John Idzik is one game away from the Super Bowl. You remember him, don't you? He was the New York Jets' general manager in 2013 and 2014, an ill-fated tenure that can best be described this way:
One promising year, one awful year and one ugly ouster.
In Idzik's final weeks, the toxicity level -- fueled by fan and media unrest -- reached ridiculous proportions. Who can forget the "Fire John Idzik" banner that was flown over one of the team's practices?
Three years removed from the Jets, Idzik is flying high with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will play for the AFC Championship on Sunday. He's the special assistant to the general manager, doing a little of everything -- college and pro scouting, salary-cap management, etc.
Idzik certainly isn't the reason for his team's dramatic turnaround -- Tom Coughlin is the top cat in the Jaguars' kingdom -- but his fingerprints can be found in certain places. One of his former Jets draft picks, fullback Tommy Bohanon, scored Jacksonville's final touchdown in a wild 45-42 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in last weekend's divisional playoffs.
This would be a great week to hear from Idzik, who hasn't granted an interview since he was fired, but a request was denied by the Jaguars, who have a tight media policy. Frankly, I think he'd like to get a few things off his chest, especially on what went down during his final season with the Jets.
Idzik's supporters are bemused by the current narrative surrounding the Jets, how they're trying to build a foundation to achieve sustainable success. That philosophy, they say, was exactly what Idzik wanted to do.
I'm not an Idzik apologist, but you have to admit he was put into a difficult situation. Instead of cleaning house, owner Woody Johnson made GM Mike Tannenbaum the scapegoat for the 6-10 record in 2012, opting to retain coach Rex Ryan. Johnson tried an arranged marriage, pairing Ryan and Idzik, total strangers.
Predictably, it was a colossal failure. You had a volatile coach in win-now mode and a methodical GM content to rebuild at a slow pace. To say they weren't on the same page would be an understatement; they weren't even in the same book.
Somehow, the Jets won eight games in 2013, culminating with that memorable locker-room celebration scene in which Idzik told the players, "This is our coach!" It came moments after Johnson had announced that Ryan would return in 2014.
Talk about a false sense of accomplishment.
A couple of months later, Ryan was unhappy with what he perceived as a lack of aggressiveness in free agency. Ryan wanted to re-sign Darrelle Revis, whom Idzik had traded a year earlier. Idzik refused. Ryan wanted to sign DeSean Jackson. It was vetoed. Idzik was hellbent on building through the draft, refusing to deviate from his plan.
By the time the season started, Ryan was convinced he'd be fired. The environment at One Jets Drive wasn't conducive to winning, and they didn't. They finished 4-12, and everybody got canned. Since then, Ryan has been critical of his former GM, rarely passing on a chance to take a swipe at him.
At the time, Ryan won the public-relations war against Idzik, who isolated himself and didn't try to fight back. As a result, he was portrayed by the media as a meek Darth Vader. The fans joined the feeding frenzy, renting planes to fly over practice and buying billboard space near MetLife Stadium to vilify Idzik. Make no mistake, he was stung by the treatment. He called it "inhumane," according to person close to him.
Actually, Idzik did some good things in his two years. He drafted Sheldon Richardson, signed Eric Decker and traded for Chris Ivory, now a member of the Jaguars. His instincts on Muhammad Wilkerson, whom he refused to sign to a long-term contract, proved to be dead on. Idzik also left his successor, Mike Maccagnan, with a ton of cap space.
But he didn't do enough good things, obviously.
Idzik's first-round picks, Dee Milliner and Calvin Pryor, were busts. His fascination with quarterback Geno Smith was puzzling. He gambled on character risks that embarrassed the organization. Remember Mike Goodson and Dimitri Patterson? How about former draft pick IK Enemkpali, who punched out Smith in 2015?
More than anything, he'll be remembered for the "Idzik 12," the 12-player 2014 draft class that has produced only one starter, Quincy Enunwa. That was supposed to be the franchise's watershed draft, but Enunwa is the only player that remains. The draft was an epic failure. In many ways, they still haven't recovered.
Idzik has moved on. He loves his gig in Jacksonville, where he doesn't have to worry about planes and billboards, only football.
And a championship game on Sunday.