Rex Ryan's power base with the Jets, which these days falls a bit short of being Woody Johnson's co-owner, just got a little stronger with the hiring Friday of John Idzik as general manager.
Idzik, a really smart guy who played at Dartmouth and later was a graduate assistant coach while he was getting his master's degree at Duke, can handle a dreadful salary cap, even the Jets mess of about $20 million-$25 million over the limit, in his sleep.
But in 20 years in the front offices of the Bucs, Cardinals and the last six years with the Seahawks, he had not made one draft pick or been responsible for deciding who to sign as a free agent.
The Jets have major personnel issues and they hired a capologist to fix it. That should have Jets fans running to scoop up the remaining PSLs.
John Idzik can handle a salary cap, but can he spot talent?
Even though Idzik, 52, once coached receivers at SUNY Buffalo – hey, Chip Kelly made a name for himself at New Hampshire – and then later was the running backs coach for the Aberdeen Oilers, who are in Scotland and play in the British American Football League, he developed his reputation in the NFL and a strong relationship with the league office because of his work on the business side, not the football side.
By not hiring a true football guy, Johnson keeps Ryan in the personnel loop more than he deserves. Ryan is still coaching for his job in 2013 and ultimately Idzik could force him out, but it only makes sense Ryan's influence in the draft room would have immediately diminished if Johnson hired a general manager who has either run a draft or at least been a personnel director.
Unless Idzik shakes up the Jets personnel department, the same people who were advising Mike Tannenbaum will be advising Idzik, and isn't how the Jets got in trouble in the first place? Johnson didn't do more than move around the furniture when he really needed a whole new dining room set.
Johnson decided to keep the same organizational model he had with Tannenbaum, which makes little sense. "Business as usual isn't good enough," an NFL source said.
The Jets needed someone to pick the players, not negotiate their contracts. Seattle made the best pick in the 2012 draft by grabbing Russell Wilson in the third round. What a steal. It would be nice if Johnson could stand at the podium when Idzik is formally announced next Thursday and say his new GM was responsible for selecting Wilson for the Seahawks.
By all indications, the closest he came to any involvement with Wilson was negotiating his contract.
The Giants have Jerry Reese making football decisions. He worked his way up in their personnel department and then as GM helped build two Super Bowl winners. Bill Belichick handles the Patriots personnel. The Jets compete with the Giants for local attention and with the Patriots in the AFC East. And they will continue to do this with a general manager whose background and strength is salary cap management – just like Tannenbaum – although Idzik's first job in the NFL in 1993 was as a pro personnel assistant in Tampa
"I like John. He's a good guy. Honest. He will work his butt off," said one NFL source. "He's a little stiff, tight and inflexible. He has an answer for everything. And he's never had to handle the media."
Sources say they believe Idzik went to GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll and asked to be sent on scouting trips the last couple of years so he could enhance his resume and become more experienced in personnel.
That's a good thing.
Did he have anything to do with drafting Wilson?
"Surely not," the source said.
That's a bad thing.
According to another source, Idzik "was over the top ambitious" early in his NFL management career. "He was always driven," the source said. "He wanted to be a general manager, he wanted to be a personnel guy, he wanted to be a cap guy. He wanted to do everybody's job."
The test will be whether Idzik the can fix the Jets personnel problems. That's how he will be judged. "The Jets job is difficult," the source said. "You can have as many as 12 new starters to deal with. This is a challenge."
Why hire a cap guy when the other six GM openings were all filled by personnel guys? Johnson initially tried.
His first choice was Atlanta's David Caldwell, but he lost him to Jacksonville. It was thought early in the process that San Francisco's Tom Gamble was close to getting the job, but that fizzled out.
The Jets then changed the plan and concentrated on capologists and former Bears GM Jerry Angelo, who all along was the most qualified candidate to bring in the players to get the Jets headed back to the playoffs.
"Woody wants to know that the guy running his team knows his money," a source said. "You can't sit here and say to Jets fans that this is about winning. Even if Idzik turns out to be great, nobody perceives it that way initially."
One source said this job "is No. 32 out of 32."
The Jets are going to be bad next season. They would be bad no matter who Johnson hired. But now the perception will be it's Idzik's fault because he's not a football guy.
"Everything is going against him," a source said. "Lame duck coach, you have to overhaul the roster, the quarterback has failed miserably. Where is the positive? Restaurants? Shows?"
But, if as one insider said, "John is so damn smart," then he will figure out how to transform the Jets from a circus into a show worthy of Broadway. But he better be really smart.