This is probably not the 53-man roster John Idzik envisioned when he first came to New York.
Not one filled with former undrafted free agents, a hodgepodge of budget veterans and two quarterbacks no one trusts.
On second thought … it’s exactly the roster he envisioned. The better question is what this means for the 2013 season, coach Rex Ryan and you, the fan.
The simple answer is it’s going to be a long year. There will be a lot of growing pains as the Jets stumble through youth and inexperience. The quarterback, be it Mark Sanchez or the more likely option of Geno Smith, will throw touchdowns but also many interceptions. And in the end, Ryan will likely be looking for a high-paying defensive coordinator job with a team searching for the next Wade Phillips.
There will also be bright spots. We’ll bask in the glow of Muhammad Wilkerson making the leap from undercover great to mainstream famous. Quinton Coples and Sheldon Richardson will team up to torment interior and exterior offensive linemen alike. Demario Davis, Damon Harrison, Dee Milliner and Ricky Sapp will stumble at times but shine in others and it’ll be worth watching just for those “wow” moments.
We’ll get to see a youth movement at a receiver corps that’s almost entirely 27 years old and under, which brings with it the excitement of development and the missteps of youth. There might even be a stud running back on the roster if Chris Ivory can stay on the field.
All good things, but not nearly enough to stave off the mistakes of a young quarterback and a team that’s probably not better than 8-8 if everything goes well, which is exactly what Idzik wanted.
Idzik wanted to turn an aging roster over and he did just that, cutting bait with most of the older players he signed this summer as veteran placeholders. Instead of Ben Obomanu and Stephen Peterman, we have Ryan Spadola and a combination of Brian Winters and Vlad Ducasse. He wanted youth because youth is cheap, sometimes interchangeable and often struggles to get it right the first time. If Idzik’s time in Tampa and Seattle has taught us anything, it is that he’s learned at the knees of some long-term planners. Idzik wanted a rough first year because he wants his coach and his team under his rules. John Idzik is planning for 2014 and beyond, with this season and Ryan as the unfortunate casualties.
Perhaps that’s why Ryan was in Clemson on cutdown day instead of bunkered down in Florham Park? It’s clear Ryan doesn’t wield the power he once did, but he had to know what kind of impact his road trip would have. Perhaps Ryan is aware that he is playing out the string with a less-than-full deck and a boss that’s just waiting for his the clock to hit zero. In that case, why not bolt to proudly watch your son’s first college game?
It’s a shame in all senses of the word. Ryan truly is one of the greatest defensive minds in the game. A rebuild is an ugly thing, even in the accelerated culture of the NFL. No fan base wants to sit through a season they know may already be sliding off the rails. No coach wants to be a lame duck, especially in a market where the headline-hungry media openly attempts to influence the team’s operations and the public’s mindset on a daily basis.
So what’s a coach and a fan base to do? Do we put on blinders, clap our hands over our ears and scream “LA LA LA LA” until it’s over? That’s your right. But it might be more productive to take the bad with the good and enjoy the little things that go right – the improved footwork as Geno drops from under center or the crisp routes from Clyde Gates and Stephen Hill. It’s your right as a fan to stand up and cheer, but it is also your right to boo. You can scream about the Jets not doing right by a coach who has been more successful than Woody Johnson ever could have imagined.
It’s not Ryan’s fault that Mike Tannenbaum chose Derek Mason and Plaxico Burress over Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery. It’s definitely not Ryan’s fault that Woody and Tannebaum backed the Jets into a corner with Darrelle Revis and his agents.
Ryan is not without blame. Be it the Super Bowl guarantees, public relations foibles or misunderstanding of the leadership within his locker room, Ryan has very much contributed to his predicament. These are mistakes and faults I hope he learns from, because I like Rex Ryan. He’s personable and funny and a defensive genius who turned one side of the ball into something not seen in New York since the 1980s. He took a team and a franchise no one respected and won in New England and Indy and San Diego. He damn near turned the NFL on its collective ear.
Unfortunately for Ryan, between his errors as a head coach and a quarterback that never developed the way many thought he would, there’s enough evidence to bury him. Add in a second straight sub-.500 season and it’s not hard to see Black Monday in his future.
Idzik’s reworked roster will likely pay dividends down the road. You can see the talent bubbling under the surface. Outside of the early-round picks and or well-paid veterans, players like Tommy Bohanon, Ryan Spadola, Leger Douzable, Ellis Lankster and Jaiquawn Jarrett all have the potential to be contributors, if not more. There is hope that Idzik is building something that will last for multiple seasons.
If he hits on Geno Smith, the wins will come quicker. But even that is a long-term bet. Idzik is planning for the future. The rest of us still have to sit through the now.
#FoodPorn of the week
Pork shoulder rillette with pickled red onions and crispy pig ears on an English muffin cooked in bacon fat. Best dish of the night.Agree or disagree, but Corey wants this Monday morning column be a starting point for further discussion in the comments below! You can also talk to him directly on Twitter @cgriffin415.