FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- With uncertainty surrounding the three most important positions in the organization -- general manager, coach and quarterback -- the New York Jets are six weeks from what could be their most tumultuous offseason in recent memory.
And that's saying something.
The last time the Jets began a season with a new Big Three was 1977, when they transitioned from the Joe Namath era and started a rebuilding phase with Jim Kensil, Walt Michaels and Richard Todd, respectively.
Next year could be 1977 all over again.
Owner Woody Johnson has some big decisions to make, if he hasn't made them already. A look at the top five questions facing the Jets (2-8) as they prepare for a meaningless homestretch:
1. Will Johnson give up on John Idzik after only two years?
Johnson's history tells us he doesn't have a quick hook. His most impetuous decision, if you could even call it that, was firing Eric Mangini after three seasons. Then again, Johnson never has encountered this much public opposition to one of his employees. The anti-Idzik sentiment is out of control, conjuring up memories of the late 1980s, when the fans chanted, "Joe Must Go!" every time something went wrong for the Joe Walton-coached Jets. It'll be interesting to see if Johnson yields to the outcry.
Idzik is having a bad year, no doubt, but you could argue the roster is better than the one he inherited from Mike Tannenbaum. The only position with a significant falloff is cornerback; every other position is comparable between then and now. Of course, the roster should be better than comparable, considering he's had 19 draft picks and tons of salary-cap space to make improvements to the 6-10 team he inherited. The major strike against him is they're back to Square One at quarterback.
Basically, Johnson's decision is this: Is he willing to give Idzik a mulligan for an Ike Davis-type of season? Unless the Jets bottom out and finish worse than 5-11, the hunch here is that Idzik will be back.
2. Is Rex Ryan Dead Man Coaching?
It certainly appears that way. The Jets will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season, their longest drought since 1992-1997. Ryan's career record is 44-46, but only 24-34 since the second AFC Championship Game. Obviously, this isn't entirely his fault. If Ryan had a competent quarterback and a couple of solid corners, he probably wouldn't be in this predicament. But, at the same time, he hasn't distinguished himself in a tough situation. In the age of parity, there's no excuse for an eight-game losing streak.
Ryan did a terrific job last season, squeezing eight wins out of a team that probably had six-win talent. What we're seeing now is the correction. If Ryan could somehow get to 6-10, he might be able to convince Johnson the arrow is pointed up. A lot could hinge on whether the owner considers Ryan and Idzik a partnership. They were hired at different times, but Idzik played the tandem angle at the end of last season, saying of Ryan, "I always made the assumption we were together from the beginning."
If Johnson sees it the same way, it could help Ryan's chances of sticking around. But it won't be an easy sell.
3. Is next season's opening-day quarterback on the roster?
Possibly. Michael Vick has done a credible job since taking over for Geno Smith, fitting in well in the locker room and handling a potentially volatile situation with aplomb. At 34, he's nobody's future, but he could serve as a "bridge" quarterback, the same way Chad Henne and Matt Cassel did for Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings, respectively. Vick, a free agent after the season, will be looking for a multi-year contract for at least $4 million per year, which should be affordable for the Jets.
The question is, who would Vick be bridging to? If the Jets win two or three games, they'll cost themselves a top-5 draft pick, meaning they'd probably have to trade up for Marcus Mariota and, possibly, Jameis Winston. That would be a mortgage-the-future kind of trade. The free-agent market is thin. There could be some veterans on the trading block (Jay Cutler?), but those moves rarely are long-term solutions.
Somehow, the Jets must create hope at the quarterback position, which is why another year of Vick and Smith isn't the way to go. Keep in mind these decisions will hinge on who's calling the shots. If there's a new regime, it could be an extreme makeover at quarterback.
4. Is Percy Harvin worth $10 million for 2015?
Harvin, three games into a nine-game audition, has been a positive addition since arriving from the Seattle Seahawks. But has he done enough to warrant his $10.5 million salary for next season? Not yet.
The remainder of his contract (four years, $41.5 million) isn't guaranteed, so the Jets can cut bait at any time with no cap ramifications. That's why Idzik pulled the trigger on his "potential coup." While Harvin certainly provides much-needed speed, he's not an elite receiver -- and his $10.5 million salary would put him in the elite category. Currently, it's the eighth-highest cap charge for wide receivers in 2015, according to ESPN Stats & Information. A renegotiation is possible, but they'd be committing long-term to a player with a history of off-the-field issues -- a risk.
Bottom line: Harvin needs a strong finish.
5. Who else is playing for their future?
The Jets have one must-keep free agent, David Harris, who is completing a four-year, $36 million contract. He has intrinsic value to the defense, but will the Jets break the bank again for a linebacker who will be 31 next season? Probably not, but they'd like to keep him. Non-free agents on the bubble are running back Chris Johnson and linebackers Calvin Pace and Jason Babin. Barring a strong finish, all three are likely to be gone. Muhammad Wilkerson is signed for 2015, but he's up for a long-term extension. An overdue Pro Bowl selection would add to his leverage at the bargaining table.