John Idzik will try to turn things around for the troubled New York Jets.
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Woody Johnson believes he’s up to the massive task.
The Jets hired the Seattle Seahawks executive to be their general manager Friday, completing an interview process that began two weeks ago and included 10 candidates.
The 52-year-old Idzik, the Seahawks’ vice president of football administration, was selected by Johnson and team president Neil Glat.
He beat out Pittsburgh executive Omar Khan and Jets assistant GM Scott Cohen, among others, for the job that opened when the Jets fired Mike Tannenbaum on Dec. 31 after seven seasons.
Idzik’s primary strengths include managing salaries and the salary cap, but has also worked in player personnel – a unique combination that attracted the Jets. He has been with the Seahawks the past six seasons after previously working in the front offices of Tampa Bay and Arizona.
”It has been very enlightening getting to know Mr. Woody Johnson, Rex Ryan and Neil Glat and I am very grateful for them making me feel very welcomed as a member of the Jets family,” Idzik said in a statement issued by the team. ”I am eager to get started building on the foundation that is already in place.”
Idzik will be formally introduced at a news conference next Thursday at the team’s facility in Florham Park, N.J.
Idzik will have the final say on all personnel decisions, while Ryan’s status in the decisionmaking process will not change from what it had been in his first four seasons.
Both Idzik and Ryan will attend Senior Bowl workouts in Mobile, Ala., early next week. Ryan met with Idzik late in the process, with the two discussing their football philosophies – but Ryan had no influence on the hiring.
The Jets were the last of seven teams needing to fill their GM spot this offseason after Cleveland hired Michael Lombardi for their vacancy earlier Friday. New York used Jed Hughes of Korn/Ferry International to aid them in the search, which began on Jan. 4 and included Tom Gamble, David Caldwell, Jerry Angelo, Marc Ross, Ted Sundquist, Brian Gaine and Randy Mueller as candidates.
Johnson, Glat and Hughes were present for all interviews, while Ira Akselrad, president of The Johnson Company, Inc., was in for several of them.
”After a thorough search in which we met many qualified and outstanding candidates, it was clear to me that John was the right choice,” Johnson said in a statement.
Idzik, who has a math degree from Dartmouth, will face immediate challenges with the Jets. He will have to make decisions on whether to keep quarterbacks Mark Sanchez, who is due $8.25 million in guarantees next season and would cost the Jets a $17.1 million cap hit if they cut him, and Tim Tebow, who is not expected back after one disappointing and unproductive season.
New York is also about $19 million over the salary cap, but could quickly get under by releasing a few veteran starters such as linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace. The Jets have several starters scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, including safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, defensive lineman Mike DeVito, running back Shonn Greene, offensive linemen Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson, wide receiver Braylon Edwards and kicker Nick Folk.
Another potential challenge for Idzik will be working with Ryan, who was kept by Johnson despite the team finishing 6-10 last season and missing the playoffs for the second straight year.
At a season-ending news conference last week, Johnson defending retaining Ryan by saying the coach ”has a rare ability,” and added that potential GM candidates would have to be willing to work with Ryan.
That setup – having a coach already in place for an incoming GM – was considered a possible drawback by some, but both Johnson and Ryan insisted it would not cause any hangups in finding a replacement for Tannenbaum.
”I’m pretty sure I’ll have the exact same agenda that the general manager will have and that’s, we want to win,” Ryan said last week. ”I know that I don’t know who the general manager is, but I promise you, he wants to win as bad as I do and that’s something certainly we’ll lean on.”
Ryan’s coaching staff will look markedly different next season with all three coordinators gone as well as several assistants. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine left to take a similar position with Buffalo, but Ryan promoted close friend Dennis Thurman, the team’s defensive backs coach, to replace Pettine.
Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff retired after the season, and will be replaced by assistant Ben Kotwica.
Embattled offensive coordinator Tony Sparano was fired after just one season as the Jets finished 30th in overall offense after dealing with several injuries and inconsistent play by key players. He will be replaced by Marty Mornhinweg, who spent the past 10 seasons with Philadelphia, including the past seven as the offensive coordinator.
Sanchez continued to regress under Sparano, who replaced Brian Schottenheimer, and was benched late in the season. Sparano also couldn’t figure out how to effectively use Tebow, who was expected to have a major role but instead barely saw the field in most games.
Idzik, a native of Detroit, graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth in 1982 and played wide receiver for the Big Green. He and his wife Carol have a daughter and two sons, including Bradley Idzik, a sophomore wide receiver at Wake Forest.
Before joining the Seahawks, Idzik spent three seasons as the senior director of football operations for Arizona.
He spent the previous 11 years with Tampa Bay, working his way up from pro personnel assistant to assistant general manager and helping build the Buccaneers’ team that won the Super Bowl in 2003.
Idzik has also served as an assistant coach at Duke, SUNY Buffalo and Aberdeen of the British American Football League.
Idzik’s father, John, was a longtime NFL coach, including a stint as the Jets’ offensive coordinator from 1976-79.