The New York Jets surprised many at the 2013 NFL Draft when they eschewed addressing their offense to take two defensive players in the first round, cornerback Dee Milliner and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson.
Rather than being pressured by external forces into making reach picks for inferior players, the Jets and rookie general manager John Idzik stuck to their board and took two players who they believe are elite NFL prospects.
Idzik indicated that Milliner and Richardson were two of the Jets’ four highest-rated prospects in the entire draft.
“You’re tempted,” said Idzik, about considering any offensive players, after top target Tavon Austin came off the board. “But you’re not going to succumb to temptation. You’re going to stick with what you believe in.”
In the end, rather than trade out of either of their picks, the Jets stuck with what they believe in, and you’d have to believe that nobody’s happier about that than Rex Ryan, a guy who definitely needs an impactful rookie class.
Despite all the talk about Idzik wanting to clean house in 2014, giving his incumbent coach two new toys to play with doesn’t seem like a move to alienate the front office from the coaching staff. Quite the opposite, in fact.
While neither of these new additions should be expected to step in and immediately replace the loss of Darrelle Revis on defense, bringing in two defensive guys in the first round sure seems like a vote of confidence for Ryan.
Idzik is not petty. He’s not concerned about outside perception of his team, or the decisions he makes on behalf of his team. He’s not going to spite Rex Ryan just because he inherited the fifth-year coach when he took the job.
Instead, Idzik respects the expertise of his colleagues, both in the front office and the coaching staff. A variety of factors are taken into account before any major decision, and Idzik will continue to do what is best for the team.
While nothing is set in stone, the rumors of Rex Ryan’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. He is not a “lame duck” head coach, and his presumed ouster at season’s end remains little more than idle speculation at this point.
That doesn’t mean Ryan is calling the shots when it comes to Jets draft day decisions. He’s just fortunate to have a GM in Idzik who respects him, and his evaluations of defensive players. Sorry, conspiracy theorists.
The bottom line is that Sheldon Richardson and Dee Milliner make the Jets a better football team, in 2013 and beyond. The fact that they don’t play offense means little in that regard. There’s no wrong way to win, after all.