Updated, 4:45 p.m. ET
Today is not John Idzik’s first day on the job, but it’s still a big day for him, and not just because his parents are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary.
He and the Jets are flying forward as he met the media for his first news conference as the Green & White general manager. The event was big enough that it’s being held in the team’s auditorium, rather than the media interview room, and the half-hour intro to the reporters and fans was being streamed live and is now available as an archived video on newyorkjets.com.
That being said, Idzik showed up in understated but unmistakable Jets mode, coming in through the football entrance door to the complex shortly after 7:45 a.m. wearing a gray business suit, a small oval Jets lapel pin and a patterned green tie — “It’s really tough to find Jets-green ties in Seattle,” he said.
Then as part of his busy day, he spent 15 minutes shortly after his arrival to chat with us about the start of his Jets tenure, which actually began with an ambitious schedule the first half of this week at the Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala.
“It’s been like one big, long day,” Idzik said of his first week on the job. “Everything kind of flows together. I took a little diversion to the Senior Bowl, which was good, got to spend some time with Rex, quality time with the personnel staff. We got to know each other a little bit down there, so that was very valuable.”
Much has already been speculated about the relationship between Rex Ryan and the new I-Man in town. Idzik met the Jets head coach during the interview process and again in Mobile. The relationship seems simpatico, in part because as Idzik said, he spent time around the Jets under his father, the team’s offensive coordinator from 1977-79, in a way not dissimilar to a younger Rex hanging with his dad, then-D-line coach Buddy, and the Jets of the late Sixties and early Seventies.
“Rex and I are cut from the same cloth, we’re both football brats, so we have a lot in common that way,” Idzik said. “We shared some of that when we first met. He’s a very energetic, engaging, optimistic, enthusiastic coach, an accomplished coach, so those are all qualities that you look for. I think it’s vital that the GM and the coach have a very close working relationship. My first days with Rex have been very positive and I’m very much looking forward to working with him.”
John, “a skinny receiver trying to gain weight” during his high school years (he admitted to measurables of 6’4″ and 175), spoke fondly of his time back then hanging with the Jets and especially with his father, John Sr.
“Living in a football family is very rewarding, but it’s also very challenging on a family. You don’t see your father that often because of the hours,” he said. “But me, being the only boy, I got to spend all the camps and games together with my dad. I was fortunate to observe him, his coaching style, and to be with the players back then — they actually let you run routes at minicamp, so catching passes from Richard Todd, Matt Robinson and Pat Ryan, that was really neat.
“But yes, I spent a considerable amount of time with my dad and he obviously had a major influence on me both from a professional standpoint but, more importantly, a personal one. He taught me lessons much beyond football.”
One of the lessons from inside the game was the value of a good running game. Idzik was not urging Rex to reembrace “ground and pound,” but one thing the Jets of the late Seventies did well as they built their offense back to mid-Eighties prominence was to run the ball to the top of the NFL charts in 1979.
“I think it’s been well-established in our league that you need to be able to run the ball,” Idzik said. “That was certainly part of my father’s philosophy when he was offensive coordinator. He did it by committee back then. We did it in Seattle in a different fashion. So yeah, I think that is important.”
Idzik, needless to say, thinks the passing game and the scoring dimension are every bit as important. As he said about the Jets’ offense, “We’ll go through the specifics with Rex and his staff,” and he’ll address those specifics a little more in response to reporters’ questions in the 11 o’clock hour and we’ll put a news story together on that news conference with some of those replies.
As for a lesson taught beyond football, it was the value of teamwork and the importance of the new cast of players, coaches and staff he’s now meeting and will be going to work with in the coming days and weeks and months.
“The mission statement would be about developing and maintaining a cohesive unit, all pulling together for a single purpose,” he said. “It sounds trite, but it’s more difficult to do, and I think in football there’s no more visible evidence of that being the mode of success, just pure teamwork. So job one for me is to learn the people in the building. We have a lot of good people here. And we’ll get to know each other and I’ll get to know what everyone does, and more specifically as we get into planning, to do a thorough roster evaluation and then start developing plans for free agency, salary cap and the draft.”
That segued nicely into his response to my question about any misperceptions he may have read or heard from the reporting about his candidacy to become Woody Johnson’s new football executive.
“I don’t pay too much attention to perceptions,” he said. “What matters to me are the people I work with. That’s reality to me. I don’t address misperceptions. I think what we do will really prove true.”
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