Former Jets offensive coordinator John Idzik, who had a major influence not only on the Jets of the late Seventies but on the development of his son, John, who advanced up the NFL ladder to become general manager of his father's former team almost 35 years later, died of natural causes Tuesday at his home in Chadds Ford, Pa. He was 85.
John Joseph Idzik was a football man through and through. Born in Bridesburg, PA, on June 25, 1928, he was a gifted football and baseball athlete at Northeast Catholic High School in Philadelphia and went on to star as a defensive back, halfback and punt returner for Maryland's nationally ranked bowl teams from 1948-51.
Following a three-year stint in the Marines — which included being named All-Marine in 1952 as a member of the East Coast-champion Paris Island Marines football team — Idzik began his coaching career in college (with one season in the CFL in '55) that included a four-year stretch as head coach at the University of Detroit.
Then came the pro years as Idzik took roles as offensive backfield coach for the Dolphins (1966-69) and Colts (1970-72) and offensive coordinator for the Eagles (1973-76),
That brought him to the Jets as OC from 1977-79. His crowning achievements: The Jets were third in the NFL in points scored/game in 1978 and were ninth in total yardage and first in rushing yardage in 1979.
General manager John Arthur Idzik has not commented publicly on his father's passing. But in January, after he was hired by Jets owner Woody Johnson, the new GM spoke of the time he and his father arrived at Hofstra University in '77, the father as the Jets' new OC and the son as "a skinny high school receiver trying to gain weight."
"Living in a football family is very rewarding, but it's also very challenging on a family. You don't see your father that often because of the hours," John said then. "But me being the only boy in the family, I got to spend all the camps and games together with my dad. I was fortunate to observe him with his coaching style back with the players back then.
"I spent a considerable amount of time with my dad and he obviously had a major influence on me both from a professional standpoint but more important from a personal standpoint. He taught me lessons much beyond football."
John Joseph Idzik's coaching career continued with another hitch as the Colts' backfield coach in 1980-81, RBs coach with the USFL's Washington Federals in '83, and head coach of the Granite City Oilers of Aberdeen, Scotland, in the British American Football League in 1990. His receivers coach on that team was his son.
In the obituary released by his family, it was said that while John "was a very tough-minded competitor, he demonstrated a sincere compassion for his teammates and respect for his opponents. He had a knack for making the complicated seem simple and kept everything light with his wonderful sense of humor. He had an easy way of communicating and connecting very directly with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. He was an eternal optimist and calm voice of reason in challenging times.
"John lived a Christian life with a deep-seated love of his God, his country and his family. God blessed John with a complete life which in turn touched several generations of students, players, coaches, friends and family. John will always be remembered and sorely missed. His family loves him dearly."
John is survived by Joyce Joann, his wife of 60 years, three children and five grandchildren.
Arrangements are being made by Chandler Funeral Home of Wilmington, DE. Relatives and friends are invited to John's viewing at Concordia Lutheran Church, 3003 Silverside Road, Wilmington, DE, at noon on Saturday, Dec. 14, followed by a service. Burial will be immediately afterward at Lower Brandywine Cemetery, 101 Old Kennett Road, Wilmington. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in John's memory to Concordia Lutheran Church in Wilmington, DE.