For better or worse, the act of the 2014 New York Jets is John Idzik's show.
Unlike his first season, the Jets' general manager is now in full control of every football operation with the Jets logo on it. This roster was formulated with his draft picks and free agents, and they were scouted, signed and negotiated by personnel men and capologists of Idzik's choosing.
Within a matter of weeks, the Jets have gone from being a hybrid of Mike Tannenbaum's final squad and a vision of Idzik's future to being a full-blown Idzik product.
Many of the once-promising projects of the former regime have been cast aside from the Jets' final 53-man roster. Outside of a few key positions held down by star veteran players, the 2014 Jets are an unrecognizable group from just a couple of years ago.
Of the 22 starters on offense and defense, only seven starters remain intact. Idzik's offense features an entirely revamped quarterback and receiver depth chart, a pair of new starting-caliber running backs (as well as a new fullback), and a replacement for every offensive lineman not named Nick Mangold of D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
Defensively, the Jets have a completely revamped secondary and a new-look defensive front. Only Demario Davis, David Harris, Calvin Pace and Muhammad Wilkerson were starters on the 2012 Jets.
Only time will tell the tale of the 2014 Jets, but they have massively improved in specific areas that were a perennial weakness under Tannenbaum's watch. Idzik's quarterback tandem of Geno Smith and Michael Vick dwarfs that of Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. The defensive front has gone from being merely serviceable to one of the top units in the game.
The starting lineup only reveals a portion of Idzik's influence over the roster. Of all the backups listed on the Jets' depth chart, only six of them were brought in by the Tannenbaum administration.
|Position||2012 Week 1 Starter(s)||2014 Week 1Projected Starter(s)|
|QB||Mark Sanchez||Geno Smith|
|RB||Shonn Greene||Chris Ivory|
|WR||Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill||Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley|
|TE||Dustin Keller||Jeff Cumberland|
|OT||D'Brickashaw Ferguson||D'Brickashaw Ferguson|
|OG||Matt Slauson, Brandon Moore||Brian Winters, Willie Colon|
|C||Nick Mangold||Nick Mangold|
|DE||Muhammad Wilkerson, Mike DeVito||Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson|
|DT||Kenrick Ellis||Damon Harrison|
|ILB||David Harris, Demario Davis||David Harris, Demario Davis|
|OLB||Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas||Calvin Pace, Quinton Coples|
|CB||Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie||Antonio Allen, Darrin Walls|
|S||LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell||Dawan Landry, Calvin Pryor|
For as much as he was able to overhaul the weakest points of the roster, Idzik left a fair amount of holes in the lineup's wake. The Jets were once perennial league leaders in pass defense; now the defensive secondary is as weak as any in football, even after using a first-round pick on cornerback Dee Milliner.
What is a John Idzik team? For one, it's big—literally.
Based on how he has allocated his resources in the draft and free agency, there is a clear emphasis on line play on both sides of the ball. Eight of Idzik's 19 picks have been used on linemen, linebackers and tight ends, including a first-round pick on Sheldon Richardson.
Many of the mid- to late-round fliers the Jets have taken on prospects were of the oversized variety, evidenced by the likes of guards William Campbell and Dakota Dozier, wide receiver Quincy Enunwa and linebacker Ik Enemkpali. Practice squad tackle Brent Qvale was only a part-time starter at Wisconsin but attracted the Jets with his 6'7", 315-pound frame.
Idzik does not just want his team to have the upper hand from a physical standpoint—he wants them to be mentally stronger than the men lining up across from them as well. Of the 12 players drafted in 2014, only Jace Amaro is not noted for being a particularly strong team leader or captain. The Jets picked up Amaro's team captain at Texas Tech, Kerry Hyder, as an undrafted free agent (he is now on the practice squad).
When bad apples start to show their character warts in the Jets' facility, Idzik simply parts ways with them—just as he did with Dimitri Patterson.
Acquiring these big, fast, high-character players would be ideal for any team—which is why such players (with enough talent) are given big-time contracts and are taken in the first round of the draft. Maintaining Idzik's player standards leaves some talent on the table for other less-picky teams to snatch.
This approach may hurt the Jets in terms of Madden ratings, but for owner Woody Johnson, anything but the "acquire talent at all costs" approach used by the previous regime is worth a try. Idzik's strategy is based on creating good chemistry and competition that allows to be greater than the sum of their parts, as opposed to forcing talented-yet-incompatible parts together.
Still, this roster upheaval is a natural occurrence when a change is made at the general manager position. Idzik is going to win or lose with his players, not anyone else's—which is how it should be. The difference between this year and last is that Idzik and his defenders cannot point to restrictions leftover from the previous regime as an excuse for a poor state of any part of the roster.
Idzik was hardly passive in how he transformed the Jets' roster. Trading one of the best players in franchise history, Darrelle Revis, for an extra pick that allowed him to draft his replacement (Dee Milliner) was just one of the examples of Idzik pushing his handpicked players onto his roster.
This year's final roster cuts were a perfect example of Idzik putting his stamp on the team. Disappointing leftover "projects" such as Stephen Hill and Clyde Gates have been replaced by high-character, more productive "Idzik types" like Greg Salas and David Nelson.
Even some players who would fit the mold of an "Idzik" player were cut loose to make room for players simply because they were drafted by Idzik. Garrett McIntyre has been a productive backup since he was brought on board in 2011, but the time has come for the youth and upside of Ik Enemkpali and Trevor Reilly to try and surpass McIntyre's ability.
In the immediate future, neither of these two players are better than Garrett McIntyre—but this is another small, necessary step in the transition process to a new regime. Change does not always net a positive result but it must be done in order for any organization to have a chance at moving forward.
Idzik may never admit it, but his players will always get the benefit of the doubt over Tannenbaum-era leftovers.
Q: Would u admit that ur draft picks have an inherent advantage? Idzik: "No. I wont admit that."— Kimberley A. Martin (@KMart_LI) September 1, 2014
Idzik's rebuild of the Jets process is not yet finished, but the 2014 team will give us a pretty good idea as to what the final product will look like. Only time will determine whether that team is a champion or another mess for another general manager to clean up.