Woody Johnson praises Rex Ryan but won't make a commitment beyond this season

Jets owner Woody Johnson, left, and head coach

Jets owner Woody Johnson, left, and head coach Rex Ryan have a chat during the team's second day of Rookie Camp held at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. (May 11, 2013) (Credit: James Escher)

As co-chairman of the Super Bowl XLVIII Host Committee, Woody Johnson has had a busy schedule this autumn, making a series of public appearances to help promote the big game.

As owner of the Jets, Johnson has been asked repeatedly by reporters at those events what he thinks of his coach and his team.

The tone of the questions has changed over time, though, as the Jets have exceeded the expectations of almost everyone other than themselves. But Johnson has stayed on point regarding Rex Ryan's future beyond this season, praising him but offering no promises.

"We're happy with Rex," he said Thursday after a Super Bowl panel discussion hosted by the Association for a Better New York. "Coaches have to be good teachers and good leaders, and I think he's both."

Still, Johnson refused to commit to Ryan beyond 2013, saying, "I'll make a statement after the season."

Ryan was asked for his reaction to Johnson's comments.

"That's the way it is for anybody,'' Ryan said in Florham Park, N.J. "Nobody talks about contracts or whatever.

" . . . I like the fact that my boss said some nice things about me. That's pretty cool. As far as anything else, you guys get tired of me saying it -- it's not about me.

"Right now, it means nothing other than the fact I'm happy that he had some nice comments to say, but as far as my situation, my situation is the Cincinnati Bengals and that's where my attention is.''

One concern entering the season was how Ryan would work with John Idzik, given that new general managers often want to install their own head coaches eventually.

Johnson downplayed the historical precedent and said he has found their relationship to be "very good, from what I can tell as an observer. I think they get along."

Before the season, when many predicted the Jets would need all season to reach four victories, Johnson said he was optimistic. So he would not say he is surprised now.

"I go in thinking we're going to win every game, so I'm not surprised from that standpoint," he said. "I have a lot of confidence in the team, players and coaches. But we're 4-3. So we have a long way to go."

Speaking of a long way to go, Johnson's co-chairman, Giants treasurer Jonathan Tisch, also was on the panel. He was asked by emcee Pam Oliver of Fox, "What the hell is wrong with the New York Giants?"

"There is nothing wrong with the New York Giants a few more 'W's' won't fix," he said. "We have gotten off to a very disappointing start, but as Woody expressed confidence in his coach, we certainly feel the same way about Tom Coughlin . . . We have two trophies in the lobby of our Quest Diagnostics Center which attest to his leadership ability."

Oliver took several playful verbal jabs during the event. At one point, Host Committee CEO Al Kelly said if fans don't dress properly for the Super Bowl and "get frostbite, that's their own fault. I'm not going to worry about a couple of idiots who can't dress properly."

Oliver drew some tense "oohs" from the audience when she responded, "They're probably Jets fans."

With Kimberley A. Martin

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