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Jets 2020 Pressure Points: Christopher Johnson

New York Jets v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The start of a new season typically brings hope and optimism. It also brings varying degrees pressure to prominent members of each organization. Over the next few days we will examine how much pressure key members of the Jets face this season. We begin with owner Christopher Johnson.

“You are what your record says you are.”

I think that has become one of the most overused cliches in football. The statement itself isn’t always true at least in the short run. In the course of one season, outside elements can play a major role in a team’s success or failure. A team might be decimated by injuries. It might take advantage of a soft schedule. There might be an inordinate amount of good or bad luck swinging the outcome of close games. For one season a team might actually be quite a bit better or worse than its record says it is.

The statement has more validity over a three to four year stretch. Luck evens out over the long run. With a larger sample size, the record does a pretty accurate job evaluating quality.

By that measure, Christopher Johnson’s record doesn’t suggest he has been a very effective owner. In his three years in charge of the Jets the team’s record is only 16-32.

A deeper look doesn’t do much to dispute this. Has the team made substantial progress in the right direction during his tenure running the team? The NFL is a league where entire rosters are completely turned over in two to three years aside from a handful of foundational players. After Johnson’s third season, the Jets had a new general manager who essentially had to begin gutting the entire roster he inherited.

At this point I think you would have to say Johnson’s defining moment as Jets owner came shortly after the 2018 season ended. He decided to keep general manager Mike Maccagnan on the job to play a role in hiring a new coach, spend a record amount in free agency, and run a critical Draft. Less than five months later Johnson decided Maccagnan wasn’t very good at his job and fired him.

The move allowed Maccagnan to craft the 2019 New York Jets. The failure of the season that followed means that Johnson’s erratic series of decisions set his team back at least one year.

Owners of New York sports franchises have it easy in a way. They share a city with two of the worst owners in professional sports, the Wilpon family and James Dolan. Compared with these two almost anybody would look good. For his part, Johnson has at least come off like a decent human being outside of the way he’s run the team. There haven’t been any reports of him doing being part of anything like the shady business deals of the Wilpons or sending security guards to harass team legends who attend a game. But when it comes to the on field side of the business, Johnson’s erratic performance has been on par with the Mets and Knicks.

For months reports have suggested that Woody Johnson will be returning from the United Kingdom soon regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election. This means the Jets’ performance this fall could be Christopher Johnson’s final chance to earn a positive legacy.

That might come down to the performance of Adam Gase. Johnson went on a limb hiring Gase in January 2019 shortly after the coach had been fired by the Miami Dolphins. It was a controversial hire that was unpopular among wide portions of the fanbase and questioned in many quarters within the league. Bringing in Gase so soon after his rocky Miami tenure ended made it seem like either Johnson knew something nobody else did or he had no idea what he was doing.

In the context of the rest of his tenure managing the Jets, it seems fair to worry it was the latter. However, if Gase can develop a partnership with Sam Darnold, develop young talent, and get the locker room to buy into his message, Christopher Johnson’s tenure as Jets owner might be viewed differently in a few months. His legacy is firmly connected to Gase, and 2020 is a critical year for Gase as we will discuss in a few days.

Pressure Rate for 2020: High