I do not have a ton of confidence in Christopher Johnson right now.
He is still relatively new to his job so I do not expect him to get everything right. I am sure there is a learning curve for running an NFL franchise.
Christopher Johnson doesn’t have all of the answers right now. That is fine, but he needs to realize he doesn’t have all of the answers.
The leaders who realize they don’t know everything can be effective. Aware of their own limitations, these leaders will proceed with caution. They will study the nuances of their field and eventually learn their craft.
The leaders who don’t realize they are ignorant of their industry’s best practices are the ones who sink organizations. They are wrong and don’t realize it so they continue to be wrong forever.
Right now I would put Christopher Johnson into the second category, but he has an opportunity to convince me he is in the first category.
I don’t think anybody can argue the Jets have handled their general manager or head coaching jobs this offseason in a way remotely resembling a functional NFL organization.
The Jets kept Mike Maccagnan. They insisted that no big fish coaching candidate who demanded power would be considered. Maccagnan became an integral part of the search for a head coach. He was given the power to make demands on assistant coach hires of possible candidates. This drove candidates away. The Jets ended up with a coach who wasn’t their first choice as a result of these demands. They let Maccagnan spend a record amount in free agency and run the Draft. Then they handed control of the organization to the head coach they fired (the same head coach who got the job in part because more desired candidates wanted this type of control).
That chain of events doesn’t make a ton of sense. It isn’t the type of operating procedure you see from winning organizations in professional sports. It resembles the actions of dysfunctional franchises like the Washington Redskins and the Sacramento Kings.
Look at what Johnson said when explaining his decision to keep Maccagnan the day after the 2018 season ended.
Christopher Johnson says he decided to retain Maccagnan because he has a good plan, and it “really came together” with Sam Darnold. Now they can “build around Sam” #Jets— Connor Hughes (@Connor_J_Hughes) December 31, 2018
CEO Johnson, GM Maccagnan have a plan to make #Jets a winner. “Looking at the plan we have going forward, I’m a believer in Mike.” https://t.co/9edOQxhVWn— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) January 1, 2019
Compare that to what he said yesterday.
Christopher Johnson: "This isn't a decision I could make at the end of the season." He said by "diving deeper" into the organization during the offseason, he realized a change needed to be made. #Jets— Dennis Waszak Jr. (@DWAZ73) May 15, 2019
There’s a pretty clear disconnect. Johnson thought in December that Maccagnan had a good plan. Clearly by May he realized that confidence was mistaken.
There are major ramifications to that error. Because of it Maccagnan ran one of the most consequential offseasons in recent history. He gave out record setting amounts of money in free agency and ran the Draft as the team prepares to make a run with its second year quarterback.
One cannot help but wonder why Johnson was so mistakenly confident in December. What did he not realize before he erred by commissioning Maccagnan to run such a critical offseason?
This type of error is so profound that it should shake Christopher Johnson to his core and make him question everything he thinks he knows about running an NFL team. If he has the humility to understand that he doesn’t have all of the answers, there is hope for him and the Jets yet.
This is a time for steady, sober, thoughtful leadership from the Jets. This is not a time for quick, rash action.
One of the few benefits to the Jets in the way this situation played out is they now have the benefit of time. The major personnel decisions are now complete for 2018. Most of the decisions that remain are small. This presents the team with an opportunity to make lemonade out of the lemons it has harvested.
Christopher Johnson might not know much about how to run an NFL team, but he now has seventh months at his disposal. He now has time to reach out to people in the league. He can call people who have been part of winning organizations to pick their brains. He can also reach out to high achieving teams in other sports to learn about how they operate down to the smallest detail.
A new CEO like Christopher Johnson isn’t going to have a set of core philosophies out of the gate. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that...if he’s willing to learn.
But this will require him to not jump into another hire immediately. Time is on his side. There are months before he will need to have a permanent general manager in place.
The general manager and head coach jobs are probably too big for anybody other than Bill Belichick to handle both at the same time so Adam Gase will need to give up being the interim general manager.
With the firing of Brian Heimerdinger, the front office is now light on qualified candidates so the Jets might need to go outside the organization to find a qualified caretaker general manager like Scot McCloughan who could handle the day to day work over the next few months. He can oversee the scouting department and sign players to replace those placed on IR while being directed to not make any big moves.
In the meantime, Christopher Johnson can study his craft. He can spend the next seven months learning what the Jets need to do to be successful. He can also figure out how he wants to achieve his objectives.
There are different ways to build a winner in the NFL. You could have a strong head coach. Would Nick Saban like Sam Darnold enough to take one last bite at the NFL apple? Would you want to lure the next great offensive mind like a Lincoln Riley? You might want a more traditional model with a powerful general manager. Is the right move empowering an up and coming executive like Eliot Wolf? Do you want an organization focused on new age analytical thinking led by somebody in the Sashi Brown mold? Do you want to think outside the box with your coaching candidate and get somebody successful from outside the NFL orbit like Jeff Monken or Dave Dickenson? These are only a few of the possibilities. It’s up to Christopher Johnson to figure out what he wants. The world is your oyster. The Jets can be a blank canvas.
At the very least if they are not willing to take such a drastic step, the Jets need to have a thorough general manager search while casting a wide net. And they need to empower their new general manager. As Jason Fitzgerald pointed out yesterday, the job has a number of extremely unattractive qualities as is.
If the Jets are doing a legit GM search its an odd job. Coach already in place. Of the top 10 contracts, two are draft picks from 18 and 19, four were signed March, two were signed in 18, and one was traded for in March. Will be mid road in cap space in 20. Kind of a set team— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) May 15, 2019
This is very different than the Mac hire where he came into an open slate or Idzik who was coming into a team about to turn over. This job probably takes two years before a GM could construct it in his image unless they find some trade partners— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) May 15, 2019
A general manager who started in January would have had a blank canvas to paint his desired roster. Anybody who takes the job now will be largely locked into Mike Maccagnan’s vision for the next two years.
Nothing can be done about that, but they can at least allow candidates to know that they will be given the authority to decide whether Adam Gase remains the head coach after 2019. If we have learned anything from recent Jets history, a new general manager needs to be given the opportunity to choose his own coach. It might not be fair to Gase, but he was hired under different circumstances. When the Jets chose him, it was for a scenario where Maccagnan retained power. That decision to hire Gase was made by the same December/January Christopher Johnson who thought Maccagnan had a good plan so it might not have been such a great decision anyway.
The Jets could also have a limited list of candidates with ties to Adam Gase and turn over the keys of the car to their emboldened head coach. It’s possible they will get lucky and find the perfect match. But that would sure seem to me like a classic case of continuing to do things the same way and expecting a different result. It also might be a sign that the team’s CEO thinks he has all of the answers.