The criticism of Jets general manager John Idzik from the mainstream media and Jets fans alike has been on overdrive since gang green lost Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle to injury during training camp this past weekend. Milliner, the Jets top cover man will be out for an undisclosed time frame due to what is believed to be a high ankle sprain as he awaits an MRI, and McDougle is finished for the season after tearing his left ACL.
All of this has led to an onslaught of second-guessing the off-season moves (and non-moves) of GM John Idzik. Armed with a ton of cap space and a robust crop of top CB’s, Jets fans expected Idzik to be one of the leagues most aggressive buyers and to outbid anyone who coveted a player to the Jets liking. However, the argument could be made, that Idzik played it safe and avoided unnecessary risks.
Oh I can hear the screams now. How can I say he played it safe when there was nothing but proven/sure-thing talent on the free agent market lining up to take Woody Johnson’s millions? What an irresponsible uninformed statement. If I may….
Let’s start with CB Darelle Revis. The first of many players who fans say Idzik “missed out” on, despite several media outlets reporting that the Jets had no interest in Revis to begin with. The same fans who are now lambasting Idzik for drafting an “injury prone” rookie who missed time with a broken shoulder, are livid that Idzik didn’t spend twenty times the money on a player who is just one season removed from tearing his ACL. For those who think Idzik should have been able to predict McDougle’s injury, he’d have a much better shot at predicting one for Revis. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, individuls who suffer a torn ACL, are FIFTEEN TIMES more likely to suffer another ACL injury at some point in time. Idzik passed and chose to play it safe, and say no to a player who was a high risk for major injury, at a huge salary, and who has displayed an unrivaled “me first” attitude.
Revis signed with the reigning division champion New England Patriots who also added free-agent CB Brandon Browner of the super bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. So here we have another player who would have upgraded the Jets secondary, but we allowed the genius who is Bill Belichik to swoop and and grab Browner despite Idzik having infinitely more cap space. All of this while ignoring the fact that Browner has been suspended for PED use, he has been suspended for marijuana use, and just two seasons ago missed eight games with a groin injury. Ahh yes, the coveted high risk trifecta. Browner would be facing a year-long suspension if he were to dip back in to PED’s or recreational drugs, on top of having a history of injuries to deal with himself. Idzik could have gone after Browner, but he played it safe.
Then we had the “one that got away”…Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. As the Jets were ushering one Cromartie out the door in Antonio Cromarite, fans wanted the Jets to spend big on another. Coming off of a stellar season with the Denver Broncos, Rodgers-Cromarite’s services were in high demand and the Jets were reported to be at the front of the line, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Cromartie’s inconsistent on-field play during an up and down career prevented the Jets from offering Cromartie the number of years he was asking for. They didn’t want a player who was inconsistent, and who apparently didn’t blanket the opposing team’s top WR as many thought. After signing with the New York Giants, nj.com writer Jordan Ranaan obtained game film from four of Cromarties performances with the Broncos last season. While it was a small sample size (only four games) what the film showed was quite telling.
This is not saying that I wasn’t impressed with the way Rodgers-Cromartie, as a whole, played in the four games I watched. In fact, for the most part, he was dominant against lesser competition.
But what I was surprised to see was that Denver didn’t use Rodgers-Cromartie as a pure shutdown, No. 1 cornerback most of the time. And when he was on the star receivers, he allowed some big plays.
Against the Texans, Rodgers-Cromartie guarded Johnson on 12 of 41 pass plays. Johnson managed to collect a 33-yard gain on one of those 12 plays and should’ve had another gain of 20-plus yards had Schaub not overthrown him on a deep ball in the second half.
Against the Cowboys, Rodgers-Cromartie was matched man-to-man with Bryant on just 15 of 44 plays. He still managed to be flagged for a 20-yard pass interference, allowed a 2-yard touchdown and was burned for a 79-yard gain late in the game against Bryant.
This isn’t what I expected. I expected Rodgers-Cromartie to have spent most of the game on receivers like Bryant and Johnson. I expected him to have more success against these elite players.
Now, setting aside Cromartie’s performance, if Jets fans and the media are killing Idzik over drafting a guy with a shoulder injury, could you imagine the outcry if he were to spend millions on a player with a previously diagnosed medical condition that 39% of doctors recommend players not be allowed to play professional football with? Fans would be calling for his head, they would be bringing in to question the competence of the medical staff, and it would be considered in instant reason for Idzik to be let go. Well, in the case of Cromartie, this is a small yet very real possibility. A study printed by the American Journal of Sports that looked at the effect of kidney injures on NFL players revealed the following information:
Almost all the injuries were contact related (49). More than a third of the players required hospitalization for their injury (18), although none required surgery. All the athletes returned to play. The most days missed were after a kidney laceration (mean, 59.8), followed by kidney contusion (15.1) and dysfunction (14.0).
Cromartie, as it turns out was born with just one functioning kidney and had to have the other removed. So while a kidney injury could keep a player for a couple of months, would it be even longer if said player had only one kidney? The report didn’t address that possibility, but it doesn’t change the reaction fans would have if such a scenario were to unfold. So given the opportunity to pay millions for a #1 CB who struggled when facing elite receivers, questionalbe work ethic and and unquestionable medical condition. Idzik opted not to pay Rodgers-Cromartie top-dollar to cover the other team’s second best option. Again, he played it safe.
Alterraun Verner who chose the Bucs shortly after the start of free-agency was a hot name among Jets fans. He’s a young cornerback with a solid resume, but not many people were in much of an uproar when the Jets passed on him. His weakness, it has been reported, is man coveage. This immediately took him off the list of players that would fit Rex Ryans aggressive blitzing defense. So now, he’s in camp with the Tampa Bay Bucs, and head coach Lovie Smith had this to say about Verner recently:
“Alterraun Verner is running. I think I said that yesterday. But we’re going to take our time with him. He’s had trouble with that hamstring on a couple of occasions. He’s making progress”
So he was a poor schematic fit, and has apparently been suffering from an injury early in camp. I wonder if it’s time for heads to roll in Tampa?
Then don’t forget Aquib Talib who has been a good player following his indictment in Texas for firing a gun at his girlfriend’s brother (hey, I wasn’t there, I don’t even know if he was wrong to do so, but I don’t know if he was right either). I’m sure fans would have been totally at ease and given Idzik a pass if Talib had been signed and at any point has any more legal troubles.
These are the top players John Idzik passed on, and he decided to stick with Dee Milliner, to draft a couple of CB’s (McDougle and CB Brandon Dixon) and to sign a low-risk/high-reward player in Dimitri Patterson for a modest salary.
While I admittedly would have liked to have seen Idzik sign one or two more mid-level veterans to compete, I wouldn’t chastise him for not spending what would have been tens of millions of dollars on an injury risk, a player with multiple drug-realted suspensions, questionable work ethic, history of serious legal trouble, or players who just don’t fit what the Jets do on defense.
He played it safe, and now we get to see how it unfolds.