I spent a lot of time last week talking to some friends of mine who were recently in scouting. In our conversations, one topic came up, and it goes hand in hand with what we talked about last week regarding NFL executives and the media.
In the last two years, two GMs that got the axe, the Jets’ John Idzik and the Dolphins’ Jeff Ireland, were not the kind of administrators who were constantly quoted in blogs and interviewed on ESPN. In fact, I remember when Ireland was let go in January 2014. I think I was on the treadmill, and the initial NFL Network report couldn’t even run file footage of Ireland where his face was visible. They ran film of him congratulating players with his back to the camera and one where he was standing with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and his face was obscured. I remember thinking how comical it was that they continually ran it when it was so bad.
We can argue about the results on the field, the controversies that took place, the bad hires, or whatever that determined their fate. The bottom line is that both of them had very short leashes; three years (for Ireland; Idzik got only two) is a much shorter grace period than many (most?) general managers get, but both of them were on the unemployment line rather quickly.
With Idzik, it’s easy to see why. He doesn’t even have an agent, which means there was no one there to burnish his reputation with New York’s often hostile writers and no one to urge him to be less restrictive about information flow. With Ireland, it seems to be his ‘upbringing’ in the NFL as a member of the Bill Parcells tree. Parcells has always been adversarial and less than accommodating with writers and Ireland maybe took a page from that book. I’m told that people close to him, especially in the wake of the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito fiasco, urged him to ‘give something’ to Miami writers so their knives might be less sharp. He apparently refused on principle, making it much easier for Ross to look elsewhere.
The fallout is pretty easy to gauge. Google ‘John Idzik Jets’ and you get 10 entries on the first page, including a condescending article on NJ.com, a link to FireJohnIdzik.com, and a post from a Jets fan site that is the usual rip job you find in such places. The Web is kinder to Ireland, perhaps because Fins fans and media are distracted by the fun of South Beach, but I remember that there were few columnists and beat writers expressing dissatisfaction with his ouster.
I’m not at all saying that coaches, GMs and others with NFL teams are fired, or not fired, mainly because of how they get along with media. But to say that it’s not a big part of things would be, to me, ignorant of the way things work in football, and the world, today.