After two weeks, the Jets have reached the finish line in their search for a new general manager.
In a news release Friday afternoon, the team announced Seattle executive John Idzik was their choice.
"After a thorough search in which we met many qualified and outstanding candidates, it was clear to me that John was the right choice," owner Woody Johnson said of Idzik, the Seahawks' former vice president of football administration. "During his two decades in the NFL, John helped build a Super Bowl championship team in Tampa Bay, an NFC championship team in Arizona and, most recently, a team in Seattle that narrowly missed reaching the NFC Championship Game.
"John has seen firsthand what's necessary to construct a winning team and has worked with some of the most innovative and successful coaches in the NFL, including Pete Carroll, Tony Dungy, Dennis Green, Jon Gruden and Mike Holmgren. Drawing on 20 years of NFL experience, John, working with Rex, will get the Jets where all of us want to be."
Idzik, 52, will report directly to Johnson and have final say over personnel decisions. Idzik, who will hold his formal news conference at 11 a.m. Thursday, said in the statement that he is "honored and extremely excited" to be a part of the Jets' front office.
"It has been very enlightening getting to know Mr. Woody Johnson, Rex Ryan and [team president] Neil Glat, and I am very grateful for them making me feel very welcomed as a member of the Jets' family," Idzik said. "I am eager to get started building on the foundation that is already in place."
Ryan, who was not included in the GM evaluation process, will have final say over his coaching staff.
Ryan took a big step in shaping his staff Friday, hiring former Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to replace Tony Sparano. After the Jets' offense finished 30th in Sparano's first and only year with the team, Ryan boldly chose a coordinator whose philosophy is deeply rooted in the passing game. Mornhinweg is known best for utilizing the West Coast offense, a vast departure from Ryan's previous ground-and-pound preference.
Ryan and Idzik will have plenty of time to discuss their roster this week while attending the Senior Bowl workouts in Mobile, Ala.
Starting Jan. 4, the Jets interviewed 10 candidates -- Idzik, Omar Khan, in-house assistant GM Scott Cohen, Randy Mueller, Ted Sundquist, Jerry Angelo, Tom Gamble, Dave Caldwell, Marc Ross of the Giants and Brian Gaine. Johnson, Korn/Ferry executive Jed Hughes and Glat collectively interviewed each candidate. Johnson's adviser, Johnson Co. executive Ira Akselrad, sat in on a number of those meetings.
Idzik emerged as the "clear front-runner" Thursday, according to ESPN, but no announcements were made that night. Though Idzik's strength lies in salary-cap negotiations, he also has a strong personnel background, unlike former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum, who was fired the day after the Jets closed the season at 6-10.
Tannebaum had several big signings during his six-year tenure as GM, drafting Darrelle Revis, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, David Harris and Nick Mangold. But many of Tannebaum's recent personnel moves, particularly in the four years that Ryan has been the coach, have been questionable. Not to mention, the Jets are a league-worst $19.4 million over the 2013 salary cap.
For those reasons, it seemed the Jets would select a GM candidate known best for being a talent evaluator, someone who could refurbish a depleted roster on a budget. And their initial candidates seemed to fit that mold. Niners director of player personnel Gamble was the reported front-runner in the early stages, but Falcons executive Caldwell soon emerged as an attractive candidate. But Caldwell (who requested a $1-million housing allowance but was not offered one by the Jets), instead chose to take the Jaguars' GM job.
From there, the Jets seemed to shift their focus to salary-cap experts and widened their pool of applicants to include Angelo and Sundquist.
But Idzik -- a former player at Dartmouth who has past coaching experience at Duke, SUNY Buffalo and in the British American Football League -- seems to possess the right balance of cap smarts along with scouting proficiency.
As Tampa Bay's assistant GM, he helped build a Buccaneers roster that won the Super Bowl 10 years ago. He also helped shape the 2008 NFC champion Cardinals as their senior director of football operations for three seasons.
His father, John, was the Jets' offensive coordinator from 1977-79. They are one of the few father-son tandems to have won a Super Bowl championship -- the son with the Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII and the father as an offensive coach with the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V.
"John is a well respected lifelong football man who I believe will be a strong addition to the Jets' organization,'' Seahawks GM John Schneider said. "While he will be missed by the Seahawks' organization, we wish him and his family all the best with this great opportunity.''