of the roster was always carried by Manning.) The 2012 Chiefs were one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, who had a horrible season that involved a starter killing himself right in front of his head coach and GM. Harbaugh inherited a roster with some great talent (Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Joe Staley, Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman, Michael Crabtree) which he channeled toward NFC dominance. There is a reason people thought the Jets would win three games last season. Like it or not, beyond the Jets fan base, even our very best player – Wilkerson – is not as recognised as he should be. And this is also the reason why Rex revived his reputation with a season in which his team was 8-8: no one could have done better.

  • David

    @LeeBur, I understand what you are saying, but how many times do we use that excuse to keep Rex around? Sometimes you’ve got to take a chance when it is obvious your current coach can’t get the job done!

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  • Joe Caporoso
  • http://Blues Jake

    If we had an owner who was really interested in winning at a high level, things would be different.
    Do you think Bob Kraft wold accept such mediocre play as the norm ?

    The Jets continue to disappoint.

    Woody should sell the team

  • Joe Caporoso

    Disagree. Woody has never been shy about spending and again, since ’98, the Jets have been one of the better team in football. Bob Kraft has a top 3 QB of all-time and arguably the greatest coach in NFL history…makes things a little easier.

  • tariq

    we need help bad we can sign more guys we need to score stay on the feild we need better ss dbs bad throw the ball deep we need to turn this team around.

  • tariq campbell

    we have to make better moves 1 guy his not going to help us win this his nyc jets.2014 will be tough i hope we can win 11 games hope geno smith can hold up we should make the playoffs

  • tariq campbell

    i hope rex dont be fire let him stay coach the d

  • Frank Antonelli

    As usual Joe you hit it out of the ballpark. Notice that most of the haters have not posted anything!

    P.S. How anyone can question the job Rex did last year is beyond me. He had a club that gave up 100 points more than they scored and still managed an 8 and 8 record. Pretty amazing job considering the lack of talent on offense and a rookie QB as well.

    P.S. Bob Kraft is and was a joke. His staff lucked out drafting Brady in the 6th round. He’d still be seen as a clown it it wasn’t for that very fortunate draft pick. No wonder Putin took his ring, he recognizes a weakling when he sees one.

  • http://captionaust.com.au JetSyd

    More significantly, the Pats drafting record, with their media heralded genius/ surplus of picks has been very bloody ordinary. It’s Brady. Brady was so good that he took that team to the Superbowl surrounded by WR/TE mediocrity. When he got some players they nearly swept the league but when it really counted choked.

    Bottom line – the Jets look to be in the best hands they have been in since Parcells. A S, ILB, CB (2) away from dominance. And, between Coples and Barnes we have pass rush covered. We get some more talent on offence in this draft, some more maturing of the core and we make the playoffs and from there anything can happen.

  • http://gravatar.com/theelidman Lidman

    Joe..aren’t you on record as saying Rex should go if they don’t make the playoffs this year?

    MedicFL1..Joe Walton got us to the ‘Mud Bowl’!!!!

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  • Bruce Harper

    These apologies for Idzik are unbelievable. Are you kidding? Frank, I recommend taking a week off from the Jets and watching teams that have a shot at the championship this year. The Jets are YEARS away from being competitive. (which is ironic, because being competition is Idzik’s mantra.) Also, I love Ryan as a guy, and think he has moments of being a really great coach. But he can’t develop offensive players. (Can anyone seriously argue that he can?) So suggesting, like LeeBurr does, that Rex is irreplaceable is ridiculous. For Idzik apologists, consider this: 1) THE 12 PICK DRAFT WE WERE SO EXCITED ABOUT WAS A BUST. 2) GENO IS DONE, and pretending he was a leader was a major mistake. 3. THE MESS IN THE DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD was something WE KNEW WAS COMING, and IDZIK IGNORED. Since the teams we play have quarterbacks that are crazily better than ours, we don’t have a shot at winning.

    It is nice to be optimistic in the face of all evidence to the contrary, but a truck needs to empty about 40 current Jet players, and the GM, and the OC, and Rex so we can start again in the hope that in 4 years or so, we can be competitive.

    By the way, please don’t call me a hater. I am anything but. But I am so tired of the Jets out-dumbing the other teams, that I am angry at this point. Today, once again, the Jets blew 2 time outs in the third quarter. Of course it didn’t matter, because we weren’t ever close to the lead,but it was another indication that we are not coached well. And it’s not just the offense. The special teams suck, and the defense was far from stellar.