CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The 2012 New York Jets were a 3-D football team -- dysfunctional, distracted and a disaster. It was so bad that Braylon Edwards, who arrived just in time for the late-season chaos, remarked Friday that "nobody sells a mouthwash that could wash that taste out of my mouth."
Actually, there is a mouthwash for that. His name is John Idzik, the new general manager, and he's trying to change the circus culture that made the Jets a national punchline. For a change, they're putting football ahead of the sideshow, and that's a good thing. It might take some time to see the results -- the talent isn't here yet -- but the approach is sound, albeit boring.
There was absolutely no buzz as the Jets took the field for the first time on a postcard morning in upstate New York. It was a dramatic departure from last year, when 2,600 fans braved a rainstorm to watch Tim Tebow fire passes into the ground and, in the end, run shirtless to the locker room.
There was excitement and curiosity in the air that day, with ESPN's cameras recording every Tebow moment. On Friday, the only thing in the air was the smell of manure. No joke.
There were only 760 fans in the bleachers, and the media contingent was less than last year's early turnout, which numbered close to 100 -- most of them camping out to see the world's most famous backup quarterback/punt protector.
On Friday, no one cared that a linebacker named Nick Bellore had assumed Tebow's role as the personal protector. At times, practice sounded as if someone had hit the mute button. For Idzik, it was blissfully quiet. In fact, he contributed to it by declining interviews, although he's expected to speak Saturday.
"That's the way Mr. Idzik is ... he doesn't say much," said quarterback Mark Sanchez, suggesting the team has become a reflection of the GM's personality. And he meant that as a positive.
Sanchez, no doubt, is relieved he no longer has to answer questions about Tebow. The players respected Tebow and his accomplishments, but they're not upset that he's gone, off to do his thing in the land of Belichick. Calvin Pace, for one, likes the relative calm.
"I think it's better. There's no fanfare," the veteran linebacker said. "Every year it seemed like it was something -- Rex coming here, Brett Favre, Tebow. It's easier to get your work done without the constant noise.
"Tim has done great things in his career," Pace continued. "He's a product of his accomplishments, and people wanted to see him here. There's nothing wrong with that -- fans want to see their favorite player -- but it's a lot easier to concentrate with no hoopla, no disrespect to Tim."
The Jets lost control of the situation last season, mismanaging the quarterback situation and fueling a controversy that turned into an utter mess. Said Edwards: "There was so much B.S. going on that it even made [the media] sick at the end of the day."
The wild and crazy Jets are trying to adopt a buttoned-down approach. A year ago, they practically begged ESPN to show live cuts of Tebow operating the Wildcat offense. This summer, reporters are forbidden from tweeting or reporting specific formations, namely the Wildcat. News photographers are feeling the pinch as well, as their window for shooting at practice has been scaled back.
It's a Mangini-esque paranoia, but it's all part of the grand plan to change the culture. For now, everybody is buying in, but it'll be interesting to see what happens if and/or when the team starts losing games. A bad, boring team is a tough sell in the New York market.
Owner Woody Johnson won't be happy with that. Then again, he wasn't thrilled with last year's product, even though they were compelling in a butt-fumbling kind of way.
Don't mention 2012 around Ryan. He's so done with last year.
"I refuse to go back," he said. "We'll end up 6-10 again if we don't look forward."
Ryan is taking a basics approach, stressing competition, accountability and the importance of playing complementary football. In his first team meeting Thursday night, he told the players they can't expect to take the elevator to the top floor; it has to be a step-by-step journey.
In other words, no shortcuts. Finally, they get it.