FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Woody Johnson refused to say it. But he didn’t have to.
His franchise lost its way in recent years, but everyone, from the Jets owner down to his players, understands what’s at stake and what the goal has to be.
The Jets haven’t made the playoffs for the past five years, a disturbing trend for a team that showed so much promise years ago. But although there’s no need for discussions inside the building, there is an unspoken understanding at 1 Jets Drive.
“We know what the expectations are,” coach Todd Bowles said Wednesday. “To win.”
After finishing 10-6 last season and falling one win short of the playoffs, the self-imposed team goals “are extremely high,” Brandon Marshall said. So much so that the star receiver admitted he’s riddled with “a lot of anxiety” heading into Week 1.
“I don’t care about contracts and all of that. At this point in my career, I just want to win,” said Marshall, who is beginning his 11th season and has yet to reach the playoffs. “I’m not happy until I win. When the clock hits zero, where do we stand? And that’s what I care about for the rest of my career.”
His quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, entered the league in 2005 and never has earned a playoff berth. Although Johnson refused to issue a playoffs-or-bust ultimatum, his expectation for the 2016 Jets — and Fitzpatrick — was very clear.
“He knows what’s at stake,” the owner said of his quarterback. “He’s a Harvard guy. So he knows how important this year is for him and every year is important for us.”
Fitzpatrick, who threw a franchise-record 31 touchdowns last season, reached an agreement on a one-year, $12-million deal the day before the first training camp practice. The pressure’s on him to prove he’s worth the money and capable of finally leading a team to the playoffs.
“I mean, I’m a starting quarterback in the NFL,” he said, when told of Johnson’s comments. “So I think it’s every year that you can say it’s an important year for you because I got 52 other guys and a whole lot of coaches that are really counting on me to go out there and do the job.
“So, I don’t know exactly what he means by that. But that’s how I feel. I’ve got a lot of people counting on me to go out there and perform.”
Johnson called Fitzpatrick “the best person for the Jets at this point, given what happened last year,” and he expressed only confidence heading into Year 2 of the Mike Maccagnan-Bowles partnership. “Just watching the decision process and players and how they approach the draft and the team, it gives me room for hope and optimism,” he said.
When reminded that his team has failed to reach the postseason since AFC Championship Game appearances after the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Johnson insisted there’s a sense of urgency “to win every game. We try to get in the playoffs every year. That’s our goal — in fact, to go further than that.”
And that’s all Marshall can think about.
“At this point in my career, I get really excited when we win, and that’s what I’m looking forward to,” he said. “I think we have a great chance of doing that here.”