Woody Johnson says his Jets are no circus

Woody Johnson talks with the media during training

Woody Johnson talks with the media during training camp at SUNY Cortland. (Aug. 7, 2012) (Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Woody Johnson may be in the entertainment business, but he's certainly no ringmaster, he said.

The Jets owner said Thursday that the perception that he's running a three-ring circus is not only untrue but completely media-driven.

"I think that's you guys," Johnson said during practice, two days after a New York tabloid depicted Rex Ryan driving a clown car with quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow in the back seat.

"I certainly don't feel that. We're deadly serious about what we're doing here, in trying to win games and trying to represent our fans as they expect us to represent them.

"We learned this in third grade, sticks and stones and all this stuff about calling people names. And that's what that is. Really. That's a way of selling papers or whatever, but I don't think it reflects, certainly not my [opinion]. I'm not in this to create a circus environment, or any other environment other than a winning environment."

Ryan also is tired of the team's accomplishments being overshadowed by its perceived notion of instability. "I also think our organization is a lot better than people give us credit for," he said. "The circus thing is kind of a little old for me."

As Johnson sees it, the Jets "definitely" have the offensive pieces to be a playoff-caliber team. Despite the learning curve that comes with new coaches, a new offense and new players, the owner said he is "very optimistic" about the 2012 Jets. He wouldn't go on record with a Rex-like prediction, but he said he never goes into a season expecting to lose a game.

Johnson was effusive in his praise of Ryan, but far less enthusiastic when discussing the job security of general manager Mike Tannenbaum.

When asked if Tannenbaum's job is on the line this season, Johnson said: "I never comment on coaches, players, the status of their contract or anything like that during the season. As I said, I'm very optimistic and confident in this organization and this group of young players, and experienced players, to get the job done."

Johnson said his confidence in Ryan is higher than when he hired him. Ryan is 28-20 (and 4-2 in the playoffs) in three seasons, better than Eric Mangini (23-25) and Herman Edwards (25-23).

"I'm very confident in Rex Ryan," he said. "You just have to look at the body of work. It's unparalleled in our history, what he's accomplished."

When pressed about his confidence in Tannenbaum, Johnson said: "Yes, I think we've got a good team, good management both on the football side and on the business side. We're really positioned to give the fans something to be proud of."

He said Sunday's opener with the Bills will not be blacked out, but "whether we've sold every single seat? No."

Acquiring Tebow only helped to raise the team's profile as a sideshow spectacle, as cable and local television outlets set up shop in Cortland and dozens of out-of-area reporters flocked to see him. Johnson insisted media attention plays "zero" role in his team-related decisions, but he did say, "IBM doesn't get the coverage the average NFL team gets."

On Wednesday, Sanchez joked that Johnson was "just selling seats" when he said last week that you can never have enough Tebow on offense.

Johnson said Thursday he was trying to be funny with his Tebow line: "I thought it was a fairly humorous quote, myself."

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