John Joseph Idzik
Born: June 25, 1928 (Bridesburg, Pennsylvania)
Died: December 3, 2013 (Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania)
John Idzik began a long coaching career in professional football as an assistant with the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1955. He was fired midway through his first season in a dispute with the head coach referred to in newspaper headlines as a “family feud.” He later worked as an assistant coach for the Baltimore Colts when the team won Super Bowl V in 1971
A star football player in Philadelphia, Idzik, a baseball catcher, turned a contract offer from the St. Louis Cardinals to attend the University of Maryland on a football scholarship. He played defensive back on defence and running back on offence, and was a punt returner. His interception helped the Terrapins win the 1950 Gator Bowl over Missouri. His school yearbook described him as “a demon on defence. Saved more touchdowns than most backs scored.”
After graduating, Idzik spent two years in the U.S. Marine Corps, during which he played for a regional championship Parris Island team. After a season as an assistant coach with the University of Tennessee, he took his first job coaching pro football with Ottawa of the Big Four.
Idzik soon clashed with the man who hired him, head coach Chan Caldwell, as they argued over both tactics and the players to use. Caldwell and his players felt the assistant was undermining the boss, the dispute coming to a boil after Ottawa lost a home game to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats by 40-0. The directors of the 2-4 Riders held a daylong meeting before coming to a decision.
“Gentleman,” club president David Gill told reporters, “we have come to the decision to release John Idzik as of now. It is the result of an impossible situation which has prevailed for some time. Idzik and Caldwell have not been getting along and we feel it is in the best interests of the club that we dispense with Idzik’s services.
“While it is regrettable, our only possible step was to support our head coach to the very limit.”
Idzik shook hands as he left the club, even wishing the head coach best wishes at winning the Grey Cup. Instead, the Rough Riders went 1-5 for the rest of the schedule and finished out of the playoffs. Caldwell was fired at the end of the season.
Idzik returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach before moving on to the University of Detroit, becoming head coach of the Titans at age 33 in 1961. After a stint as offensive backfield coach for Tulane University, Idzik began a lengthy NFL coaching career with the Dolphins. He also coached for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Jets. A son, John Idzik, Jr., is currently general manger of the Jets.