Woody Johnson expressed confidence in his management team Wednesday, but his praise of Rex Ryan was far more effusive than his assessment of general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
“I’m very confident in Rex Ryan,” the owner told reporters on the practice field -- though he maintained he wouldn’t discuss the job status of his personnel. “You just have to look at his body of work. It’s unparalleled in our history, what he’s accomplished.”
Asked, however, about Tannenbaum -- and specifically, the general manager's job security -- Johnson skirted the topic.
When pressed later about his confidence in Tannenbaum, the Jets owner 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 do for the fans what they expect us to do – to give them something to be proud of.”
Johnson may be in the media business, but he says he’s certainly not operating a circus ring.
The Jets owner, who addressed reporters on the field during Thursday’s practice, said the perception of his franchise is off-base and totally media-driven.
“I think that’s you guys,” he said. “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.”
Rex Ryan expressed the same sentiments prior to practice, stating that the assumed out-of-control, circus atmosphere in Florham Park “is kind of a little old for me.
“If that’s the way it is, I think our record says otherwise in the three years we've been together,” said the Jets coach. “…I don't know if that’s the national perspective, but that’s not my perspective.”
Despite the learning curve that comes with having new coordinators, a new offense and new players, Johnson said he’s “very optimistic” about the 2012 season.
“Defense, I think, is a little ahead of the offense right now, but that could change quickly,” he said. “Mark is throwing the ball great. I watched him yesterday and I was very impressed with the way he’s progressing right now.”
Hours earlier, Ryan vowed “our opponents will take us seriously. No matter who it is.”
But Johnson refused to make any predictions and preferred not to declare another 8-8 season unacceptable. Instead, the Jets owners said he always remains optimistic and doesn’t go into a season expecting to lose a game.
With that said, Johnson does believe the Jets have a playoff-caliber team.
"You take a look at our offensive line and we have three Pro Bowlers," he said. "Nobody else has that. We got a string of running backs that all do something a little different. We got receivers that are as gifted as anybody. We have a lot of great weapons, starting with the quarterback."
Speaking of quarterbacks ... Johnson said his “you can never have enough Tebow” comment on CNBC was innocuous.
“I thought it was fairly a humorous quote, myself,” he said. “We have 53 guys on the varsity here. Everybody’s important, including (Tim) Tebow. We’re glad to have him, but we’re glad to have the other 52 as well. Including Sanchez and the rest of them. Our job is to team-build. I didn’t mean that to be anything but a humorous remark. Because I was being funny. Everybody’s interested in Tebow.”
Johnson closed his 11-minute interview session with media by discussing his relationship with Ravens (and former Browns) owner Art Modell Art, who passed away Wednesday.
"Art was one of the first people I met when I got approved by the NFL. He was a man who was extremely critical in building a great relationship with network television business – one of the first pioneers in structuring the relationship between the two. I remember going to one of my first games (as an owner) down in Baltimore and he invited me into his suite. I just kind of stayed there for the game. I didn’t know I was supposed to go back over to my own. You don’t know what you’re doing really when you first get in this business.
"He was so gracious, as well as his wife. He had a great sense of humor. He’s just a real leader, pioneer type of guy. I have so much respect for him. It’s a big loss. He was major in the development of the NFL itself. Whenever you do that, you’re not going to be popular in Cleveland. But overall, if you look at his body of work in the NFL, he’ll be way up there in terms of respect from both players and the guys that knew him."