The Jets are again entering an offseason of change, and the man at the top of the organization expects it to be the last for some time.
Jets CEO Christopher Johnson was understandably upset by his team’s lack of success in 2020, a season in which New York spent most of it considered as the league’s worst team. A late two-game winning streak lifted them out of the unenviable seat and also cost the Jets the No. 1 pick in April’s draft, but after firing coach Adam Gase in one of the least surprising moves of the last half-decade (if not more), it’s time for Johnson’s franchise to find the right person to lead their turnaround.
Instead of targeting a coach considered to have an elite mind for one side of the football, the Jets are focusing on a greater trait in their next coach. Johnson wants his team to identify and hire a “leader.”
“I don’t much like the term ‘CEO,’ but it does describe what we’re looking for,” Johnson said, via SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano. “We’re looking for someone who’ll coach the entire team, end to end.”
The Jets lacked such a coach in the last two seasons, and that reality combined with personnel deficiencies and failed free-agent signings left them in a difficult situation. The pressure only increased on Gase as the season progressed, including the coach handing off play-calling duties before taking them back, and the ultimate product simply wasn’t good enough to continue with the status quo.
“No one likes losing,” quarterback Sam Darnold said, via The Athletic’s Connor Hughes. “Quite frankly, I’m tired of it.”
Also tired of it is Johnson, who echoed Darnold’s words.
“I am sick of losing,” Johnson said. “I am so tired of this.”
The questions about the Jets don’t end at head coach. Darnold is also in an uncertain position, with New York’s draft position creating multiple paths to follow going forward. The Jets could trade Darnold and select a quarterback at No. 2 overall — Ohio State’s Justin Fields, perhaps — or keep Darnold and run it back, while shipping out the No. 2 pick for a king’s ransom. They could spend the pick on another position, too.
Darnold expressed a desire to continue his career in New York, even though that decision is largely out of his hands at this point. It rests on the desk of general manager Joe Douglas, whom Johnson said is “the GM we’ve been searching for for years.”
“I’m a huge fan of Sam,” Johnson said. “I think he’s a great QB. I think he has wonderful talent and drive and leadership. I don’t think the book has been written on Sam. He has a very big future. And I personally hope it’s on this team.
“That’s what I told him after the game: I hope he is a Jet going forward. But that decision will be made by Joe Douglas and our new coach. That’s about as definitive as I can get on Sam.”
Douglas will be tested in the weeks and months ahead, though, first in his ability to identify and hire the right head coach for the franchise, and then in assembling a team better than the one that finished 2-14.
Regardless, the grace period for Douglas’ Jets won’t extend much longer beyond the 2021 season, the first for whichever new head coach they select. After Cleveland and Tampa Bay both qualified for the playoffs in the last two weeks, the NFL’s longest postseason drought now belongs to the Jets at 10 years.
“The weight of 10 years out of the playoffs, 50 years away from the Super Bowl, that frankly weighs very heavily on my shoulders,” Johnson said. “And it should. It spurs us on to get this coaching hire right.”
We won’t know for some time whether the Jets’ selection ends up being the correct one. But the attempt to turn the franchise around begins now.
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