'Fire Idzik' plane flies at Jets practice

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Look, up in the sky. It's a bird, it's a plane, it's ...

Another indignity for the New York Jets.

A plane carrying the banner "Fire John Idzik" circled the Jets' practice field for about 20 minutes Wednesday as players and coaches began preparations for Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The embattled general manager stood on the sideline as the plane flew overheard. He chatted with beleaguered coach Rex Ryan and owner Woody Johnson as the players went about routine drills during the 30-minute window open to the media.

Afterward, Ryan recognized the frustration of the fan base, which is suffering through a 1-8 season, but he called it an inappropriate gesture.

"They've got a right [to express themselves], but I just think that when you look at the big picture, this isn't about one man falling short," Ryan said. "That's not it. We're 1-8 collectively. Trust me, we don't like it. That's how I feel. I don't understand this part of it, I really don't."

Quarterback Michael Vick called it a distraction, saying the plane was "annoying." Guard Willie Colon said it was "disheartening," adding that the collective reaction among the players was, "Wow."

"I've never witnessed anything like that," Colon said. "It kind of threw me for a shock. At the end of the day, John is part of this family. ... All we can do is support him and rally around him."

The plane circled at least a dozen times before making a final pass directly over the field. The brain trust pretended not to notice, but there's no way it could have missed it.

The Jets' suburban practice facility is located near a small airport, but planes rarely are seen in the airspace above the sprawling complex.

It was yet another embarrassing moment for the Jets, who have dropped eight straight games -- one shy of the franchise record for consecutive losses in a season.

Idzik, in only his second year on the job, is taking the brunt of the criticism for a season gone wrong. He exacerbated the scrutiny last week with his midseason news conference, a bizarre and uncomfortable session that included a 19-minute opening statement in which he painted a rosy picture for the team's outlook.

A group of disgruntled Jets fans started a website -- FireJohnIdzik.com -- and raised more than $10,000 to buy three "Fire Idzik" billboards near MetLife Stadium.

The website said through its Twitter account that it isn't responsible for the banner-carrying plane.

An unidentified woman spent under $1,000 for the entire package, according to Ashley Chalmers, the owner of Jersey Shore Aerial Advertising. He refused to identify the woman, except to say she's "a frustrated fan." She made the initial contact last week and called to confirm after the Jets' 24-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

"I guess that was the nail in the coffin," said Chalmers, hinting the same banner could be flown over MetLife Stadium during Sunday's game.

Requests to speak with Idzik and Johnson were denied by the Jets' public relations department.

Ryan, whose own job is in jeopardy, appeared uncomfortable discussing the entire episode. He didn't want to insult the fans, but at the same time, he acknowledged he was "upset" by the aerial protest.

"I personally don't think it's appropriate," said Ryan, adding that Idzik wasn't "overly upset, but I'm sure he wasn't pleased with it."

Wide receiver Eric Decker, Idzik's big free-agent signing, said he didn't want to talk about it. Vick talked, and wasn't pleased.

"It's annoying," he said. "You're trying to practice ... and then you see something that becomes a distraction, and then there's a whole bunch of negative thoughts just going through your head. Now everybody's attention is up in the sky as opposed to on the practice field.

"It's like, kick a man when he's down," Vick added. "We understand, people do that. Some people want to see other people suffer. ... I think that was a bit extreme. The money they spent on jet fuel could've been given to some type of charity."

After time to think about it, Colon wasn't surprised.

"No, it's New York," he said. "If you're a New Yorker, you're not surprised by anything."