While it’s always dangerous to predict that the Jets are taking a firm, permanent step toward stability and smart decision-making, they appear to be doing something like that under new general manager John Idzik. Despite taking the job with little room to maneuver, Idzik has done what no free-agent-spending binge or draft day bonanza could ever accomplish: He has at least introduced the idea that a calm and steady hand could be the next chapter for this team.
By all accounts, Idzik is a man who concentrates on doing his job, not winning friends or making the Jets the most popular team in New York. The importance of that if the Jets hope to return to relevance cannot be overstated. While the Jets retain the coach who is the perfect fit for the bombastic fan base in Rex Ryan, they need some brains in the front office to not only clean up the mess from the last few seasons but also chart a new path for a team that has never really had a stable plan. The Jets can’t have all fun and disorganization if they really want to win, and the losses appear to finally be bad enough that the pendulum — and owner Woody Johnson‘s pining for the love of the city — can swing in the other direction.
On Monday, Idzik capped off what has been a hectic stretch for the Jets, releasing Tim Tebow shortly after trading away star cornerback Darrelle Revis (with the NFL draft in between). Neither the Revis trade nor the Tebow release was unexpected, and both were in the best interest of the team.
That’s what made them so positively genius-like for the Jets’ GM.
No other team should be commended for trading away a player who is drawing too much attention and salary. No other team should be praised for ending a failed experiment and sending an attention magnet into the open without trying to milk the situation for more money or drama.
But the Jets have failed in this area many times before, and that is why Idzik should get a round of applause for both moves. Revis and Tebow were the two most obvious pieces that had to be moved for this Jets team to go forward, but neither move was easy for the people dealing with the pressure of building the team and keeping fans interested. Idzik, however, made the obvious call, making his first steps at the helm of the franchise markedly different than others who have come before. Continuing to make the no-brainers and other prudent decisions will be the determining factor in whether he has better success than his predecessors.
At some point in life, people must decide what they want — to indulge themselves, to hope to skate by and to try to stay young forever, or to bite the bullet and grow up, and make the right choices that will pay off in the long run. The Jets are the NFL’s permanent adolescent, the team that runs on teenage adrenaline and butt fumbles and excitement but has never proven itself to be a man. After one too many late-night parties gone wrong, though, the Jets appear to finally be learning that, to get where they want to go, the jokes have to stop, and they must mature.
Idzik doesn’t have much to work with in New York, and the problems only get harder after the gimmes. He has holes all over his roster, and little room to sign players or put up with the ones whose talent isn’t matching their paychecks. The biggest problem, of course, remains at quarterback — even with all that went into finally letting Tebow go, the Jets have an even bigger quagmire in underperforming Mark Sanchez and newly drafted Geno Smith, and that’s just the beginning of the discussion of one position. The only choices remaining are tough ones.
But with Tebow, Idzik made the right call, even if he made it months after everyone knew what had to be done. The Jets blew the Tebow situation from the start, failing to give Tebow an environment where he could succeed. In turn, they blew their entire season, not only failing to live up to their team’s talent level but also having the worst kind of distraction in Tebow — the kind that upset the many people who thought Tebow could start, and the kind that upset the players on the team who knew he could not.
Who Tebow is and whether he can ever be a starting quarterback is a question that has never really concerned the Jets, just as what kind of motor oil and premium gasoline to use in a souped-up sports car is never a question that concerns a teenager looking to peel out for quarter-mile stretches at a time.
But what has to be done to get from the haphazard youth stage to being an adult, where a team can stop running on hormones and actually put together solid, tangible results, is a question that the Jets are finally forced to face after frittering away too much talent.
Ryan can coach. Idzik can gather talent. It’s going to be a rough few years, but it looks like the Jets are ready to grow up. They’ll just have to do it without that Tebow poster on their wall.