The New York Jets CEO Christopher Johnson doubled-down on his faith for Adam Gase and Sam Darnold, which means he’s stuck.
FLORHAM PARK, NJ—Christopher Johnson is a fan, first and foremost. It’s why watching his New York Jets put up such a meager fight in Orchard Park, NY last Sunday didn’t sit well with the leader atop the organization.
Johnson met with reporters Wednesday to provide a general state of the union—one that had no choice but to box him into a corner.
“I’m No. 1, a fan, and I’m really frustrated,” Johnson told the media near the end of Wednesday’s practice. “Winning can’t happen fast enough.”
The question remains: Does Johnson have the right guys at the helm to ensure his visions of winning ways?
Adam Gase’s 7-10 record over his first 17 games in New Jersey doesn’t exactly promote confidence. The often-complained-about head man who came over from the Miami Dolphins in 2019 remains rabidly ill-favored by the Jets fanbase.
Sunday’s 27-17 drubbing—and it was a drubbing despite the 10-point difference—just helped pile onto the Gase fury that exists in all Jet fan circles.
Christopher Johnson highlights from media session:
-“Was not happy” about Week 1.
-“Believes he will see a “different team moving forward.”
-Has “full confidence” in Adam Gase. Thinks he has a “lot more in him than fans give him credit for,” but understands results are needed.
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) September 16, 2020
“I have full confidence in Adam (Gase),” Johnson said about his second-year head coach. “With the exception of right now, this is the first practice I’m missing since July. I’ve seen him interact with this team, I’ve seen him lead this team. Look back to last year … he took a team that did so poorly in the first half of the season and held them together, and they finished well.
“I think he can work with and develop quarterbacks,” Johnson said. “I do continue to think that he is a brilliant offensive mind, especially. He has my every confidence.”
Just like that, Johnson finds himself stuck in an unenviable position. No matter his true feelings at this moment, he’s forced to deliver the right words and ride it out. Actually, he’s stuck in more ways than one if examined from multiple angles (head coach, quarterback, general manager). But what else is he supposed to say after just one game into a brand-new season?
The hiring of Gase in early 2019 puts the Jets leader at the top in a tough spot. This head coach was brought in to mentor Sam Darnold, help the kid navigate the rough NFL waters too many youngsters failed to conquer before him.
Instead, the kid quarterback has seemingly gone backward. Instead of a stern freestyle swim, No. 14 has been seen trying to backstroke his way through the rough waves.
Darnold’s footwork has regressed, his between-the-ears game at the line of scrimmage is seemingly nonexistent, and throws similar to the one he tossed up for a gimme Matt Milano interception occur way too frequently.
Undeterred, Johnson continues to profess his undying belief in the kid.
“I have so much confidence in Sam (Darnold),” Johnson said. “He is the best player I know at turning the page … the absolute best. And I think he’ll turn the page on this last game and I think we’ll see an extraordinary Sam.”
Remember, Darnold is now in year No. 3 of his professional career. Worse than the actual results on the field is the fact the Jets are wasting away his rookie deal value. Organizations are supposed to make noise in year No. 3 and 4 of the first-round quarterback’s rookie deal. Instead, Johnson’s franchise faces questions at two of the most critical spots in the NFL: head coach and quarterback.
Moving on from a No. 3 overall quarterback and head coach at this stage of the game (even at the end of the season), makes little sense. The timing of everybody’s arrival destructively conflicts.
Johnson’s refusal to fire Mike Maccagnan at the end of the 2019 season has put the Jets in this spot. So much of the roster is still littered with Maccagnan guys. This Jets team could feature two drafts of Joe Douglas guys—with the possibility of a clearer vision moving forward—but, instead, Maccagnan was gifted one final draft (an amazing five in total).
“I’ve given Joe with complete discretion on how to put this team together,” Johnson added. “He has complete control over this roster.”
When asked about Darnold’s long-term financial future, Johnson backed up his Douglas discretion talk admirably.
“I’m going to keep that discussion between me and Joe,” Johnson said about the organization’s possible long-term commitment to Darnold.
Darnold, Gase and Douglas all arrived at different times. As much as Douglas and Gase seemingly get along, nobody knows how the inner-workings work exactly. Additionally, nobody knows how Gase and Douglas feel about Darnold or how Douglas feels about Gase.
Think about it from Douglas’s perspective. The chance of earning one of the 32 available general manager spots in this league is beyond remote. A man who learned under the tutelage of Ozzie Newsome understands many things. For one, the salary cap and draft rule team building, and two, the long-term can never be sacrificed for the here and now. Such an attitude contrasts with a head coach and quarterback actively playing for their NFL lives.
What’s happening in Florham Park, NJ is an organization spinning a wheel with certain parties arriving at different points in time—not knowing where the wheel landed the prior turn. While Johnson has no problem admitting the critical mistake that was waiting on Maccagnan’s fate, it’s exactly what’s put him in this incredibly “stuck” position.
“I told you at the time that I wanted to avoid embarrassment for Mike (Maccagnan) and others, but there’s no question I feel in better hands in terms of putting together a roster with Joe (Douglas),” Johnson said. “I have so much confidence in him.
“Do I wish I made that change earlier? Absolutely. I have made mistakes, and that’s one of them”
So while the process has been delayed and the moving pieces still feeling each other out, right now, at this very moment, there is no choice. Johnson must play the “stuck” role and ride it out with his complete confidence in every man, including the head coach and quarterback.
“I think he has a lot more in him as a head coach than our fans are giving him credit for,” Johnson added. “And I understand they want to see success, and I think that they will.”
That doesn’t mean all three guys truly have Johnson’s full confidence at the moment, or that all three guys survive the season or through the 2021 offseason. It’s just a matter of doing the right thing for a football team after one week of play—no matter how horrid the results. It could also be a matter of trusting just one man behind the scenes.
“Stuck” is how Christopher Johnson will have to play out the season courtesy of his own doing. An extra Maccagnan draft (no less the previous four), a Gase hire and a Douglas hire with the team needing to support their young quarterback immediately has put him in this position.
So now Sam Darnold is without progression, Adam Gase is without results and Joe Douglas is without fan patience all courtesy of timing. And the New York Jets organization remains without trust from a fanbase that hasn’t experienced the playoffs since the 2010 season.
Christopher Johnson will have to remain stuck in all of these ways unless his team turns it around or until a horrendous season officially concludes.