We recently had the opportunity to interview Ian Rapoport, a former Boston Herald reporter and current reporter for NFL Network and NFL.com. Ian's a great guy and provided some very intriguing answers to our questions. You can find him on Twitter at @RapSheet, but if you're a football fan on social media, chances are you're already following him for quality breaking news.
Q: How would you describe the Jets' 2012 season?
A: I'm not sure words can do it any justice better than the Butt Fumble. I know Jets fans probably hate that, but it's reality. It wasn't good. More so than I've seen in a while, it was an indictment of the direction the team had been heading talent- and coaching-wise, but accelerated. There were serious depth questions regardless, but those were badly exposed with injuries to Santonio Holmes and Darrelle Revis. Had those issues stayed hidden, maybe they would've been 8-8. The offensive line was talent-deficient, so were the receivers, and it led to a Mark Sanchez we hadn't quite seen before. Everyone, including Rex Ryan, got in their own head. All in all, it was a pretty big disaster. That's the bad news. Everything that could've gone wrong, did. The good news it, the Jets are aware. Maybe it led to better things in the future.
Q: Thus far, has new GM John Idzik made correct moves to get the franchise on-track or is there something he's missing?
A: The real answer is, we don't know. Not exciting, but dramatic moves like trading Darrelle Revis and keeping Rex Ryan take a few years to play out. I didn't agree with the decision to trade Revis. To me, he's a franchise-changing player you build around, not the kind you trade away. And while the picks they got for him were clearly the most in that market place with just one real bidder, to me it wasn't enough. Maybe Sheldon Richardson is a superstar, and maybe the extra millions they didn't commit to Revis allows them to spend. But it won't be this year.
The way that transpired was head-scratching, though assuming Idzik had to trade him, he did a nice job. I like keeping Rex because I think he's a good coach who is still learning to be a coach. And he's had plenty of experience to learn from. He can lead men, which many can't. I don't think there is anything missing from Idzik's performance thus far, because he's done all he can at the QB position. They have to keep Sanchez, he took Geno Smith when he was the best available QB, and they rolled the dice with Garrard at little cost. It's next year that's most important. Which is why Rex could get caught up in a rebuilding year that ends up sealing his fate.
Q: Is there a magic number of wins the Jets can earn this season that saves Rex Ryan's job?
A: I don't really believe in magic numbers. By the end of next year, you'll know if Rex is the Jets coach or if he isn't. I believe he is, and that he can be a very viable and successful head coach in the NFL. Taking two teams in a row to the AFC title game -- whatever the luck or circumstances -- is impressive. If he'd be a little more cold-hearted (as Trevor Pryce accurately wrote in a NY Times column) and had hired the right offensive coordinator (not Tony Sparano), I think he's in business. But if things go very South very fast, it'll be Rex Ryan Watch every day in NY.
More questions after the jump...
Q: Who do you think will be the starting QB this year [and why], and what do you make of the anonymous player ripping Mark? -Fan Question from @katiee_frank
A: I think Mark Sanchez will begin the year as the Jets starting QB, and I think there is a real chance he stays that way. With a better OC this year, and with a bit more of an emphasis on running the ball, he'll be in a better spot to success. It could be old-school Sanchez. Plus, maybe the Jets'll get more from Santonio Holmes and the group this year. In the face of such criticism, I wouldn't be surprised if he bounced back a bit, mostly because he couldn't have been worse.
Geno Smith could be a great QB. But he is far from a finished product. I'd expect him to spend a year learning if the Jets can possibly stand it. As for the anonymous player, I don't care that someone rips the QB. It's the NFL. Everyone gets ripped. I do care that the same culture of anonymously ripping players still exists, even with a new front office. It's more troubling on a macro scale than on a micro one.
Q: What the 'heck' are the Jets waiting for before they add another receiver, because this crop can't stay healthy? Can you shed any light on this, Ian? -Fan Question from @MmccGM
This is a bit of a mystery for me, too. It's nice that Holmes returns and that Stephen Hill should be better (theoretically) in Year 2. But they didn't spend any resources in this critical area, once again. The only thing I can come up with is that, simply, there aren't enough resources to go around. You only have so many draft picks and you only have so much money -- and you can't fix everything in one year. But to not address this spot in the draft at all was a shock. That said, teams put their money and picks where it's most important. They spent capital on running back, for instance, which may mean that's the emphasis this season moreso than putting it in the air. But perplexing.
On the personal side of things...
Q: What is your favorite team to cover/talk about and why?
A: It's funny. People say things like, "Well, I'm a journalist, I have to be unbiased." The reality is, it just happens. You just stop rooting for teams you grew up rooting for. You focus on your story, your angle, what news is developing and other issues involved in the game. At least, I do. So I don't really have a favorite team to cover. I have players or coaches I have relationships with, and you hope they do well, I guess. But in my role now, I'm more focused on news, anyway. What comes out of this game after we learn who wins or loses? What does it mean? What developing story is worth focusing on? Because of the job, the way you watch becomes different.
Q: What's it like going from writing for a newspaper to being on national TV? -Fan Question from @NYCKING
A: It's been a whirlwind, a really fun year. It's been a challenge, too. When you're writing for a newspaper, you have 600 words, at least, to make your point and explain. In TV, you sometimes only have about 40 seconds. You have to get to the point and prepare in your own head and you can't waste words. But once you get over the mechanical and technical differences, it's been great. I'd say the reporting aspect of it has been similar. You still try to find out news, vet your sources, report it before anyone else, and shed light on situations others are not aware of it. It's just the medium of dissemination that's different. It can be just as intense -- deadline writing for breaking news vs. having to go on TV quickly when something breaks. I've really enjoyed it.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who'd like to be in your position?
A: My best advice is read and write a lot. Figure out what you like to read and why you like to read it. Think about what stylistic methods you enjoy and how you can utilize them. What don't you like? As far as writing goes, it's about exposing yourself to as much as possible, then honing in on your own style. When it comes to reporting, it's kinda the same. What kind of reporter do you want to be? What style will you use to help provide information not previously known? What works for you? Then, of course, the big thing is to work. Hard work goes a long. Being willing to work when others aren't. And not getting discouraged when people say no to what you're trying to do. It happens all the time. Be tough and keep working.