Jets CEO wants better results, but playoff mandate is 'counterproductive'

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets CEO Christopher Johnson reiterated that there's no playoff mandate for coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan, who have failed to reach the postseason in their three seasons together, but Johnson expects better results than last season.

"We were a team to be reckoned with last year," Johnson said Wednesday. "I think we will be this year, too. Maybe more so."

In 2017, the Jets finished 5-11 for the second straight year, but they were more competitive than many expected. It also was their seventh consecutive season out of the playoffs, the third-longest drought in the NFL.

Still, Johnson said it would be "counterproductive" to issue a playoff ultimatum for Bowles and Maccagnan, both of whom received two-year contract extensions at the end of last season.

The Jets opened the season with a 48-17 road win against the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football, creating a buzz among fans.

Johnson said he expects the team to be better than last season.

"Time will tell," he said. "I think this looks like a good team, I really do."

Johnson didn't say it directly, but next season is when the organization expects to make a major push. As he noted, they will have the most cap room in the league, and there will be "some interesting free agents" in 2019.

"Maybe expectations should ramp up [next year]," Johnson said. "For right now, I think this team is advancing. I'm happy with what I see so far."

Johnson is thrilled with rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, who rebounded Monday night after throwing a pick-six on his first NFL pass. He was in an elevator at Ford Field at the time of the interception -- he heard the huge roar -- and his "heart sank" when he saw the replay. However, Johnson said he never doubted the rookie's ability to bounce back.

He said the St. Patrick's Day trade with the Indianapolis Colts, which yielded Darnold after they moved up three spots in the draft, was pivotal.

"[It was] maybe the most important decision the organization has made in a long time," Johnson said. "I mean, certainly years."

After the draft, Johnson said the decision to pick Darnold would be remembered 20 years from now as a franchise-altering move. On Wednesday, he walked back those comments, saying, "I was maybe a little more enthusiastic than I should've been, and things got away from me."

Clearly, he's still smitten with Darnold, especially after his memorable debut.

"Sam has an amazing ability to put adversity behind him," Johnson said. "When something goes wrong, he quickly pivots to what's next. I had great faith in him, even after the pick-six. I thought, 'He's been punched in the face, let's see how he responds. I think he's going to rebound.' I did not lose heart entirely."

Johnson has been running the franchise for 13 months, replacing owner and older brother Woody Johnson, who is serving as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. Christopher said he'd like to remain with the organization in a key role when his brother's appointment ends in two years.