I am not going to discuss the early reign of Woody Johnson’s tenure as the New York Jets owner. To be quite frank, I have only begun to religiously follow our beloved Jets six years ago. Nonetheless, the transformation of Mr. Robert Wood Johnson has been rather evident over the past several weeks, and should potentially excite Jets fans.
When Woody Johnson hired Rex Ryan as our new commander, and chief in 2009, our franchise was both irrelevant, and in dire need of energy to resurrect the fan-base. Eric Mangini was not a horrible coach, but from my perspective; he attempted to emulate his mentor Bill Belichick too drastically, which ultimately transformed him into an unauthentic being. It is not inconceivable to deduce this negatively affecting the culture of a team, and ultimately required a change in command. It was at this specific juncture that I believe Mr. Johnson finally understood the meaning, and expectations of being an NFL owner. Moreover, the results in Rex’s first two years during his tenure were tremendous, granting us the great amount of success we had since Bill Parcells coached this team to the 1998-1999 AFC Championship Game. You could not find a single Jets fan displeased with the direction of the franchise, and the relevancy that was restored.
On December 31, 2012; after two years of unsuccessful seasons, and a divided locker-room, Woody Johnson lost my faith as an NFL owner by opting for a half-measure. Instead of pressing the reset button on the organization or issuing an ultimatum that without making the playoffs the following season there would be sweeping changes; Mr. Johnson opted to fire ex-Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum, and retain the services of ex-Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan. The issue did not stem from Ryan being an incompetent coach; he has proven to be more than competent during his six year tenure here. However, this ultimately formulated a chain of command, where the two most important individuals in running a football organization were placed on two distinctly different paths. Ryan needed results instantaneously, while the eventual hired ex-Jets General Manager John Idzik believed he could operate on with a more long-term vision. This could have easily been avoided had one of the two aforementioned actions been taken by Mr. Johnson.
I will not delve deeper into the legacy of John Idzik; that has been hammered to death, resurrected, fatally stabbed, resurrected once again, and then finally laid to rest peacefully. However, one thing must be addressed, that being the individuals who were charged with the task of finding a successor to Mr. Tannenbaum had no experience in football personnel. The people who work for the search firm of Korn and Ferry have never made a football personnel decision in their life, so in retrospect; it’s unsurprising they recommended someone who was simply not qualified for the position. Once again, this debacle could have been easily avoided had Johnson not opted for the half-measure.
Two years later, Mr. Johnson faced a similar dilemma, but in a significantly worse position than the franchise was placed prior to the hiring of Idzik. Woody could have easily opted for the half-measure once again, which would have entailed keeping John Idzik (leading to a possible revolt from the fan-base), and firing Rex Ryan. Regardless of public relations, the issue which would eventually presented itself is an executive placed on the hottest seat in the NFL, and perhaps ultimately leading to his firing before the new coach could receive a fair chance to present positive results, ergo; formulating the same conundrum that occurred in 2012. Fortunately, Mr. Johnson seemingly learned from his mistakes, opting for the full-measure, and cleaning house from outside the organization for the first time as the owner of the New York Jets (Tannenbaum was hired from within the organization in 2006, so I do not consider that a pure house-clean).
After Woody Johnson’s Black Monday press conference my hope was slightly being restored. What truly convinced me that Johnson learned from his previous mistakes, was entrusting the search process in two former, and successful football executives; those being none other than Charlie Casserly, and Ron Wolf. Furthermore, Johnson hinted at the necessity for a candidate with personnel background to lead the franchise in the proper direction; the first since Terry Bradway (insert any joke you desire here). The culmination of these two searches led to excellent hires from my perspective. Mike Maccagnan was identified as the new Jets General Manager; an individual who has spent the majority of his life in football, and specializes in scouting, which is perhaps the Jets biggest weakness from a front-office standpoint. Several hours later, one of the two hottest coaching candidates (Dan Quinn being the other) was signed, as Todd Bowles was announced as the next Jets Head Coach. Bowles brings a similar tenacity to the defense that Rex had, but seems more organized, demanding of respect, capable of disciplining players, and most importantly; a manager of all three aspects of the game.
The purpose of this article is not to convince everyone Mr. Robert Wood Johnson has changed permanently, and will be immune from making future mistakes as an owner; I cannot promise or truthfully writer that as a Jets fan. However, this search process, specifically in the manner which it was tackled, and the results it produced is unquestionably a step in the right direction. Only time will affirm if Mr. Johnson has finally turned the corner, but I am willing to bet he has.