FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Jets fans looking for a glimmer of hope in this train wreck of a season instead came away with more dismal vibes on Monday after general manager John Idzik delivered a lengthy and mostly uncomfortable monologue in which he took ownership for the failure, yet offered little more than platitudes and non-answers about all the dysfunction associated with this 1-7 dumpster fire.
In a rambling 19-minute mea culpa soliloquy during which Idzik declared that "the buck stops here," that "the responsibility lies with me" and "my performance to date is unsatisfactory and a direct reflection of our record," the second-year general manager was as ineffective at explaining away the Jets' failure as his players and coaches have been on the field during a seven-game losing streak.
The question-and-answer session that followed wasn't much better, as Idzik bobbed and weaved about Rex Ryan's job status, defended his salary-cap spending and was on the receiving end of some unusually pointed -- and at times angrily delivered -- questions about his tenure and plans moving forward. Idzik hasn't made himself available to the media all that much during his 21 months on the job, so the pent-up demand for this rare appearance was obvious. And his performance was reminiscent of some other painfully awkward moments in Jets news conference history.
Remember Leon Hess introducing Rich Kotite as head coach in early January 1995?
"I'm 80 years old and I want results now," Hess said in the auditorium at Hofstra's Weeb Ewbank Hall in announcing Kotite's arrival and addressing Pete Carroll's firing.
It was the prelude to the worst two-year run in Jets history, a 4-28 travesty that mercifully ended after a 1-15 season in 1996 and led to the start of the relatively short but mostly successful Bill Parcells era.
Carroll? He went on to coach the Patriots, then USC and is now the reigning Super Bowl champion coach of the Seahawks.
Or how about the Bill Belichick presser in January 2000, when the hand-picked successor to Parcells resigned after one day on the job with the famous words "I resign as HC of the NYJ" he scribbled on a piece of paper and then delivered a rambling 30-minute news conference to explain his decision. Afterward, then-Jets president Steve Gutman questioned Belichick's mental stability, saying the coach was "obviously in some turmoil."
Three Super Bowl championships later, Belichick is still winning with the Patriots.
And now it's Idzik's turn to take his place in awkward Jets moments. He offered an impassioned support of Ryan during his monologue, yet curiously declined to offer a definitive answer when pressed about whether Ryan would finish out the season as coach. He said he believes in "our staff and our players [and] I also believe in our underlying plan. I've been a part of this plan. I know how it works. Our plan is to not only win now, it's to win in the future."
But if the "now" is 1-7, then how can he expect the future to look? Idzik is taking a page from his former team, the Seahawks, building through the draft and crafting a young, affordable roster under the salary cap as Seattle has done under general manager John Schneider, a gifted personnel man. But Idzik, who has some personnel experience but whose strength is as an administrator and salary-cap expert, has come up short in the draft.
And while it's still relatively early in the process and the Jets have been affected by injuries to several draft picks -- cornerback Dee Milliner, wide receiver Shaq Evans, cornerback Dexter McDougle, guard Brian Winters and linebacker Trevor Reilly -- the centerpiece acquisition in the plan is now very much in doubt. On the same day that Idzik offered his state-of-the-team assessment, coach Rex Ryan announced that quarterback Geno Smith was being benched after throwing three interceptions in just under 11 minutes in Sunday's 43-23 embarrassment against the Bills.
Idzik hoped Smith would be the Jets' answer to Russell Wilson of the Seahawks, but we can now say with a good amount of certainty that is not happening. While Wilson led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl title in his second season in Seattle, Smith has continued a disturbing trend of inconsistency that left Ryan with no choice but to take the second-year player out for his own good.
Smith doesn't have the makings of being the franchise quarterback the Jets so desperately need, and this roster is too devoid of talent to compete in the same division as the guy who coached the Jets for a day 14 years ago. The Jets are now further away from Belichick's Patriots than at any time in the Ryan era, and Idzik's roster has been complicit in the decline.
Under normal circumstances, a general manager is given a shot at hiring another coach if the one he currently has merits dismissal. And Ryan has done enough to deserve to be fired, now that he will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
But owner Woody Johnson now has to think long and hard about whether he should give Idzik that opportunity. The Idzik-Ryan marriage was unorthodox from the start, since a general manager rarely inherits a head coach. But the free-fall has been so stunning and so swift that Johnson needs to consider whether he needs to start from scratch with a new coach and a new GM.
Johnson used an executive search firm to come up with Idzik, who was the second choice to Dave Caldwell after he opted to take the Jacksonville job. What Johnson needs to do now is consult with highly successful football executives who can help him sort through the mess.
We'll give him three names to start with: Parcells, Bill Polian and Ron Wolf.
Parcells has been a mentor for several other NFL owners, and Johnson needs to solicit his advice about the state of his franchise. Same with Polian, who built the Bills, Panthers and Colts into playoff contenders and has been nominated as a Hall of Fame finalist. Wolf, the former Jets assistant GM who guided the Packers to a Super Bowl championship, is also a Hall of Fame finalist with valuable insight into how to build a winner. If they see promise with Idzik, so be it; if not, then Johnson needs to listen to alternatives.
Idzik has the respect of many front-office people around the league, including former bosses Schneider and Falcons president Rich McKay, and his hiring was heartily endorsed by those who knew him best. But Idzik doesn't have the extensive scouting background of other Super Bowl-winning general managers, and is now paying the price with his roster.
As he said on Monday about the Jets' miserable record, "The responsibility lies with me."
At 1-7, it may be time for Johnson to start over.