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Idzik: ‘What We Do Will Really Prove True’

Posted by Randy Lange on January 24, 2013 – 11:05 am

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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Some Bullet Points on the New Jets GM

Posted by Randy Lange on January 18, 2013 – 6:36 pm

Most of us football fans outside the Pacific Northwest would have to admit to not having much familiarity with John Idzik, the Jets’ new general manager announced by the team late this afternoon. But many fans, especially Jets followers of a certain age, at least have heard the name for a while.

John Idzik the elder was in fact a veteran NFL man, an assistant coach who made five stops with four Northeast teams, including the Jets, from the mid-Sixties into the Eighties. And more than three decades after giving the Green & White a respectable and improving offense in the late Seventies, he can smile proudly that his son, 52, is now taking on an even bigger job than he had way back when in spiffing up Richard Todd and Matt Robinson for their late Seventies competition to run the Jets offense.

We haven’t met the younger Idzik yet and likely won’t until he’s introduced to reporters and fans next Thursday. But we have a few facts and trivia that point to the quality of the hire that owner Woody Johnson, with help from Jed Hughes and Korn/Ferry, has announced.

■ Everywhere Idzik goes, winning programs break out soon after. He joined the Buccaneers in 1993 and they went 5-11. But they built under Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden to five playoff berths in six years from 1997-02, crowned by the Bucs’ Super Bowl XXXVII win over Oakland. His three years at Arizona from 2004-06 were three losing seasons under Denny Green, but Ken Whisenhunt took over in ’07 and by ’09 the Cards were NFC champions and Super Bowl participants. With the Seahawks, Idzik’s first season was 10-6, then came four losing seasons, then came this year’s 11-5 resurgence in Seattle.

“John is a well-respected lifelong football man,” ‘Hawks GM John Schneider said this evening, “who I believe will be a strong addition to the Jets organization.”

■ Is he a cap guy? He graduated from Dartmouth magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in mathematics and has put it to use ever since. His main role with the Seahawks has been described as being their salary cap guy who oversaw player negotiations, cap compliance, player personnel transactions, football operations budgets, staff and team contracts and team travel.

■ Is he a personnel guy? That is already a burning question for fans and media and will continue to be on through next Thursday’s news conference to introduce Idzik. He will explain his experience far better than I can from limited research, but yes, he has personnel experience as well. He was a pro personnel assistant, director of football administration and assistant GM with the Bucs, and his Seattle bio stresses that besides all the admin stuff he did for them, he also remained “active in player evaluations.” Before the pros he coached at Duke, SUNY Buffalo and for the Aberdeen, as in Scotland, Oilers of the BAFL, as in the British American Football League.

■ Idzik’s first coaching assignment came as the receivers coach at SUNY Buffalo in ’82. His second was as the offensive backfield coach for Aberdeen in ’90. What did he do in between? He was a programming projects manager and systems engineer for IBM, working in White Plains, N.Y., Atlanta and Tampa.

■ A little more about those bloodlines that no doubt interested Johnson and head coach Rex Ryan: The Jets have had two league-leading rushing attacks since joining the NFL in 1970. The last time was 2009, Ryan’s first year as head coach. The first time was 1979, Idzik Sr.’s last season as the OC.

And we don’t know if Idzik’s first official duties as Jets general manager will incorporate some work at next week’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., but it would be another circle closed as his father served as one of the OC’s in the 1978 Senior Bowl.

■ Word is that Ryan wasn’t part of the GM evaluation. However, Ryan did meet with Idzik and fellow candidate Omar Khan of the Steelers to discuss football philosophy during the interview process.

None of this necessarily tells us much about what the start of the Idzik administration will look like. But we’ll get all the input we need in the coming days, weeks and months as a new, energetic, tireless executive with ties to the Jets’ past sets to work on the Jets’ future.


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Great Words Now, Hard Work Ahead

Posted by Randy Lange on January 8, 2013 – 2:46 pm

It’s a testament to what the Jets have become that a 6-10 team could wait until nine days after the end of its season to hold its end-of-season news conference — and create a bigger scene than it would have eight days earlier.

All the trappings of a major news event were here at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center today: satellite trucks and Sal Pal standups outside the reporters’ area, assigned seating for the packed news conference room, Woody Johnson and Rex Ryan in business suits facing the media music.

There could have been contention among the beat reporters for the Jets possibly having been in violation of the “Bill Parcells Rule” that advises all teams to hold end-of-season news conferences within seven days after their last games, the rule named for when the Tuna took the organization “down to the bunker” for a month or two after some of those seasons back in the Eighties.

But it was never the Jets’ intention to violate the spirit of the rule, and the NFL and the Pro Football Writers of America agreed to let this process take its course. Then Johnson may have defused any lingering questions with his opening remarks.

“I want to make an apology. I’ve read your statements,” the Jets’ now 14th-year chairman and CEO said of the stories about the delay of the post mortem. “The coach is not responsible for this. I wanted him to wait until I had a chance to think a little more about the season. … Your comments about the delay are valid. I take them for what they are. I should’ve gotten back to them earlier.”

That being said, reporters still came at the duo rapidly and relentlessly, at least on the several occasions when multiple people had tough questions that they had to pose simultaneously.

Just as it was within their rights to ask all those questions, pertinent and impertinent, it was also within Rex’s and Woody’s rights to decline to answer every question directly. That’s the way it is at all news conferences of this sort. Some topics can’t be discussed at this time. Some can’t be discussed at any time.

But reporters and fans can easily read between most lines. And the space between one set of lines was clearly legible when Ryan was asked twice early on about the unusual situation of the head coach staying and the guy above him coming in new to the organization, about Rex facing a “make-or-break situation” for the 2013 season.

“I’m pretty sure I’ll have the exact same agenda as the general manager will have — that is, we want to win,” Ryan said. “I don’t know who the general manager is, but I promise you he wants to win as bad as I do. I look at this as a new beginning, just like it’ll be a new beginning for the GM. That’s how I’m approaching it.

“You’re one of 32 men in this country who have this, you’re in the NFL as a head coach. That is an unbelievable honor and a privilege, that’s certainly the way I feel. But I’m excited. I do look at it as a beginning. We’re going to be a dangerous football team, I can promise you that. How many wins and all that, I can’t tell you, but you’re not going to want to play the New York Jets. I know that’s the mentality we’re going take. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

And reading further between those lines, you can call that Rex’s bluster, or his supreme confidence in his own ability and in the people around him, but it’s something that has further rubbed off on Johnson the four previous seasons.

“Having been in the business of football for quite a while, you can recognize talent when you see it,” the owner. “I’m expressing my confidence in Rex. The only way you’re going to get better is by admitting what you haven’t done so far. Rex knows where he wants to improve and I believe him. He took us two years to a very high level, and it was just a question of whether we made it all the way in those years. I have confidence in Rex as a head coach, as a leader, as a motivator, as a playcaller.

“My confidence in Rex, I’ve stated a number of times,” the owner said later. “I think the general manager, whoever we select, it’s very important that he has to have a good relationship with Rex, which I’m sure he’ll have. That’s the GM’s job, and that’s all I’m going to say on that. We’re going to have all the pieces to put something really great on the field, led by Rex.”

All this being said, it was Jerry Glanville who I recall was the first to say NFL stood for “Not For Long.” So there’s no timeline for Ryan, no leash in the hall closet, no lame duck under glass on the menu. But there are a lot of front office and coaching shoes to fill, a lot of new players arriving, a lot of familiar names departing, some of their own volition, some not. The words today are fine, but a lot of work needs to be done for the Jets to be as dangerous as they can be.

Twenty-12 has finally been deep-sixed. It’s on to 2013.


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Mike T Issues a Parting Statement

Posted by Randy Lange on December 31, 2012 – 2:43 pm

This is a tough day for us who work at the Atlantic Health Training Center. It’s another one of those days that comes around every so often before or after New Year’s Day on which the Jets begin to tear down and build back up again.

I’d been a part of these periods on the outside as a beatwriter in 1995 (Pete Carroll out), ’97 (Rich Kotite out), ’01 (Bill Parcells regime comes to an end) and ’06 — Herm Edwards to KC, Terry Bradway back to scouting, Mike Tannenbaum ascending to the GM’s office.

And today Mike T is cleaning out that office after owner Woody Johnson said he won’t be back for the ’13 season.

Here is Tannenbaum’s statement to the media, issued a short while ago this afternoon:

I want to thank Woody and his entire family for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime — serving as the General Manager of the New York Jets for seven years.

I am incredibly grateful to have been a part of rebuilding a winning tradition for Jets fans over the past 15 years. My days with Coach Parcells through my years as General Manager of the team that went to back-to-back AFC Championship games have been the fulfillment of a dream I have had since I was a little kid and I’ll always be grateful to Woody, the two head coaches, Rex and Eric, as well as all of the players, staff and the entire organization for this opportunity.

While of course it is disappointing to not achieve the ultimate goal of winning a championship, I am incredibly proud of our overall winning record and success. I feel very fortunate to have been the general manager who drafted cornerstone players during a period that yielded four playoff victories and 22 Pro Bowl appearances.

I appreciate that it is rare for someone to stay with one organization with such a wide range of responsibilities for so many years. My time with the Jets will always be special to me and my family and it has prepared me well for whatever comes next.

There are champions on this team that haven’t been crowned yet. I am confident that the base we’ve established will allow the New York Jets to continue a winning tradition for years to come and I wish everyone in the organization the best of luck.

As D’Brickashaw Ferguson said today in the locker room, “What happens now? I’ve only been here under one GM.” I could say the same: I’ve only been a Jets employee under one GM, who had a hand in welcoming me to the organization back in March 2007. But I know what I’ll do: More of what I’ve been doing the past six seasons, which is chronicling the people in the pads and the people upstairs who keep trying to rally all the champions on each team to bring home another championship trophy.

There were reasons for Johnson to make a forceful move concerning his GM’s office with an eye on the immediate future. In seeing certain developments over the past year or two, the owner’s in line with the many we’ve heard from over that span. Fans, beat reporters and columnists have all formed and expressed strong opinions about Tannenbaum’s seven-year tenure, and I won’t add to them now. But I do feel Mike should leave with a few positive words about his years on the hot seat.

For a while it looked like he might be the new model for NFL general managers of the new millennium. His creative salary cap management was often stunning, as were some of his draft-day trades. As assistant GM, he signed and brought in “the Four Aces” on time to 2000 training camp. His first two drafts as GM in ’06-07, the Jets picked Pro Bowlers Ferguson, Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis and a PB-caliber LB in David Harris. At the start of the ’11 camp, he was able to keep Harris in the fold as the last of the re-signed “Core Four.”

There were some trades and signings and non-signings that I as a fan of the team wished Mike T didn’t make, but that’s been the great thing about working for T and Woody Johnson, where a diversity of opinions was welcomed, from inside and especially from outside.

On a personal note, that was the best part of coming to work for the Jets. Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini had to sign off on the decision by then-EVP Matt Higgins and then-SVP Bob Parente to recommend bringing me, a former beatwriter and critic of the team, on board in ’07. Maybe T swallowed hard once or twice, but he welcomed me to the team from the start and never once suggested we take a particular point of view on newyorkjets.com. He accepted the consequences of making the Jets one of the most open teams in pro sports.

Revis was asked in today’s “baggie day” locker room session about Tannenbaum’s dismissal. At first he sounded hardened to the situation, but he quickly segued to the humanity of a departing leader.

“Everybody gets evaluated. In this business we get evaluated every week. It’s just the business side of it,” Revis began. “He did great things here for the last couple of years. It is really sad. You do not want to see anyone get fired or any players getting released in this manner but it happened. He had a great speech that he wrote in the team meeting. Guys clapped for him afterwards and felt sorry for him.”

Mike also crafted the statement above, which included unconditional thanks to the man who decided to end his tenure. And around the time media members were reading that first graph, Tannenbaum went from his second-floor office to the first-floor media room not to do a formal interview with the beats — that would have to wait for another day — but to thank the reporters for their coverage of him and his team ever since he arrived as Parcells’ “cap guy” back in ’97.

Does all that make Mike Tannenbaum a great GM who was done wrong today? No. As Laveranues Coles, T’s third-round pick in that famed 2000 draft made popular around Jets locker rooms, “It is what it is.” Tannenbaum is what he is, a football administrator who made some great moves and some moves that didn’t work out. He was dismissed on “Black Monday” but he’ll move forward, find a new job and start a new legacy. And we wish him the best.


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Rex Was ‘Mad as a Hornet’ at News Story

Posted by Randy Lange on December 28, 2012 – 3:09 pm

Rex Ryan refers to his last news conference of the work week jocularly as “Fast Friday,” since the Q&A session is normally a bit shorter and lighter than the Wednesday or Thursday sessions.

Today was a changeup. Maybe “Fast Yet Furious Friday.”

“There was a report this morning that was untrue,” Ryan told reporters at the top of his afternoon news conference regarding a Daily News story under the headline that Ryan “would welcome firing if Gang Green fails to make over offense.”

“I was disappointed and quite honestly mad as a hornet.

“The fact is, and it’s simple, this is the only team I want to coach, period. Anybody who knows me knows I’m telling the truth. Has it been perfect? No. Would I like this player or that player? Sure, anybody would. But this is my team, these are my players.”

The coach was irritated over several issues. It was stated in the story that “Ryan declined comment about his future when reached by The News,” although Ryan said, “When I had a conversation with this reporter, it wasn’t reported that way in the article, and the headline reads a certain way.”

The coach also disputed the impression provided through quotes from unnamed sources that he was trying to influence owner Woody Johnson into a particular endgame scenario after the season concludes at Buffalo on Sunday and that he might also be trying to set up a landing spot with another team.

“I called Mr. Johnson as soon as I read the article,” Ryan said. “I let him know that absolutely, 100 percent is not my intention, no way in heck. I’m not putting an ultimatum to this man that hired me, no chance.

“This is his football team. I take it as my team, the guys I coach, the football part of it, that’s how I approach it. But at the end of the day, it’s Mr. Johnson’s team. I feel honored he hired me to do a job. I’ve told you from day one what an opportunity I had. This is the fact — I always wanted to be a head coach, but to be the New York Jets head coach, it’s unbelievable.

“The Jets were the first professional team my dad ever coach, eight years. This was my team growing up. The fans, I identify with that because I was one of them also. Now I’m the head coach of their football team, too.

Ryan said he also spoke to the team this morning about the story, “probably a little more passionate, emotional or whatever you want to call it” than he was speaking to reporters. He said he brought the matter up on all these fronts to make sure his perspective on the subject is heard.

“I want to be the Jets head coach for the next 15 years. And there’s probably a lot of fans out there that hope that isn’t the case, but I’m just telling you from my heart that this is the job I’ve always wanted and that’s it,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure everybody understood how I feel about this team. I don’t want to go anywhere, I don’t want to coach anywhere but the New York Jets, period. I want everybody to know it.”

Look Ahead at the 2013 Sked

Each NFL team’s schedule for the following season is always known by the end of the final game of the regular season, and that’s the case again this year. Almost all of the Jets’ 2013 opponents are set. Ahead of Sunday’s full slate of games, here’s how the ’13 sked is shaping up:

Opponents Already Determined: Home — Buffalo, Miami, New England, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Tampa Bay. Away — Buffalo, Miami, New England, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Carolina.

Opponents Yet to Be Determined: Home — AFC West. Away — AFC South.

The Jets play the team in the South and the team in the West that finish in the same standings spot in their division as the Jets finish in the AFC East. The Jets will come in either second or third. They would be second with a win over Buffalo and a Miami loss to New England because they would then finish tied with the Dolphins at 7-9 and would have the edge based on better division record than the ‘Fins (3-3 to 2-4). The Jets can’t finish fourth even with a loss to the Bills because then, even though both would be 6-10, the Jets would still get third place based on better record in common games (6-8 to 4-10).

So where the Jets finish will determine whether they will travel to the second-place Colts or the third-place Titans, and whether they will host the second-place Chargers or the third-place Raiders.

We’ll have those questions answered late Sunday afternoon, shortly after the end of the Jets-Bills and Dolphins-Pats games, both kicking off at 1 p.m. ET.

Friday Injury Picture

The big injury news for the Jets today was that DE Muhammad Wilkerson (concussion/knee) practiced full today and is being listed as probable for the Bills. Also, CB Ellis Lankster (concussion) was limited and is questionable for the game. There was no change in QB Greg McElroy’s concussion situation. McElroy is listed as doubtful but Ryan has said he’s not playing and that Mark Sanchez will start.

TE Dustin Keller (ankle), WR Chaz Schilens (knee) and LB Bryan Thomas (chest) all didn’t participate at today’s practice and are also doubtful, and WR Braylon Edwards (hamstring/knee) was limited and his game status is also questionable. The other 18 Jets were all full-go and are probable for the Bills.

Buffalo’s report lists three players ruled out for the game: DE Mark Anderson (knee), starting TE Scott Chandler (knee) and S Da’Norris Searcy (groin). Nine of the 11 other injured Bills were limited at today’s practice in western New York but are listed as probable, including seven starters: LB Nick Barnett (knee), S Jairus Byrd (ankle), G Andy Levitre (knee), RB C.J. Spiller (shoulder), DT Kyle Williams (ankle), DE Mario Williams (wrist) and C Eric Wood (knee).


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Woody, Jets Support Troops in Kabul FB Tourney

Posted by Randy Lange on November 22, 2012 – 6:18 pm

Thanksgiving football is alive and well today, in the NFL with three games, crowned by Jets-New England at MetLife Stadium tonight, as well as at numerous colleges and high schools around the country.

And let’s not forget Kabul, Afghanistan.

That was the venue half a world away for today’s Kabul Ultimate Football Tournament, a 7-on-7 extravaganza featuring five teams and involving as many as 70 U.S. soldiers  and members of Coalition forces and played under the rules of ultimate football.

And the New York Jets were a big presence at the big day, which even included a tailgate section set up for breakfast.

U.S. Army Col. John Sheard is a rabid fan and great friend of the Green & White and owner Woody Johnson. He’s a New Jersey resident whose duties include supervision of all aircraft assigned to the New Jersey National Guard as well as recruitment programs and promotion. He’s in Afghanistan for six months reviewing all helicopter operations there.

Col. Sheard hatched plans for the tournament back in September, always envisioning it to be held this morning in Afghanistan, well ahead of tonight’s Jets-Patriots game. His main objective for the event was to increase morale of the troops in Kabul, supporting both American soldiers and members of the 49 Coalition forces in the country.

He has worked with the Jets marketing department in the past, and when the organization learned of his tournament, the team moved quickly, donating jerseys and NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee T-shirts for the 2014 Super Bowl to be played at MetLife Stadium.

The green jerseys with white trim all carried the “player name” of KABUL – USA over uniform No. 12. The number let the service members all know that their sacrifices as the U.S. “12th man” in this area of the world haven’t been forgotten.

The media machine kicked into high gear as well. You may have already heard about the tournament on CBS’ NFL Today this afternoon. NBC is expected to cover the event during the Jets-Pats game, the network’s first Thanksgiving night broadcast ever. Associated Press, Armed Forces Network and other outlets have provided information. We’re told video of the event has gone viral on the Internet as well. And the Jets will show a clip on the MetLife videoboards during tonight’s game.

Col. Sheard tells us US V Corps won the tournament. His team didn’t fare so well, but as he told us in an email, “This event for me was not about winning. It was about the USA tradition of Thanksgiving and US football. … I can tell you that all players and fans were ecstatic to be part of this event.”

Woody Johnson and the Jets are pleased and honored to have been able to support this event for our troops in Afghanistan.


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Rex’s Hat Will Make a Statement for NY/NJ Region Today

Posted by Randy Lange on November 11, 2012 – 3:17 pm

Jets head coach Rex Ryan will be wearing a different gameday baseball cap than he usually wears when he patrols the sidelines during today’s Jets-Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field. It’s a black hat with a logo that reads: “NJ/NY STRONG.”

“I’m going to wear this hat at the game on behalf of our organization,” Ryan told reporters when he first donned the new headgear for his Friday news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.  “Basically, it’s just to let people know, especially people in our region that were affected by Hurricane Sandy that our thoughts and prayers are with them.

“Hopefully they’ll see this hat on the sideline and they’ll understand that we’re with them and thinking about them, and also that we’re representing our region when we go up there and play this game. If they can get something encouraging out of our performance, that certainly motivates us and drives us as well.”

This past Thursday, Jets owner Woody Johnson said the Jets are donating $500,000 to the relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which two weeks ago devastated the New Jersey/New York area, and that the Green & White are dedicating their Thanksgiving night game against New England at MetLife Stadium to helping and honoring all those affected by the storm.


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Looking Back on Curtis Martin’s Hall of Fame Week

Posted by Randy Lange on August 5, 2012 – 11:59 am

Curtis Martin followed up his emotional news conference before the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Gold Jacket Dinner on Friday night with a bravura performance running the anchor leg among the six members of the Class of ’12 at Saturday night’s enshrinement ceremony in Canton, Ohio.

“This is God’s honest truth,” Martin said as the sixth and final member of the class to speak and to receive his bust at Fawcett Stadium. “I came up here, I had a chance to spend time with the older guys and the guys who have been inducted. I had a chance to listen to their experience. On Friday morning, we went and listened to Ralph Wilson speak. Just the passion that he has for this game, being one of the founders, one of the founding fathers of this game, there was something that rubbed off on me. And literally yesterday I felt like it was my first day as a fan of the game of football.”

Martin spoke the longest of the six enshrinees but none of the 12,100 in the stadium noticed the extra minutes passing because he timelessly captured the moment in typical Curtis fashion. He broke the huddle with an anecdote from the weekend on huge tackle Willie Roaf. He darted into how he got into football “for a purpose that was bigger than the game itself, because I knew that the love for the game just wasn’t in my heart.”

He cut back as smoothly as ever into soul-baring personal stories about growing up on the mean streets of Pittsburgh and his special relationship with his mother, Rochella, that left him again teary-eyed, and all of the thousands in the stadium silently weeping along with him.

And he strode toward his goal line this night with another anecdote about getting hit so hard in a game against Oakland that he saw black, and kept seeing black as he tried to walk it off, until he realized he was in the Raiders’ defensive huddle.

“I was asked earlier this week if I would allow my child to play football,” he said. “I said, well, football’s getting bigger, stronger, faster and tougher. I don’t know. I would probably be reluctant. But if my kid can learn what I learned from this game, I’d let him play. I think it’s worth the risk.”

You can read Martin’s full acceptance speech here at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Website.

Bill Parcells, Curt’s coach with the Patriots in 1995-96 and with the Jets in 1998-99, presented Martin to the gathered fans after helping him slip on his gold jacket at the dinner in the Canton Memorial Civic Center the night before.

”Curtis has tremendous compassion for his fellow man,” Parcells said. ”He is, I think, the poster child for what the NFL is supposed to be. You come into the league, maximize your abilities, you save your money, you make a smooth transition into society, and then you pass all those things on to other people. That’s what this guy has done.”

The Jets were represented at the ceremony by a strong contingent at the ceremony, led by owner Woody Johnson, president Neil Glat and GM Mike Tannenbaum, who helped orchestrate the restricted free agency offer sheet with Parcells that brought Martin from New England to the Jets in 1998. A number of current and former players were there also. I don’t have a complete list but I know Joe Namath was there, as were Kevin Mawae, Pete Kendall and current starting RG Brandon Moore. Eric Allen, Rich Gentile and the multimedia crew were also there, and we’ll have video of events from the weekend up on the Website shortly.

Some Curtis Memories

I couldn’t stay in Canton for Saturday’s festivities, but I knew I at least had to be on hand Friday to honor him. I don’t have any touchingly emotional stories, just small, telling glimpses about covering Martin for the Jets from 1998 through his glorious 2004 season and into 2006, when he tried and tried to get his body ready to play but knew his career was over.

There was the one training camp day at the Netherlands dining hall on the Hofstra campus, when this one beatwriter among many, covering the team for a smaller North Jersey newspaper, asked Martin on the way in to lunch if he had time to talk for a story. He said yes, but then he didn’t show, having taken the side door up to his dorm, no doubt for a nap before the afternoon practice. I accepted being stood up by a big-name player, no big deal, happened before.

Then as I was about to head back for the pressroom, Martin showed up and asked, “I forgot that I was going to talk with you. Do you still need me?” I sensed then the special qualities of No. 28.

He confided in me when he didn’t have to, for stories about goals for the season and playing in the pain that was his constant companion, although no one ever really knew because he never complained and never missed a game. I tried to get him to complain just a little about the way some reporters were willing to write him off one Jets season after a bad start due to some nearly crippling injuries.

“I probably would have written that I stunk, too,” he said.

And he had and continues to have a way with words. Like all other people in the media fishbowl, he revisits timeworn themes and familiar anecdotes during his interviews. But in the locker room day after day, he was never like the comedian on the road who recycles the same routine night after night. Curtis always looked in the questioner’s eyes and had a new word or two, a new phrase that resonated, a new way to make a particular point to reporters and the fans.

Such as Friday at his news conference. He spent perhaps a half-hour answering questions from all of us in the New York Jets media contingent as if he’d never heard them before. He gave details of the murder of his grandmother that he said he’d never detailed for a large interview session before. I’d never been up close to anyone who had bared his soul like that, and I was choked with emotion myself in trying to sum up the story to another reporter a few minutes later.

Being the New York Jets rep at this news conference, I had to ask Curtis about the recent announcement that the Jets will be retiring his uniform number on opening day, Sept. 9, at MetLife Stadium. It’s an honor that’s certainly not on the Canton level, yet I thought Martin might want to speak specifically about the Jets. And he did.

“New York has been the best time of my life,” he said. “I’ve appreciated both organizations that I have played for, but I’ve been at the Jets longer than I was at New England, three times as long as I was at New England. So between the city, the fans, the media and the team, the impact it’s had on my life, and now to be honored with Woody and the Jets deciding to retire my number, next to the Hall of Fame, I don’t know what would be bigger than that.”

Bravo one more time, Curtis. And we’ll see you again in September.


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Jets Owner Pops Up in NYC to Chat with Reporters

Posted by Randy Lange on April 2, 2012 – 4:53 pm

Woody Johnson was helping with the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the NFL’s new pop-up store in midtown Manhattan this morning. And in that role he was also available for reporters, who had yet to hear from the Jets owner on several topics of interest to the fans.

One of the big issues was the sudden word of a rumored Jets return to “Hard Knocks” this summer, two years after the team’s first appearance on the annual NFL Films/HBO miniseries. Would they? Could they? Mr. J played it down the middle.

He didn’t deny. “I’ve heard that,” he said of those reports. “We have yet to receive a formal invitation. When we do, we’ll take a look at it.”

But he didn’t confirm: “All those concerns, the positives, the negatives, we’d have to look at, just sit around and say yea or nay. This is not a perfect science. We would use our best judgment at that point.”

One reason the Jets would be of interest to “Hard Knocks” would be the trade for their new backup QB. Johnson also spoke for the first time of the arrival of Tim Tebow last week.

“We never knew Tim would be available,” he said. “In looking at Tim, he brings a versatility and a capability at backup quarterback that we think is unique and will be very productive for us.”

As for how Tebow’s role develops, Woody said, “that’s kind of up to the coaches and Tim. How he does with it, the kind of reps he’s going to get as the second-string quarterback, I’m sure he’ll try to improve any way he can. His passing, that only helps the team, makes him more of a threat.”

Johnson said he’s not worried about the relationship between Mark Sanchez and Tebow, saying he thinks the Jets’ starter is “going to handle it great.” And he dismissed a popular storyline that a “circus atmosphere” on the team this season is inevitable.

“It’ll be a football atmosphere for sure,” he said. “I really don’t think that’s going to be the case. Our goal is to win games and get to the Super Bowl, that’s our goal. We strongly feel this move and other moves we’re going to be making, that we’ve already made and will be making, are going to put us on the track to do that. We also go to Cortland this year, which is a huge part of who Rex is and the way he builds teams.”

That’s Cortland, as in SUNY Cortland, site of the Jets’ first two training camps under head coach Rex Ryan before last year’s labor situation kept the team at home in North Jersey last year. Whether the NFL Films cameras will be patrolling the campus along with the Green & White, we can’t say yet. But the owner’s holding court in New York City today was a timely reminder that three months after the NFL Draft, and after “The NFL Shop at Draft” closes its doors, four months from today, the heat once again will be on Johnson’s Green & White.

Eric Allen talked with TE Dustin Keller at today’s event. He’ll file a report as well as a video on his chat with DK on Tuesday.


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Damien Woody Calls It a Playing Career

Posted by Randy Lange on August 5, 2011 – 1:30 pm

It was good to see D-Wood back in the building today, but like many events at this time of the year, it was a bittersweet moment as well. Damien Woody, one of the good guys and one really good and versatile offensive lineman, was back here today to announce his retirement from the NFL.

“The game of football, man, has been a blessing,” said Woody, who shared the moment in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center with Nicole, his high school sweetheart and wife of 12 years. “I don’t even have words to describe what football has done for me in my life and her life.”

But of course Woody had many words today — he’d better, since he’s going into a new line of work as a broadcaster and analyst for ESPN as an NFL analyst.. And many of them were kind words toward the Jets, who put him to great use as their right tackle anchor for the last three of his dozen-year pro career.

“When I came over here, I had only played five games at tackle, just five games at the end of the season with the Detroit Lions. They took a chance on me and signed me to a big deal when I came over — that’s a big leap of faith right there,” he said. “Throughout my time here, they’ve really taken care of me and my family, from the top down, Woody Johnson, Eric Mangini when I first came in to Rex, Mike Tannenbaum. We have a great relationship. I’ve got the utmost respect for everybody in the building.”

Ryan, who often rode the Jets’ ground-and-pound running game — No. 1 in the NFL in yards gained in 2009-10 combined — off of Woody’s wide base, returned the favor.

“D-Wood’s a tremendous player, and I don’t know if people realize how competitive he is,” Ryan said in introducing Woody to reporters at the end of his daily news conference in the media room. “He’d get the tough assignments and never flinch. He’s one of the great centers in this game, a Pro Bowl center, a great tackle. You could fit him across the line anyplace you’d want.”

Now Woody will be fitting into TV and radio studios as a talking head for ESPN and ESPN New York Radio. In the spirit of that role he was asked to analyze a few things on the Jets — quarterback Mark Sanchez for starters. He gave a critical analysis of Sanchez, but most of it was a very positive critique.

“This team’s going to be a competitor for a while,” he said. “It has the nucleus in place. You can’t win without a quarterback, and they’ve got a quarterback. The guy’s the real deal. Obviously he’s in a tough market, everything he does is going to get scrutinized, but this guy’s the real deal. … What Mark needs to do is that whatever he’s doing in the playoffs, now he has to do it in the regular season. If he does that, the sky’s the limit for this team.”

Another opinion thread from Woody, who broke in as a radio host with Sirius XM NFL Radio last year, is on the nature of the “game” he was involved in. He wasn’t sure if he should use a certain word to describe his release by the Jets before the lockout, but he did anyway.

“Look, this is a business,” he said, “but everything was just done gracefully. Everybody was just reaching out to explain the situation. Everybody in this organization has just treated me well.”

Ryan echoed some of those sentiments when he was asked about this eternally tough part of the game and of losing people from his locker room every year.

“I don’t think concern is the appropriate word,” he said of some recent events, such as Jerricho Cotchery’s release, Shaun Ellis’ possible departure, and Woody’s retirement. “Obviously I recognize the leadership these men brought to our team, there’s no question about it. We have other leaders here as well. One thing about this is this is the Jets family. We’re a team.

“This is the league, this is what we’re in now. Sometimes you can’t keep everybody. Sometimes guys are moving on to bigger paydays, sometimes they choose to leave, sometimes it’s time for them to leave. These are the cold, hard facts. But I believe in every one of the guys who come into this building. We believe in them. We also also want to be world champions. That’s not just lip service. We’re trying to do it.

“There’s a lot of guys I’d love to have back, but that’s not the way it is.”

Yet every once in a while, during a break in the activity toward building that team to compete for the world championship, teams and players get to come back and embrace one more time before moving off on separate paths.

“I didn’t really want to see Damien go,” said Brandon Moore, Woody’s next-door neighbor at right guard. “But in talking to him this offseason, this was something he was considering. He had a hell of a career, and picked it up even more at the end when he came here. It was a pleasure to play with him, with a guy of that caliber. You don’t get that opportunity a lot during your career.  I know he’ll be successful in whatever he chooses to do after this.”

“He’s always got that smile on his face,” said Ryan, “and he’s a guy who’s going to be involved in this game a long, long time.”

“You never know. You never expect this day to happen,” Woody said. “But one thing I say is I’m really looking forward to life after football, especially my body.

“This is a great day.”

Say hallelujah one last time for Damien Woody.

The On-Field Résumé

Woody played in 173 games in his 12 NFL regular seasons with 166 starts, and added eight more games and starts for four playoff teams, including the Jets’ two PO teams and one start in Super Bowl XXXVI for the Patriots.

At one time, in 2007, he was the only active player who had made at least five starts at center, guard and tackle each. Here’s how his versatility shook out in starts by position:

Left guard — 14 starts in all games, 13 starts in regular season

Center — 63 / 60

Right guard — 43 / 43

Right tackle — 54 / 50

One other note on Woody: In his 49 Jets games, he was hit with a few false starts, but he had only one holding penalty marked off against him, and none in his last 47 Jets games.


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