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IDZIK: A Higher Comfort Level This Year

Posted Apr 30, 2014

Transcript of Wednesday News Conference with John Idzik, Terry Bradway & Jeff Bauer

John Idzik: Thank you for coming today. We are down the home stretch in our preparations for the draft, one week to go. Needless to say we’re very excited about it. So much goes into this preparation. A lot of people just see the three day event on TV, but this dates back to over a year ago. Our college staff led by Terry Bradway and Jeff Bauer. So much goes into it with our staffs and it is a coordinated effort in the various phases that we go through.

I just want to acknowledge a few people that are very important to us, and certainly integral parts of our draft preparation. Obviously our college staff, Jeff will get to. But our coaches, we ask a lot of them because they're doing a lot of things in tandem. We get into our postseason evaluations, free agency prep, and then alongside of that, we're doing draft prep. By that we're asking them to grade players. They're playing a little catchup on film work, they're going out on pro days, the Indy combine, all of those things. So Rex [Ryan] and his staff have done great work that way and are very coordinated with our college guys.

Our football administration, they do a lot of things in preparation for the draft and some of the behind-the-scenes work. We have an abbreviated schedule this year, being that we're going to have minicamp a week after the draft instead of two weeks. So a lot falls on the admin folks, and that would be Rod Graves, Jackie Davidson, and Laura Young. They do a great job.

Our pro department, they're also involved. Obviously, they're going to do a little bit of overlap work in evaluations, some background work, but also getting ready for minicamp and workouts that way, Brendan Prophett, Matt Bazirgan, Greg Nejmeh, Andy Howell and company, they do a great job. I could go on and on, I feel like we're on awards show here, and the music is going to start to play.

But our [operations department], led by Clay Hampton, IT, Tom Murphy and his staff, we've made some changes to our draft room technology along with that. They've done a fantastic job that way. Medical staff, Dr. Ken Montgomery, and our team physicians, and of course, John Mellody and our training staff, just to name a few. I know that sounds like a lot. But so much goes into it, and we're very proud of the work that our people have done. So with that, I'll let Jeff touch on some of the college staff.

Jeff Bauer: Yeah, obviously, this is the highlight of these guys’ year. We started back in May, going to national meetings, minicamp, training camp. These guys have spent a lot of time away from their families. We've had quite a bit of changeover this past year, and it's been a very positive change. We've had some great guys. I'd put these guys up against anybody. They've done a great job.

Cole Hufnagel, our Northeast scout. Jay Mandolesi has done the Southeast for us. He's been here quite a long time. Chris Prescott is one of our new scouts. He kind of does from Virginia down to Louisiana, kind of outskirts of the Southeast. David Hinson is also one of our new scouts, he does the Midwest. Aaron Glenn, who is obviously a former player here, did a great job also. He lives in Texas, and he does Texas up to North Dakota which is a different kind of area for us. And Dave Boller is also new, and he's done the West area for us this year. Rick Courtright was our national combine scout, which means he does most of his work in the spring and at the combine meetings in May which we go to he'll present all his stuff then. So it's different, but he does just as much work. It's a different time of year when he's stressed. Also, we have Jesse Kaye, who I think a lot of you know, he's been with us for quite a number of years, and kind of our senior crosscheck scout. But it's a great group of guys and they've worked hard. We'll see the product here in a couple of weeks, next week.

Terry Bradway: This is my 29th draft, and I've enjoyed this one as much as any in terms of what we've done with our group, like Jeff said. I'd also like to acknowledge that Dan Zbojovsky who is our coordinator of college scouting, and Christina Salvemini, those two go above and beyond in all areas getting us ready for this draft. Like John said, it's amazing what goes into this, and we appreciate all their efforts, everybody who has been mentioned here.

I'd like to give you the “Ag” report, as usual, per annual here. The schools we actually visited where we wrote reports were 263 schools. We had 575 school visits, some of those were multiple visits by our regional scouts. We wrote 1,372 player reports of which Jay Mandolesi wrote about 800. So if you were on a roster at a school, you were probably getting written up. We did over 3,500 player evaluations. We had 635 individual player interviews, and that doesn't include the scouts, either, in the fall or maybe during the spring visit for pro day. So that's quite a bit of face-to-face time. We attended 115 pro days through March and the early part of April. We attended 120 college games, including one that I went to John with and he made me stay for the whole game.

So that's the numbers. But I don't think the numbers tell the whole story. I've been very impressed with our guys, our guys that have been here, our new guys. Every year we try to get a little bit better, and we'll do the same after this draft, but I really like the direction we're heading in and the process that we've had to go through this year.

Idzik: So as you can tell, there is quite a lot entailed in this, and we're just touching on here. But with that, we feel like we're prepared, and we're confident, and we're excited about next week, with a great opportunity to improve our football team. So with that, we'll open it up for questions.

On if the additional two weeks before the draft this year has changed anything…

Idzik: I think it has. The one thing we've seen more pro days, especially with perhaps some prospects that may be rehabbing, where they may have had a partial workout early on, they could wait a little bit later. So we had some mid to late April workouts that would not have occurred before. But it really hasn't impacted us that much. We'll still follow the same flow of meetings and basic preparations of what we do.

On if the draft board was set earlier this off-season…

Idzik: No, I think we backed everything up so that you feel like you're lathered up going into the draft. So the couple of weeks leading right into the draft are the same as they were before.

On their impressions of the cornerback position in the draft…

Bradway: Well, I think this is a good draft for a lot of positions. I think we probably have more draftable players on our board than we've had in a few years. With 12 picks, I think that's going to be pretty good. I would say overall I like the depth at that position as well as others.

On if the cornerback position is as deep as the receiver position…

Bradway: Well, I don't want to get into particulars in terms of how our board is set. But I think with 12 picks, I think we're going to have some good options throughout.

On if analytical stats would have an application in college football…

Bauer: I would say with the kind of offenses that are in college football nowadays, you might have a guy, for example, he might have 120 catches for one season for a team, another guy gets 40 on a team. It's hard to compare. One, we're doing Division I, Division II, different leagues. We look at stats and we call out stats, but it's what you see on the film. It's too much of a variance from league to league and level to level.

Bradway: To that end, over the years I think this is something relatively new, but not really. We've done projects all along to try to break up ties. On every draft board you're going to have pockets of players at one position that have similar grades, and in order to try to break that tie you look at everything. You look at the film, obviously, which is number one. You look at the workouts and statistics. We'll drill down as much as we can to try to break those ties. I think it's just one piece of the pie. If it can help you, that's good.

On if the team anticipates using all 12 picks…

Idzik: We'll go in open minded. The nice thing about having 12 picks is it does give you flexibility and maneuverability within the draft. So if you have fewer picks, I guess you're less apt to do that. But I think it's all dependent. As Terry mentioned, we group our players. In a given round, if you have a group of players that you think are fairly equitable that you like, and you feel like you may be able to trade down and still get somebody within that group, you may do it. On the flip side, if there's only one or two players at that stage in the draft that you really covet, and he may not get to your pick, you may entertain trading up. The other side of that ledger is one, you have to have a suitor on the other end, and then the compensation, is it right? Is it right for you? But, yes, having 12 picks is certainly nice to have. We don't mind picking them all, and it also gives us a little maneuverability in the draft.

On if this is Bradway’s 29th draft…

Bradway: 29th, yes.

On if Bradway ever recalls having 12 picks in a draft before…

Bradway: The most we've had here since I've been here was 10. I think the Jets had 12 in 1998. It was probably the most I've had. There have been some years where we've had three and four, so Saturday's going to be a lot of fun. Saturday, to me, I know a lot is placed on the first two rounds, but for our scouts, Saturday is going to be a fun day. Not only for those picks, but also afterwards where John has placed such an emphasis on the CFA [college free agent] signings afterwards. It's going to be a big day.

On if the team factored in compensatory selections when deciding on free agents last season…

Idzik: The compensatory draft pick system, so to speak, is always in your mind. So that is a factor. It's not the determinant, but it's a factor.

On how Idzik picks which pro days to personally attend…

Idzik: We try to spread. That's why I mentioned the coaches. The coaches will help us out in that vein, too. Of course, Terry, Jeff, our college guys, so we'll spread. That includes me. We'll try to cast a wide net. What is difficult, with the way things transpire now, is you come off of Indy and some of these pro days are in the days immediately following Indy. I'll be busy on free agency along with our pro staff. So there is a lot schedule-wise that you'll take into account. There will be several prospects for several schools that you'd like to see and they schedule them within the same timeframe, so we just coordinate our calendars and try to get to as many pertinent pro days as we can.

On reading into which pro days Idzik and Ryan personally attended…

Idzik: No, I wouldn't read too much into that. We're just trying to get as many sets of eyes and opinions on guys. Some of those, too, we'll have a pretty good grasp on a prospect, so we may not attend a workout. I wouldn't read too much into that, either.

On if the activity in free agency places more pressure on them to have a good draft…

Idzik: No, I wouldn't say it put more pressure on it. We approach it the same way. We view the draft, again, as a talent-based operation. We're just going to go after the best players for our organization. So I don't know that there's any more pressure based on what transpired or what may not have transpired in free agency.

On the challenge of projecting college players into the NFL…

Bradway: Well, there is no question it's a different game. But the one thing we've tried to do, and I think we get a little bit better at it every year, is evaluate the player and the person. You try to tie them together as best you can. And I think that can give you a pretty good indicator of what kind of success they might have. It's not 100 percent, we know that. This is a tough game up here. Not to say that college isn't. So I think doing that, making that an emphasis on the player and the person will help us.

Bauer: There are so many factors. I mean, trying to decide if he's a product of the system, and like Terry said, what kind of person he is, the work ethic. And usually you think the guys that work hard and are good character guys, it's going to be easier to translate to how well they pick up football, how smart they are. That's all a factor. But sometimes everything's perfect with a guy and for some reason it doesn't click for him. You look back, and no one's ever going to be a 100 percent in this business. We've all made mistakes and aim to get better and better. But there is not a perfect formula. It's tough. Sometimes you go, ‘Why did this guy not make it?’

On if they have to go with their gut feeling sometimes…

Bauer: Yeah, sometimes, yeah. I guess that's when you get more heated arguments in the draft room, when you really feel good about a guy.

Bradway: Really? [joking]

Bauer: Some guys really let their emotions show [joking].

On if the quality of the player available at 18 this year is better than in years past…

Bradway: Every year we would say if we're at the 18th pick, there are 16 players [that you like], if we're the 22nd pick, there are 20 players. We feel if we stay at 18 that we'll have the ability to select a good player, somebody that can come in and help us win.

On cornerbacks having a tough transition from college to the NFL…

Bauer: I think the offenses at the NFL level, what the receivers can do [can make it a tough transition]. Obviously the guy you're going against is different, a stud. Some of them face three of them all year in college. Here, it's every Sunday. Secondly, the offense, the receivers adjust according to what you're doing, they're going to adjust and do something different. In college it's just a lot [simpler]. So the mental stuff for corners coming up to this level, you have to learn a lot. You saw it with Dee [Milliner]. He missed a lot of OTAs last summer, and it affected him early, but as he got going, we saw the real Dee later.

On if college defenses have become more complex…

Bradway: Not really. There are certain teams that you would sense that. But I agree with Jeff. These systems up here are more complicated. I think NFL offenses put much more stress on those guys. So I think that's a little bit of an adjustment. Jeff brings up a good point. Missing time can hurt, but even in Dee’s case we saw how he played at the end of the year, it was pretty good.

Idzik: It's a bigger, stronger, faster league. There is no way to really simulate that on a week-to-week basis in the college game. Moreover, when a rookie comes in, our vets not only have experience in their hip pocket, even if you take the current league year, they're in an offseason program right now, they're in a scheme that they're familiar with. Rookies come in wide-eyed in a couple weeks and they're starting basically in May. So just by timing, speed, there are so many factors that go into it that put a lot of pressure on rookies in trying to get their feet on the ground quickly.

On if he feels greater comfort level this year opposed to last season, his first at general manager…

Idzik: No doubt. Last year, as you said, I didn't get the benefit of scouting the college season with the Jets staff. I came in in January so I got the tail end and the bowl games and the Indianapolis combine. Even so, it was kind of a hybrid where we were going to flip the switch and create a new system on the fly. So it was a little bit of Jets and a little bit of change last year as we were going. This year we set that table way back in May of last year, and then as Jeff indicated, we brought some new scouts in. We went through the entire cycle together, not only with the college staff but the coaches and everybody else that is involved. Simple things like setting up our pre-draft visits, our local day, it was the first time through last year. Well, this year we had somewhat of a template. That's going to be massaged to a certain degree, but much less so this year. So, yeah, there is a higher comfort level this year.

On how the wide receivers in this draft compare to those in past drafts…

Bradway: It's hard to say. There are good players in this draft. I think they'll run throughout the draft not only early, but I think there are going to be some guys late. It's hard for me to compare year to year, but it's a good group.

On if they ever refer back to draft reports after the draft…

Idzik: Yeah, I think we look at this draft process and the evaluations that go into it, this will date back into their collegiate years and their background. You avail yourself to a lot of different people that have touched that player's progression. You may not have that luxury once you get to the pros. So, yeah, all those reports and the work that's done going into the draft, we look at that as the start of his library, and you will definitely tap into that as he progresses through his pro career.

On if they expect that the first few picks in this draft would be immediate starters…

Idzik: We're not going to label anybody a starter. We think they should come in and help our team. They should come in and compete at a high level. Sometimes a first-round pick may take a little time before he hits his stride, and sometimes he'll hit it right away. I think we saw examples of that last year in our first round. So I don't know. Would we like rookies to come in and have an immediate impact? Of course, we would. But we also have a pretty good roster that they're competing against too. So I think we want those high level picks, mid-round picks, low-round picks, CFAs, we've tagged them for a reason, we feel like they're a fit here that they're going to come in and compete at a high level.

On Mike Goodson

Idzik: No, we assume that Mike is a Jet. We've always made that assumption. Unfortunately, he had to end the season on injured reserve. He didn't get much time with us last year. But we assume that Mike is on our roster.

On if it is safe to say the Jets will select a receiver in this draft…

Idzik: I wouldn't say it's safe to say anything at this point. We're going to take the draft one pick at a time and add the best players.

On what a scouting report on Idzik would say…

Bradway: Well, I would say this, what you see is what you get. He is very thorough. The one thing I'll say about John, John affects a lot of different areas in this building. When he's with your particular group, you think that's the most important thing he's got going on and he is totally focused. When he's in that draft room, there is a lot of other stuff going on. He is focused on that draft. He is thorough. He is detailed. Sometimes, I may get a little impatient with the deliberate actions. But what we've done is in that draft room, we've given all these players significant time. The most important thing we've got going on right now is to get that draft board right with the value of the football player, and everything else takes care of itself after that. So he's got the unique ability to do that, to generate the conversation and all of that. But I just know. I've been in that seat, and I know that everything else that's going on in this building and he puts a lot of time in here. But when you're with him, that is the most important thing he's got going on. It's not like his mind is somewhere else. He's focused on that, and that's what he's given us in these draft meetings for sure.

Bauer: I would say "teammate." Our 7.0 means excellent and like Terry said, being a teammate, he's brought things together, the group, we're a close-knit group like he said. We listen to everybody, everybody has a voice, no stone's left unturned. We make sure we have everything down.

On the 7.0 grade…

Bauer: Top, for teammate.

Bradway: I gave him a 6.5 [joking].

Idzik: I've got a little work to do [joking].

Bauer: Also, the requirement of sleep would be up there. Three, four hours, he can survive on three or four hours, so the durability is high [joking]

Bradway: The other thing I would tell you is this: He's got a really good sense of humor. We have a good time in that room. You work hard in this business, spend a lot of time together. You're in that room for 13 hours a day. We get our stuff done, but we have a good time also.

On how many 7.0 players are in the draft…

Bauer: There's not a perfect player. That's just a quality. I don't know that we've had a 7.0. We grade the specific skills of the player. He might have a 7.0 quality of play speed, and strength might be a 5.8 or something. We grade them, we have a range. But the final grade, it's safe to say we don't have a 7.0.

On improvements to the draft room…

Idzik: Yes, we started actually changing some things going into last year's draft, and we really liked it. That's why I mentioned Tom Murphy and the IT staff. We really put them under the gun last year. When you mentioned the difference from last year to this year, they were making changes on the fly, where this year Mike Lebet and his staff - the facilities staff, we basically opened the draft room up. We made it larger. We wanted it to be more inclusive to fit more people in there without feeling like we're sitting on top of each other. So we were able to do that. Just changed the configuration. There is a lot more technology in the room, so we have the ability to put things on screens rather than shuffle through papers. So that is the general direction is to try to get more efficient from a technology standpoint.

On how open team would be to taking a quarterback in the first round…

Idzik: We remain open-minded. Again, we're going to evaluate each pick and the players that are available to us at that pick, and we'll pick who we think is the best player.

On how they would evaluate the quarterbacks in this draft…

Bradway: I'm not going to get into specifics on the position. I don't think that's appropriate at this time.

On how much time they spend evaluating the quarterback position…

Bradway: We spend as much time with them as we do any position. We've seen them all. We've got them ranked, and feel good about where we have them on our board. But just like any other position.

Bauer: Ditto.

On how drafting a quarterback would affect Geno Smith

Idzik: We'll always operate off our mantra of competition. So just like bringing Mike Vick in here, and Matt Simms got better last year - he's returning. Geno has a year under his belt. If a new guy comes in, then we'd expect him to add to that competition. That's going to make everybody better. Not only the rookie, not only Matt, Mike, but also Geno. So that runs throughout. That is legitimate. That is not just a line that we use.

On when the draft board will be finalized…

Idzik: Well, I guess we have a pretty good notion right now. But we'll always tweak, and we're going through some positions now. I'd say by the end of the weekend it's pretty much there. But actually we're discussing things. Not that we're going to make wholesale changes, but we'll have some, I think Jeff mentioned it earlier, some tiebreaker scenarios that may play out on the board. Those are ongoing discussions. But the hay is pretty much in the barn for the most part by this week.

On if they conduct mock drafts to prepare for the NFL draft…

Idzik: We may have a little fun in the end. I don't know that impacts what we do. What we try to do is really not a response to what others may or may not do. That's very tough to predict. So we just take it as the group of players that we feel merit that pick and will they be there and be ready to react according to who is picked ahead of us. We may have a little fun as we hit the final days, just do a few mocks to see who picks who.

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