TAMPA — It’s a long journey from the neatly manicured lawns of Dartmouth College to the grimy sidewalks of New York City.
Here’s hoping John Idzik survives the trek.
The former Buccaneers administrator is discovering that life in the NFL executive suite often means dealing with a series of potholes, along with all those perks.
In the seven months since Idzik was named general manager of the Jets, he has seen a losing franchise give new meaning to the word dysfunctional as New York prepares for its Sept. 8 season opener against the Bucs.
Between the Tim Tebow spring saga, the club’s current quarterback circus and the antics of flamboyant head coach Rex Ryan, the Jets are never far removed from the splashy back page of the Big Apple tabloids. And that doesn’t sit well with Idzik, a former Dartmouth wide receiver who worked 11 years in Tampa in a variety of roles, ranging from pro personnel and director of football administration to assistant general manager.
“John is a really bright guy,’’ said Falcons president Rich McKay, who served as general manager of the Bucs for most of Idzik’s tenure in Tampa. “He has a really good football mind, and he’s been around a lot of winning. John takes a very deliberate approach, but you have to understand that any NFL franchise in New York is under a microscope.’’
Idzik, who also worked for the Seahawks and Cardinals, was hired by eccentric Jets owner Woody Johnson in January to oversee a massive overhaul. After going 14-18 in the previous two seasons, the Jets had been undermined by salary-cap issues and an aging roster.
Mark Sanchez was awful last year, so Idzik drafted quarterback Geno Smith in the second round. Ryan insists he has not made a decision who will be under center against Tampa Bay, and at this point, it might not matter.
Idzik’s roster lacks star power, especially given the departure of All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay in an April trade.
By nature, Idzik doesn’t enjoy being in the spotlight. That should be OK, because Ryan and Johnson can’t get enough camera time. But Idzik’s reluctance to make himself available to reporters has struck a nerve. Veteran New York Post reporter Steve Serby has already dubbed Idzik “The Mummy’’ and there is rampant speculation Ryan and Idzik don’t get along.
It didn’t help when Idzik stumbled out of the personnel gate with his first two signings, veteran quarterback David Garrard and running back Mike Goodson. Garrard soon retired with a bad knee and Goodson was arrested on weapons and drug charges before the NFL suspended him four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
“Life in the NFL, you are going to live with distractions,’’ Idzik said at one of his rare on-the-record media sessions.
Some of Idzik’s friends in the business advised him to decline the Jets job, describing it as a career-killer, but Idzik accepted the challenge.
“The key in that job is to make sure the decisions you’re making are in the best interests of the New York Jets,’’ McKay said. “Don’t get caught up whether you’re winning the news conferences. The challenge in that environment will always be about keeping your head about you.’’