FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — If there is one man who feels the pain of Jets fans, it’s new CEO/chairman Christopher Johnson.
The Jets haven’t been to the postseason since January 2011 and have had three double-digit- loss seasons in the past five years. They earned their last home playoff victory in January 2003, when Herm Edwards was the coach and the team held training camp in Hempstead.
On top of the losing, there was the bluster of former coach Rex Ryan, the Butt Fumble and a teammate breaking the jaw of the starting quarterback.
Now the Jets are rebuilding. Not tanking, according to Johnson, but morphing into a franchise that is rebuilding through the draft.
That brings uncertainty regarding the futures of coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan, and no guarantees that the players of the last three drafts under them will produce future stars.
But as the Jets prepare to play their home opener Sunday against the Dolphins, Johnson is asking for patience — and admitting he’s not a patient man.
“I hope that the fans will buy into our plan,” Johnson said this past week in his first interview with reporters. “I’m looking forward to seeing growth. I’m extraordinarily excited about seeing the development of our young players, especially. I think [the fans are] going to see this team grow before their eyes. I think that’s exciting. I can’t say if they’re going to stay home. I hope they don’t. I think it’s going to be an exciting season and I can’t wait for this first home game.”
The anticipation of the home opener at MetLife Stadium might be a nerve-wracking event for Jets officials wondering how many fans will show up. Will there be no-shows for the home opener of an 0-2 team whose offense and defense are ranked last in the NFL?
In the first two weeks of the season, the Jets allowed 818 total yards. Only New England (966) and New Orleans (1,025) gave up more. Bowles’ defense was expected to be a strength this season, but now he’s being questioned about the personnel and whether it’s good enough.
The average experience on the Jets’ roster is 3.7 years, down from 4.4 years last season. The Jets have only three players who are 30 or older; last season it was 12. So the youth — 30 players with less than three years of NFL experience — will lead to growing pains.
“We don’t [worry about] small margins of error,” Bowles said. “We just correct mistakes and we move on. We understand what we did wrong and we try to correct that and move on.”
This summer Christopher Johnson took over for older brother Woody Johnson, who now is the United States ambassador to the United Kingdom. During Woody Johnson’s tenure as the head man, the younger Johnson was quite familiar with the organization. He was in the room for the big and small deals. He was a sounding board for Woody Johnson while remaining behind the scenes.
For the first time since taking over for his brother, Christopher Johnson met with reporters to lay out his thoughts regarding the franchise. He wants to win, yet understands the process it will take.
Woody Johnson no longer has a say in the football operations, Christopher Johnson does, and his final say on these decisions will not only be judged by the media but by a fan base that’s tired of the losing.
The Jets are a franchise in need of an elite quarterback, reliable pass rushers, a stronger offensive line and durable, playmaking cornerbacks.
And after two weeks, the Jets have been inconsistent.
Will the fans let their displeasure be heard Sunday?
“One of my roles here is to get into the fan base a little bit more, [and] that’s definitely one of my priorities,” Johnson said. “This year, starting now, especially with this first home game, I can’t say what that perception is exactly. I hope it is that this is a team on the rise. There are some growing pains right now, but we’ve got a plan and I’m going to do everything I can to support the people in this building, particularly [team president Neil Glat] and Mike and Todd and I’m hoping the fans whom I care deeply about. I’ve been a fan since I was a kid. I bleed green like they do. I’m hoping they appreciate what we’re doing to get back to greatness.”