Doing business with Jets general manager John Idzik is supposed to be excruciating and described as “glacial” in terms of pace. But for at least one agent who has worked with Idzik for two decades, he has seen nothing but positives from the embattled general manager.
Howard Shatsky has been an agent since 1989 and he now runs his own firm, Professional Football Management. With clients that included Michael Strahan and Brian Westbrook among others, Shatsky has had a business relationship with Idzik for much of his representation career. From 1993 to 2004, Idzik worked his way through the Buccaneers' management side, from a pro personnel assistant up to assistant general manager. It was during this time that Shatsky the agent began to work with Idzik, the rising star in the organization.
This relationship continued over the years even after Idzik made stops in Arizona and then Seattle before taking the Jets job last offseason.
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“Over the years I signed many players with John," Shatsky said.“John Idzik is one of the truly nice guys in the NFL. While I realize that may not matter to fans, it does have a huge impact with agents.In my dealings with him, John has always been upfront, honest and straightforward. That type of person can be a huge asset to a team when trying to get a deal done or sign a player in free agency.”
Not everyone agrees with Shatsky.
One prominent NFL agent, who has had several players on the Jets since Idzik's time with the team began and others who the Jets had inquired about during free agency, didn't want to speak on the record, “because that might ruin whatever relationship I have left with the team.” But he sees flaws with the current general manager.
“You want to see some movement from the man you're talking with, and John always seemed to be putting things off and waiting for the situation to dictate things, not the other way around. You have to be proactive in free agency and offering deals, not always hedging,” the agent told Metro.“Sometimes you have to have big balls in this business. I'm not sure John has the big balls for this role. He's smart, he doesn't make bad decisions. He's a great guy. But you need those balls. You have to be willing to take a risk and he's too calculated. I want to see him roll up his sleeves and play the hand he's got.”
Of course, those comments are from an agent who might feel slighted after not getting the deal from the Jets he wanted to during free agency.
Earlier this week, Shatsky took to Twitter to defend Idzik. He's upset about the way Jets fans are attacking their general manager, who hasn't even completed two years on the job. Granted the fanbase has every right to be upset at the current state of the team, especially given their 2-11 record. This poor year comes after last season's 8-8 mark which made some hopeful for a return to the postseason.
From his perspective, as someone who has worked with Idzik on getting deals done, Shatsky tells Metro that he doesn't see an issue with the Jets' last offseason. Despite lots of cap space, the Jets went a low-key route, without a big splash. There was a perception that Idzik moved too slowly and low-balled free agents, leading to this year's dearth of talent.
“Perhaps John may have moved a bit too slow for the fans in New York. Having grown up in New Jersey as a Jet fan, I know firsthand how demanding the New York fans can be,” Shatsky said. “Having said that, if I was an NFL owner, I would prefer my GM make well thought-out, rational decisions. There are times when you need to move quickly, but in most cases slow and steady wins the race. The NFL is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Try telling that to a fanbase that hasn't seen the playoffs since 2010, this after getting their appetite whetted for success following last year's surprising run to .500. The thought was that the Jets needed just a couple of pieces, some high-end talent, to be a playoff team again. A good core seemed to be in place.
Instead, Idzik let pieces such as cornerback Antonio Cromartie bolt to the Cardinals and didn't even sniff around when Darrelle Revis, arguably the best cornerback in the game, became available. He didn't land any other prized free agents and even the signings of wide receiver Eric Decker, running back Chris Johnson and right tackle Breno Giacomini did little to excite those who wanted star power. He made some solid additions, but the team still lacked legitimate playmakers. Two underwhelming drafts haven't helped.
And now a 2-11 season that has seen just one win since the season opener is pinned squarely on the back of the general manager, who has seen a FireJohnIdzik.com website pop up, billboards asking for his termination and planes flying overhead demanding his ouster.
“I do not think you can blame or credit any one person in an NFL organization," Shatsky said. "Not being privy to John's contract, I do not know if he even has the final say over who the Jets draft. Not to mention, the draft is a group project - scouts, coaches, the general manager and even the owners of some teams all may have a say in who is selected. Who has the final say differs from team to team.
“Obviously the Jets have not performed well this year, however to blame that all on the general manager is just not fair," Shatsky continued. "When Idzik got to New York, the Jets were not in great shape in terms of the cap. That limits the ability of the general manager to make moves. There are also other people in the organization that have input. It is interesting to me, how on social media I see Idzik getting slammed but yet I have not seen much criticism of [head coach] Rex Ryan. Is that because Rex is better with the media and more engaging in press conferences? I am not really sure what the answer is and I am not putting the blame on Rex. My point is that the success or failure of an NFL team can never be put on one individual ... My feeling is that when things go right, everyone should receive credit and the same goes for when things don't go right. “