Sports Christopher Johnson hints at a timeline for the Jets’ rebuild
By his own admission, Christopher Johnson is as anxious to see the Jets become winners as his team’s passionate fan base is.
“I am not a patient man,’’ the Jets CEO said Wednesday in a interview with a group of reporters in the team’s conference room. “But some things take some time. We might be surprised at how much time it takes and we might be surprised at how little time it takes. I wouldn’t ask the fans to be patient. I’m hopeful. It can’t happen fast enough, it really can’t.’’
Johnson, who’s beginning his second season running the team while his brother, Woody, serves as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, called it “highly counterproductive’’ to issue any sort of George Steinbrenner-like win-now-or-else mandate to his head coach Todd Bowles.
But, if you read between the lines on some of the things Johnson said, it’s pretty clear that Bowles, who’s coached three playoff-less seasons, has this year and next year to get the team into the playoffs or else he’s done.
That’s fair game — five years to get to the postseason — for any coach. Most don’t get nearly that long. So Bowles is on the clock, as he should be.
It seems Bowles finally has been given a franchise quarterback in No. 3-overall draft pick Sam Darnold, and Johnson made it quite clear that the team would be spending aggressively in the 2019 free-agent market as they’re projected to have somewhere around $100 million to spend.
“Next year, we have the most money in free agency and there’s reason to believe that there are some interesting free agents coming out,’’ Johnson said. “It’ll be another chance for us to improve the team. Maybe [then] expectations should ramp up.’’
Based on the Jets’ eye-opening season-opening 48-17 win in Detroit on Monday night and the way Darnold performed, the expectations of euphoric Jets fans already has ramped up with Sunday’s home opener against the Dolphins looming followed by a Thursday night game at the Browns, who are 1-31-1 in their last 33 games.
“I think we were a team to be reckoned with last year and I think we will be this year, too — maybe more so,’’ Johnson said. “But I’m not going to put a playoff mandate or win-loss mandate out there.’’
When Johnson was asked when the win-loss record will begin to matter, he said, “I’ll let you know about that next year.’’
Johnson was in an elevator inside Ford Field — on his way from the field to a suite where he would watch the Jets play the Lions — when Darnold threw that pick-six on the first play of his NFL career.
“I looked through the glass wall in the elevator and saw the replay and my heart sank,’’ he said. “Just like any Jets fan’s heart sank at that point.’’
Johnson’s stress would be short-lived and his heart would begin beating again as Darnold rebounded like the champion the Jets hope and believe he is en route to that stunning road rout.
In the three hours of Darnold’s NFL debut, he showed himself as everything Johnson and his football staff thought he was when they scouted, interviewed and traded up in the draft to pick him No. 3 overall in April.
Unless you’ve been under a rock or in solitary confinement somewhere, you may have noticed the euphoria that has ensued among Jets fans in the days since the blowout victory.
But Jets fans are a nervous bunch — and rightfully so given the litany of teases they’ve endured over the years. And Johnson is no different. That’s why he proceeded with caution when asked about his impression of Monday’s rout.
“I’ve been working since then to keep my enthusiasm level [to an] ‘iceman’ kind of thing,’’ Johnson said. “It was a great game, but it was one game, and I’m trying to keep that in mind.’’
Still, visions of overseeing a first Jets playoff team since 2010 are a powerful pull for Johnson, who said, “I’m always going to want to go to the Super Bowl.’’
“Do I expect that? I want to be there,’’ he said. “If you’re in this league and that isn’t your expectation from Day 1, what the hell are you doing here?’’