FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Percy Harvin has been in enough fights in his time as a professional and amateur football player to be represented by Bob Arum, and yet the latest man to employ him, New York Jets general manager John Idzik, called the acquisition a "potential coup."
The Jets usually lead the league in a lot of things, but potential coups sure isn't one of them.
Despite Harvin's turbulent history of confrontations with teammates and coaches, Idzik spent part of his Monday forecasting good things for Harvin because, in part, the Jets' locker room and facilities amount to what the GM called "a very healthy environment."
The Seattle Seahawks just won the Super Bowl. A safe bet says their environment is at least a little healthier than the Jets'.
Either way, the Seahawks dumped Harvin on their former front-office colleague for what will likely be an inconsequential draft pick. For Idzik, the trade was an admission he'd made awful choices with his roster. He waited until the Jets were 1-6 before finally spending some of the $20 million-plus available to him under the salary cap, and his desperation was clear in the form of the player now costing him $7.1 million.
Harvin is a bad actor who has had his share of injuries and who followed his dramatic Super Bowl touchdown with a grand total of 225 receiving and rushing yards in five games. Even though Harvin is more of a specialist reliant on creative play-calling, he does have two things the Jets lack -- talent and speed.
So this trade isn't necessarily a bad one, even if it cuts against the grain of Idzik's stated goal of building through the draft and staying clear of overpriced names with overinflated reputations. And even if the next time Idzik tries to claim character matters in his personnel assessments, someone will remind him he hired Harvin and fired David Nelson, an all-world good guy who devotes his off-days to the noble cause of supporting Haitian orphans.
But this is about Idzik's big-picture failings, the mistakes in free agency and the draft (he selected three wide receivers in the spring; not one is on the active roster) that led him to the Harvin deal. Hard as it might be to believe, Idzik gave away an entire season. He punted on 2014, and only after he got all-out blitzed by the fans and news media did he finally cry uncle and burn some of Woody Johnson's cash.
You might not think it's a big deal that Idzik quit on 2014 because, hey, these Jets weren't going anywhere anyway, right? This season was supposed to be merely about developing Geno Smith (or coming to the conclusion that he is incapable of being developed) and dumping Rex Ryan, the coach Idzik never wanted in the first place. As soon as those two things happened, conventional thinking went, the GM could put his master plan in place.
Only since when is a New York team that hasn't advanced to the championship round of its sport in nearly half a century allowed to tank a season? And since when is a New York GM who's been on the job 15 minutes allowed to rule out the possibility that something magical could unfold?
Mike Tannenbaum wasn't expected to take the Jets to the playoffs in his first year as GM in 2006, not after the team was 4-12 in 2005, and Tannenbaum went 10-6 with his rookie coach, Eric Mangini. The 2007 Giants were supposed to get their quarterback and coach run out of town, and Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin won the Super Bowl instead, after the team's rookie GM, Jerry Reese, pitched a perfect game in the draft. Four seasons later, the Giants were a 7-7 wreck staggering into the holiday season before they caught fire on Christmas Eve against the Jets and won it all one more time.
Forget the Giants for a minute. Return to the AFC East, and rewind your thoughts to Sept. 23, 2001, the day the Jets beat the New England Patriots, knocked out Drew Bledsoe and left Bill Belichick staring at an 0-2 record and the potential end of his head coaching career.
Belichick walked off his home field that day with a combined 41-57 record in Cleveland and New England and with a sinking feeling he was about to endure his sixth losing season in seven tries. Bledsoe's replacement, a non-prospect named Tom Brady, was dreadful the following two weeks, and the Patriots had 5-11 written all over them. Belichick was going to get fired a second time, and given his personality -- or lack thereof -- no right-minded owner would've given him another shot.
Those Patriots won the Super Bowl, their first of three, and Brady-Belichick became one of the greatest quarterback-coach tandems of all time. This isn't to say Geno Smith and Rex Ryan were ever going to win a playoff game together, never mind a ticker-tape parade. This is to say crazy, unpredictable things do happen in sports, especially when executives allow for the chance of them happening.
As general manager of the Jets, Idzik was tasked with putting his coach and quarterback in the best position to succeed. He failed miserably in that pursuit, and this way-too-little, way-too-late grab for Harvin changes nothing. Any novice could've reviewed the Jets roster long ago and concluded it lacked speed, athleticism and playmaking ability at the skill positions.
Eric Decker didn't even solve half the problem at wide receiver. Cornerback? Idzik wasted a million bucks on the talent-free likes of Dimitri Patterson and wouldn't consider taking back a Hall of Famer-to-be still in his prime, Darrelle Revis, who made it clear he'd rather return to the Jets than play for the franchise that has tormented them.
Idzik could've looked Red Auerbach smart had he applied a little common sense to the situation. Tampa Bay handed the Jets the first-round pick that would be Sheldon Richardson, paid $16 million to rehab Revis's surgically repaired knee, sent him back into free agency after one year and gave Idzik the chance to sign the corner for a reasonable $12 million. Ryan desperately wanted Revis, too, and Idzik couldn't have cared less.
As he was about to sign with New England in March, Revis and his agent sat down with Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft in Palm Beach, Florida. The Jets were a topic of conversation in the meeting, of course, and when it was suggested Revis should line up at wide receiver in the two games against his former team, if only as a form of payback, Kraft enjoyed a belly laugh over the visual.
People are still laughing at Idzik's Jets. Beyond passing on Revis, Idzik swung and missed on the fourth-rounder Tampa Bay gave him for the cornerback; Jalen Saunders is already going, going, gone.
Revis's replacement, Dee Milliner, has done nothing but advance his college trend of getting hurt, thereby hardening Idzik's standing as an underwhelming evaluator on draft day and summoning the knocks against him before Woody Johnson put him in charge.
Idzik had a history as a contract negotiator and salary-cap guy, not a chief personnel guy, which might explain why nobody interviewed him for a GM position before the Jets did, Seahawks included. None of this stopped Johnson from putting his franchise in the hands of an inexperienced candidate whose approach doesn't exactly match up with the marketplace. For those suffering Knicks fans old enough to recall, Idzik reminds of Scott Layden, a hopelessly overmatched executive who cowered under the media glare and preferred to hide behind tall buildings.
So it wasn't much of a surprise last week when Idzik let Ryan make a fool of himself by defending the GM's indefensible draft record. Ryan might deserve to get fired, but over the past two years he's been better at his job than Idzik has been at his.
In the end, fair or not, the GM will survive long enough to hire Rex's replacement. It would be nice if Idzik actually got that personnel call right. You know, it might even be a potential coup.