FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The new man in charge wore a skinny dark green tie as he sat in the middle of a boardroom table with the football practice fields behind him.
Christopher Johnson is the CEO/chairman of the Jets as his older brother, Woody Johnson, has given up not only the title but isn’t involved in the football business anymore so he can work as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom.
When Woody Johnson’s tenure is over he will return but until that time, this is Christopher Johnson’s show and he made one major point in his nearly 20-minute chat with reporters on Wednesday: The Jets are not tanking.
“It couldn’t be further from the truth,” Johnson said. “I want to win every game, every player in that locker room wants to win. What you’re seeing I think are growing pains. These are young guys, there are some older guys on the team and some of them are doing an extraordinary job. I think you’re going to see this team get better and better and better and that’s what I’m looking for. We’re definitely not tanking.”
The Jets (0-2) are in the midst of a rebuild with young players who need to make progress to not only help Johnson in his evaluation of the franchise but also of coach Todd Bowles.
“I’m not a patience man,” Johnson said. “I’m like any fan, I’ve been a fan of this team all my life. Yeah, you can look long term but I want to see this team progressing every game. I’m not happy with losses. I’m not happy with mistakes. But I’m excited about progression.”
Bowles is in the third year of a four-year contract and the results are mixed. He hasn’t reached the postseason but in 2015 finished 10-6, with a loss to the Bills in the regular-season finale costing the Jets a postseason berth. Since that defeat, the Jets are 5-13. This season, the defense ranks 30th in the 32-team league and is last against the run, allowing a whopping 185 rushing yards per game.
Johnson said the run defense will improve and he likes what Bowles brings, particularly in the locker room, but he won’t judge the coach on wins and losses.
There was locker room strife last season and Bowles is determined to make sure it doesn’t happen again. He bonds with his players daily as he attempts to change the culture.
“No, believe me I like wins a lot more than losses, that’s only a part of the equation,” Johnson said when asked if the team’s record will factor into Bowles’ fate. “The real way to judge this team and the people on it, me included, is are we getting better.”
Johnson said he’s made an adjustment from being an executive behind the scenes to being out front. And while Christopher Johnson is in charge, Woody Johnson is not.
Yet, football is not part of any discussion between the brothers. The hiring and firing and the signing off any major deals will be finalized between the Jets front office and Christopher Johnson, with no input from Woody.
“Over the years, he always bounced things off me and it would be great if I could do that with him,” Christopher said. “He really has a full-time job over there. We are not discussing football. He’s out of it.”
If you don’t believe it, here’s what Woody Johnson said to his brother: “Very much he said, ‘I’m stepping away from football.’ That is his full-time job.,” Christopher said. “It’s a huge job.”
And while Woody has a huge job, so does his brother.
“It’s interesting going from being in the background where I’ve been involved fairly deeply from the beginning, now to come to the front,” Christopher said. “The biggest adjustment [is] dealing with the public aspects of everything. I’ve gotten more involved with everybody in this building from the business side, to the coaches, especially the players. It’s been great. I’ve loved every minute.”