It might be the similar shades of green — or the pervasive feeling of mediocrity — but the business being done in Florham Park these days is starting to look a little bit like the early 2000s Oakland A’s. Admittedly, the businesses of baseball and football are very different, but I’ll posit to you that this is as close as a team can get to playing “Moneyball” in football. Regardless of what you may think of Michael Lewis, Billy Beane or Jonah Hill, the basic tenets of John Idzik’s team building philosophy are pretty similar from a financial standpoint.
The Jets’ moves thus far this offseason have been a by-product of financial constraints in terms of the cap and an aging roster. Every player, thus far, that Idzik has acquired this offseason has a few things in common: each of them are damaged in some way, either by virtue of injury or diminished performance, oh and they’re all cheap. Yes, the Jets 2013 roster is being filled out by guys plucked from the proverbial Island of Misfit Toys in hopes that the low-risk/high-reward philosophy will pay off.
Players like Mike Goodson and Antwan Barnes are perceived by the Jets’ front office as guys that the rest of the league has overlooked or undervalued — whether or not this is true remains to be seen — but the success of the 2013 New York Jets will be reliant upon it. Idzik is controlling and paring costs off the roster in an attempt to rebuild on the fly, and overpaying for talent on the free agent market would be counter-intuitive to that objective. By the same token, Idzik’s frugality in terms of free agents does not mean that the Jets will not return to being aggressive in the free agent market in the future, but it will likely take a back-seat to the draft in terms of how this team is built.
It is safe to say that among the largest contributing factors to the demise of former general manager Mike Tannenbaum was his reliance on free agency, as opposed to the draft as the primary means of building a roster. Regardless of the moves, or lack thereof, the Jets have made in free agency this offseason, the true identity of this team will be shaped by the draft class, as well as the emergence and development of draft picks from prior years such as Demario Davis, Stephen Hill, and Kenrick Ellis (to name a few).
This shift to a “Moneyball-esque” philosophy will only be further exemplified by the inevitable departure of Darrelle Revis as Idzik will be opting for the idea of the team over the individual. Sure, Revis is an All-World player, but in the ultimate team sport “it takes a village” and no one person can continue to put themselves above the team, regardless of that individual’s skill level. Paying one player who plays the position that is the furthest away from the football — like a cornerback — simply does not make sense for a team in transition with much more pressing needs outside of the corner position.
Idzik’s philosophy is not too dissimilar to the one that has served Bill Belichick and the Patriots so well over the years: the idea of team and that outside of a few key players, most of the parts that compose the team are interchangeable. If the Eagles have shown us anything, it’s that a collection of highly skilled individuals is not the best way to win football games but rather a team of 22 guys moving in the same direction is what leads to success in this league. “Moneyball” has not proven to be highly effective in baseball, but there are aspects of it, such as finding cost efficient and undervalued players, that do have applicability to football.
We shall see whether or not this will work for the Jets. If it doesn’t we could be in for one long season.