Rex Ryan, John Idzik share one thing in common: Get the Jets to next step
Their personalities are about as different as any two people you'll ever run across.
One man loves the spotlight and is a friend to any nearby microphone, camera or tape recorder. The other is content to remain in the shadows, appearing only a handful of times in front of the media.
One is quick to admit he never really cared for school. The other has an Ivy League degree.
But there is a commonality between Jets coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik that makes their relationship work. An odd couple, to be sure, but their football backgrounds are strikingly similar and their affinity for the Jets in particular offers a telltale sign into their unique bond.
They're both sons of coaches, they were both middling college football players who never made it to the pros, and they both spent a good deal of their formative years around the Jets. Ryan, the son of legendary defensive coach Buddy Ryan, was on the sideline at the Orange Bowl when the Jets won Super Bowl III. Idzik's father, John Idzik Sr., was the Jets' offensive coordinator in the late 1970s, at the height of the Richard Todd-Matt Robinson quarterback controversy.
So despite what might have seemed like an awkward arrangement when Idzik was hired in January with the stipulation that Ryan remain the team's coach, the two men have made it work, spending plenty of time away from the spotlight to forge a good working relationship that has ultimately benefited the Jets.
Despite speculation during the season that Idzik was intent on bringing in his own coach for the Jets, the team is sticking with Ryan for at least 2014 and perhaps longer. Ryan is signed through next season, and there is talk of a short-term extension, which has been accompanied by plenty of scrutiny from outside the organization about how long Ryan will be here.
But like any contract, the duration is immaterial; if Ryan continues to lead a rebuilt roster on the upward track, everything will take care of itself in the long run. If there is a significant step backward, then his time in New York may be cut short. In a win-now league, only a handful of coaches are truly safe -- the ones who have won a Lombardi Trophy.
Ryan came here and boldly proclaimed he'd win one and earn a visit to the White House, and he came close his first two years. But he hasn't done better than 8-8 since, so his tenure isn't guaranteed. But Ryan is willing to work with and learn from Idzik, who has provided a rudder for the organization and has reshaped the roster to look much more promising than the day he inherited it.
Last year was about getting past the thorny Darrelle Revis situation, which he did by trading him to the Bucs and getting Sheldon Richardson with the 13th overall pick and selecting cornerback Dee Milliner with the Jets' own No. 9 overall choice. Both look like foundation players.
He took Geno Smith, who had plenty of rocky moments, but persevered through all 16 starts and showed genuine improvement, especially in limiting his turnovers late in the season.
Now comes another opportunity to add to the mix. Although Idzik on Tuesday offered few clues about which direction he might go in, he did acknowledge the need to bring in more players at the skill positions. The Jets are desperate for an upgrade at wide receiver, and they will no doubt get one, either in free agency or the draft. Or both.
Idzik didn't discount the possibility of bringing in another quarterback to compete with Smith. If Idzik and Ryan become enamored with a blue chip passer in the draft and they get him -- either with their own pick or a trade up -- then they should go ahead and do it.
If not, then Smith at least offered ample reason to think that he'll at least be functional moving forward. And maybe even better than that; he came a long way throughout the season, and he only figures to get better with a full off-season ahead.
There's plenty of work ahead for Ryan and Idzik, but they've already moved this team to a place few expected before the season started. Even so, there are no assurances of success ahead. As Idzik said, "the gavel has come down" on the 2013 season.
True, but at least there's a renewed sense of optimism, especially where it comes to the odd couple of Ryan and Idzik working side by side to get the team they rooted for as kids in position for the only thing worth fighting for in this league: a championship.