FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Christopher Johnson is trying to temper his enthusiasm after Sam Darnold’s performance and the Week 1 win. But the Jets CEO hopes this was the start of a season that ends with a playoff berth.
Johnson admitted he’s not a patient man, and a Jets turnaround “can’t happen fast enough.” But he’s still not mandating making the playoffs when it comes to how he evaluates coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan.
“It’s highly counterproductive,” Johnson said in a board room Wednesday afternoon. “I can’t imagine why that would be a positive thing. You can make advances - just like we did last year - you can make advances that don’t show up in the win-loss record.
“We were a team to be reckoned with last year. I think we will be this year, too. Maybe more so. But I’m not going to put a playoff mandate out there or a win-loss record mandate out there. I’m absolutely looking for the team to advance. How to judge that, it’ll be obvious to you guys. It’ll be obvious to me.”
The Jets were 5-11 last year, matching their record from the season before. But Johnson felt they were far better in 2017, and that they "look like a good team" this year after some offseason additions, particularly drafting Darnold.
“I think that the trade up to three was pivotal,” Johnson said. “It was maybe the most important decision the organization has made in a long time, certainly in years. You look at how Philadelphia won the Super Bowl. They did it being aggressive. If they had just played the numbers I don’t know if they would have won. We’re being aggressive but we’re being careful, too.”
Johnson credited Maccagnan and Bowles for being “steady.” He also said he and Maccagnan share the same philosophy that there is no quick fix, and the Jets want to build something sustainable.
The Jets have missed the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons, the last three with Maccagnan and Bowles in charge.
Johnson understands that Jets fans are tired of watching the team disappoint year in and year out. He believes if the Jets make progress this season, and have another good offseason, then it will be time to expect much more in 2019.
“Some things take some time,” Johnson said. “We might be surprised how much time it takes and we might be surprised how little time it takes. I wouldn’t ask the fans to be patient. I’m not a patient man myself. It can’t happen fast enough.
“Next year we have the most money in free agency,” he said later. “There’s reason to believe there’s going to be some interesting free agents coming out. It’ll be another chance for us to improve the team. Maybe expectations should ramp up here. But for right now, I think that this team is advancing. I’m happy with what I see so far. But it’s one game at a time.”
He said his “heart stopped” when Darnold threw a pick-six on his first NFL pass against the Lions. But Johnson was confident the rookie would rebound quickly.
Johnson said “fans should be excited” about Darnold and the direction the Jets are going, and that the goal remains to play on the final Sunday of the season.
“I’m always going to want to go to the Super Bowl,” Johnson said. “Do I expect that? I want to be there. If you’re in this league and you aren’t trying to get to the Super Bowl and that isn’t your expectation from Day 1, what the hell are you doing here?
“Last year I think we were better than we were the year before. I think we’re going to be a better team this year.''
When asked how close the Jets are to getting there, Johnson said, “Time will tell. I’m not going to make a prediction on that one.”