Monday, December 8, 2014

Woody Johnson shouldn't wait to clean Jets house any longer

There are three weeks left in the 2014 NFL season, and the Jets stand at 2-11 joining the likes of the Raiders, Jaguars, Titans, and Buccaneers with equally horrific records. Call it the wasteland of the NFL -- that is where the Jets are, and have been now for way too long.

Breaking down the Rex Ryan/Mike Tannenbaum, and Rex Ryan/John Idzik eras would require book length proportions that might challenge the volumes of the Hobbit, with long chapters dedicated to Buttfumbles, Tebow Time, McElroy Time, bad drafts, Footgate, Geno Smith (as if he needs an entire chapter), and, yes, even a chapter about Twitter rants by Eric Decker's wife. But, at the end of the day there is really one man to blame for everything that has swirled around this ball club the past few years: Woody Johnson.

No this is not another ridiculous sob piece from some Jets fan rubbing two sticks together, hoping that Johnson sells the franchise to the highest bidder because that is fruitless. Let's be realistic: the Jets are Woody Johnson's team to own, there is a reason why he spent $635 million to buy the team back in 2000. He wanted to be apart of this great cash cow called the National Football League, like just about every owner in the NFL; lord knows, he might even fancy dreams of truly winning ... one would think.

Yet it is now, on the approaching anniversary of his 15th year as owner of the NYJ that Woody Johnson is at a crossroads. Does he fire he favorite coach Rex Ryan? Does he keep John Idzik? Does he fire John Idzik, and if so who does he replace him with? Does he keep the front office intact? Who stays and who goes? These all seem like questions with one word answers, but they are not -- it's not that easy, because if Woody Johnson looks himself in the mirror, or better yet decides to talk to his local psychologist (Dr. Melfi calling ... sorry old school Sopranos' reference), and decides that it is time to clean house then he better get moving on it.

While everyone might be thinking about Christmas Day, the NFL's Black Monday is coming up just as swiftly. NFL teams act very quickly on Black Monday -- the day NFL coaches and GMs get their walking papers, and, for some teams the turnaround to the next generation is pretty swift. Case in point, two years ago the Kansas City Chiefs cleaned house at the end of a 2-14 season in 2012, and two days after firing Toddy Haley and company they signed Andy Reid to run the show. The Chiefs are 18-11 since that day.

If you think the Chiefs just decided on a whim after Reid was canned by the Eagles that they were going to pursue him, you're probably wrong. The Chiefs knew for months they were going to change the leadership of team, they may not have know it would be Reid at the end of the day, but they certainly had a list of candidates they would consider as soon as the season was over, and I am sure they were aware Reid was in trouble in Philly at the time.

In other words, how do we know what Woody Johnson is going to decide to do come Black Monday?

Let's tackle the first question, will he fire Rex Ryan? The answer, more than likely is yes. Ryan's time in New York hits its crescendo a long time ago. After two surprisingly successful years in 2009 and 2010, the team has been a total failure since. 2011 was the beginning of the end of the Mark Sanchez era, as the quarterback's mistakes sunk the team to the point Santonio Holmes went AWOL on the entire team in week 17. That day in Miami, Ryan admitted he didn't have the pulse of the team.

Then came 2012 and total disaster that year was with Tebow's presence, Sanchez again stinking it up, the Buttfumble and nearly half the fan base throwing in the towel on years of torture as Jets fans (see Fireman Ed). This was where Johnson made his first crucial mistake. He fired then GM Mike Tannenbaum, but forced Rex Ryan down the throat of every potential GM candidate. Better candidates stayed away from the Jets, but Idzik, a "cap-guy" from Seattle wanted the job, and he agreed to keep Ryan. It has been a even bigger mess since.

Johnson should have fired Ryan in 2012, and he should have fired him in 2013, when he made it clear that Rex had to make the playoffs or else. Instead he got wrapped up in two wins against against a bad Browns and Dolphins teams, and decided to keep him.

At 2-11, with the team fractured beyond repair, the damage of Johnson's 2012 decision already complete,  it is time to say goodbye to Ryan.

But, that leads us into the second question: What about Idzik? While Ryan has been hearing footsteps ever since 2013, and is now dealing with the latest hot rumor that the Jets are interested in Jim Harbaugh, the current Niners coach as his replacement, we don't hear as many rumors anymore on Idzik. Why is that?

The fans have voiced their displeasure with the GM, making him the most hated executive not in politics. They have t-shirts, websites, billboards on Routes 3 and 80 in New Jersey and will be handing out custom made penalty flags with the phrase "Fire Idizk, Woody Clean House" printed in green.  Even New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio can't get this kind of press.

Now reports are that the Jets coaches and front office staff are getting fed up with Idzik. Initially reported by ESPN Idzik has "alienated" himself to the coaches and staff and it is fair to say that his seat is getting warmer; this nearly eight weeks after his bizarre press conference in which he announced that everyone in the organization was on the same page.

It is clear that Idzik has to go. From terrible draft day selections like Geno Smith, Dee Milliner, and Jalen Saunders, he failed to spend any money on free agency to improve this team. The $20 million of cap space has been well documented. While a lot people have bated the Jets in recent weeks, mostly for amusement, for letting Sanchez walk, the real mistake by Idzik was to let Darrelle Revis go, not just once but twice when the cornerback was reportedly interested in a reunion last March.

It has felt like Idzik has done this on purpose in order to prove that Ryan should be fired, by giving him a team that lacked the necessary pieces to win. However, such trickery shouldn't be tolerated any longer and Idzik has to go, and go now.

The last time we heard anything substantial to a possible firing was in a November 6 article by Brian Costello of the New York Post, stating that Johnson is sensitive to the criticism of Jets fans and will make a move. Costello's story is probably 100 % accurate, but I do wonder why we haven't heard any rumors about potential candidates since then. We've heard a lot of rumors surrounding Ryan, not too much about Idzik.

If Johnson is serious about dumping Idzik, he needs to two things. 1) Get rid of him now! Why wait for Black Monday to fire the guy? If Johnson is smart he should have been compiling a list of candidates to replace Idzik all along, with a blueprint of the immediate and long term future of the team. And 2) Johnson needs to clean the entire house! Get rid of Terry Bradway, whom Johnson has way too loyal to for way too long. Bradway was the Jets GM from 2001-2005, before Johnson demoted him to a lower position in the organization. Since that time he has been the director of player personnel, or college scouting, or even both. Obviously the Jets lack of talent can also be attributed to Bradway's work. He and his entire personnel staff need to be fired.

By firing the front office now, Johnson can hire a general manager, a few extra weeks in advance to get a head start on personnel development and evaluation, and begin the head coaching search. There are a lot of intricate and important steps toward building a franchise, and it would behoove Johnson, the Jets and its fledgling fan-base if he got started on it sooner. 

The reason I am concerned about Johnson's timing has to to with the simple fact that Johnson is loyal to a fault. He's been loyal to Bradway; loyal to Rex Ryan; loyal to Mike Tannebaum. George Steinbrenner he is not. Until Johnson actually makes the move, and partly because of the weird silence about Idzik's status, I am not totally convinced Johnson is going to make the move. Please prove me wrong, Woody.

Johnson needs to act, and with each passing day of total silence from the owner the harder it will become for the Jets to transition this mess and land the head coach they really want for 2015 and beyond.

No comments: