By Joshua Elkin
Fans. They’re the fantasy General Manager of their favorite NFL team. We anticipate front office moves by speculating potential free agent signings, targeting draft prospects and trades. But when the actual General Manger doesn’t meet our expectations, fans become frustrated because “hey, it worked in Madden.”
Reality vs Fantasy
Owners only give a General Manager so many years to rebuild their failing organization into a championship contender. When they fail to produce, GM’s are sent packing and now enters a new, sharp minded, football orientated executive. New up and coming General Managers are almost always a former high ranking executive from a successful team. It’s their job to right the ship and repair any damages from previous reigns. Former New York Jet General Manager, Mike Tannenbaum, had 6 such seasons to architect a consistently winning team; but could not finish the job.
Philosophies of General Managers differ depending on who you ask. Some deem the “win now” approach as the most appropriate method for success. These men tend to be fearless spenders and frequent players in the market. The risk attached to this philosophy is simple: what happens if the plan doesn’t pan out and the team is now in “cap hell” for X amount of seasons? Teams tie themselves to players with expensive contracts and newsflash, they don’t always work out. Players fall flat on their face. (See Albert Haynesworth/Redskins, Antonio Bryant/Bengals etc.
“Damned if you do”
Back to Tannenbaum, as a Jets fan it was great to see him attempt to build a contender. In 2008 his free agent haul was more than impressive; he inked guard Alan Faneca (5 yr/$40M) which at the time made Faneca the highest paid NFL offensive lineman. Moreover, linebacker Calvin Pace (6 yr/ $42M) and tackle Damien Woody (5 yr, $25.5M) all signed with the Jets. Tannenbaum also lured soon-to-be Hall of Fame fullback Tony Richardson away from the Vikings on a 1 year deal and arguably another soon-to-be Hall of Fame cornerback Ty Law from the rival Patriots. Jets fans around the world were even more ecstatic when the Jets traded a conditional 2009 4th round draft pick to the Packers for ANOTHER soon-to-be Hall of Famer: quarterback Brett Favre.
“Damned if you don’t”
So the Jets must have won the Super Bowl, right? I mean, c’mon, with that free agent haul, how could they not? Wrong. The Jets finished 3rd in the AFC East and posted a 9-7 record, a winning percentage of only 56.25%. How could this be? The answer is simple. Spending erratically does not ever equal immediate success. The only reason the Yankees are an exception is because the MLB has no salary cap; and even then the Bronx Bombers have only won 2 World Series since 2000. The Jets teased their fan base with back-to-back AFC Championship appearances in 2009-2010 but they could not get over the hump and it was all downhill from there. Sorry Mark.
Tannenbaum was fired on January 2nd, 2013. Happy New Year! 17 short days later, enter John Idzik. A former Vice President of the Seahawks inherited a 6-10 roster, heavy loaded contracts and who could forget Mike Tannenbaum’s biggest mistake, quarterback Tim Tebow. The philosophies of Idzik and Tannenbaum could not be any more opposite.
Idzik is methodical, he views managing a franchise like a game of chess. He strategies 3, 4 moves ahead of his opponents which allows him to pounce on the most optimal opportunity. John Idzik is not one to blink in negotiations. When ever so frictional Darrelle Revis’ contract demands became out of hand, Idzik dumped him on Tampa Bay and acquired the #13 pick in the 2013 NFL draft and a 4th round pick in the 2014 draft. Could one say, ninja? No other team was considerably interested in Darrelle Revis, yet John Idzik twisted the arm of no longer employed General Manager Mark Dominik. He later traded a 4th round pick to the Saints for runningback Chris Ivory, Jets fans have notably nicknamed him The Kraken. Oh yeah, Idzik later turned the #13 pick into Sheldon Richardson, the 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year – not bad Mr. Idzik, not bad at all.
Not so fast
He had a conservative first offseason, but this time around with actual cap room to work with (Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, Mark Sanchez all cut) fans believed Idzik was going to work his magic once again. Boy were they disappointed.
Jet fans are woefully accustomed to rapid spending and landing ‘big’ free agent targets. The Jets rarely build themselves from the draft but this is what Idzik brings to the table. He finds diamonds in the rough, (Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman in the 5th round) and builds through youth. The Jets currently own 12 picks in the upcoming draft, allowing for mobility up and down the board. This is one of the deepest drafts in recent history and the Jets could not be in any better of a position.
Spend like its your own
Idzik manages money more effectively than Mike Tannenbaum, Breno Giacomini is nearly the exact same player as departed tackle Austin Howard, who received twice as much as Breno from the Raiders. Eric Decker was the splash Idzik wanted to make this offseason, he’s young, talented and came at a more than friendly price. It was expected that Decker would command $9M + a year, Idzik signed him for $7.25M. Ninja.
Thank you Drew for your sanity.
Relax a little
So to the Jets fans losing their mind and screaming a computer screens I urge you to cool your Jets (pun totally intended). Idzik’s philosophy is different from General Managers in the past, is that necessarily a bad thing? The taste of success in 2009-2010 was sweet, but there’s a reason why the Jets have not won a Super Bowl since 1969. As much as you want it to be, this is NOT Madden NFL 25. Running a team isn’t that easy! A lot more comes into play that you or I would know.
Say it with me: “In Idzik we Trust.”
Follow Josh Elkin on Twitter @JoshElkin