FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The last time a plane flew overhead with a banner expressing such contempt for a New York football team, John Idzik was a freshman wide receiver at Dartmouth, decades before he would become the subject of derision with another aerial display of disgust.
This was Dec. 10, 1978, and the Giants were playing their final home game of the season against the St. Louis Cardinals -- three weeks after the most infamous play in franchise history ignited a fan revolt and a crescendo was reached in the skies over Giants Stadium.
"15 Years of Lousy Football. We've Had Enough," read the banner flying behind a small plane that circled the stadium near the end of the game.
Giants fans had had enough after 15 years of not making the playoffs. Three weeks earlier, Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards, who would one day become the Jets' coach, had scooped up the ball after a botched handoff exchange between quarterback Joe Pisarcik and Larry Csonka and returned it for a touchdown with 30 seconds left to turn what should have been a 17-12 Giants' win into a crushing defeat. The play would become known as "The Fumble," and it represented the low point of the worst era in Giants history.
Nearly 36 years later, Idzik became the target of a frustrated Jets fan, who hired a plane to carry a banner that read "Fire John Idzik" over the Jets' practice facility as the team began its preparations for Sunday's home game against the Steelers. Idzik soon will be ridiculed in another medium, when three billboards near MetLife Stadium will carry a similar message.
A little more than a week after a clumsy midseason news conference in which he delivered a rambling 19-minute monologue that began with a heartfelt admission of his shortcomings but turned into an uncomfortable and ultimately ineffective soliloquy, Idzik has clearly become the preferred target of Jets fans' frustration.Curiously, the one guy who is every bit as much to blame has largely escaped such widespread and mean-spirited criticism. Coach Rex Ryan, who offered a spirited defense of Idzik and said, "I personally don't think it's appropriate," is just as culpable in the Jets' 1-8 season as the general manager. While there is no denying Idzik's failure to provide adequate help in the secondary and his swing and miss -- at least for now -- on quarterback Geno Smith, Ryan has had his worst season as the Jets' coach.
After an 8-8 season and the addition of free agents Eric Decker, Chris Johnson and Michael Vick, and the drafting of safety Calvin Pryor and tight end Jace Amaro, Ryan began the season with a better roster than the one he had last year. And while no one was expecting the Jets to threaten the Patriots for the division title, the prospect of a 1-8 start was even more ludicrous.
Yet here they are, one loss away from the longest losing streak in franchise history, and Ryan is the Teflon coach, with none of the criticism sticking to him and almost all of it aimed at Idzik.
I get it. I know our fans are really frustrated," Ryan said after Wednesday'sflyover. "Obviously, we're frustrated. We want to win. [But] I personally don't think it's appropriate. John, everybody, is working our butts off to find a way to win. Nobody wants it more than we do. "I certainly don't understand it," Ryan said. "I don't see how it can be on one man."
That's because it isn't on one man. It's on every man in the organization, but especially Ryan. I realize he's playing with less than a full squad, especially in a secondary that is without the veteran presence of Antonio Cromartie and has been racked by injuries to Dee Milliner and the premature departure of cornerback Dmitri Patterson.
But this has been an undisciplined team from the start, a team that regularly burns its timeouts too soon, a team that is penalized entirely too much, a defense with a front seven that is woefully underachieving, and an offense that has failed to develop a personality and that has been mostly abysmal on Ryan's six-year watch.