Sunday notes: The book on Woody
August, 4, 2013
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com
USA TODAY Sports, AP PhotoWoody, is that you?CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Checking out the Jets:
1. Life of a billionaire: ESPNNewYork.com has obtained excerpts of Jerry Oppenheimer's soon-to-be-released book on Jets owner Woody Johnson, entitled, "Crazy Rich: Power, Scandal and Tragedy Inside the Johnson & Johnson Dynasty." Salacious aspects of his personal life already have been leaked to newspapers. We'll stick mostly to the football-related stuff, although I have to say there are no bombshells with regard to the Jets. A few nuggets, though:
a. Oppenheimer writes that Johnson didn't fire Rex Ryan after last season "because when he was in his teens he had witnessed his father being unceremoniously fired as president of Johnson & Johnson by Woody's grandfather. Besides recalling how hurtful it was, Woody had much affection for Ryan, whose earthy personality and physical type reminded him of his late father."
b. Oppenheimer reports on the controversial Tim Tebow acquisition, writing: "Woody, the businessman, and his team executives, felt it was absolute brilliance to have acquired him. As they saw it, Tebow would sell everything from tickets to T-shirts to lucrative TV advertising, and the Jets would be closely watched from coast to coast."
c. Johnson second-guessed himself before making his winning $635 million bid for the team in 2000. His ex-wife, Sale Johnson, is quoted in the book: "We were sitting on the beach using my cell phone because his had run out of juice and he was making his final offer. And he said, 'I don't know what to do. I don't know what to bid, it's already so high.'" At that moment, Johnson increased his bid by $10 million.
d. Oppenheimer writes that Johnson "spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on practice fields [in Florham Park], but when Ryan discovered the turf wasn't level, Woody 'was pissed' and had the fields torn up and new sod put in." Ryan is quoted as saying, "We had a helicopter hovering all night trying to dry the field off before we could finally start using it."
e. When he was in his 20s, Johnson lost "a serious bid" to buy the expansion Bucs.
f. Johnson wore a wig on a cross-country motorcycle trip, New York to San Francisco, so he could resemble a long-haired biker. This is trivial, but amusing.
2. GM-speak: John Idzik created a stir with his take on the QB decision, saying it will be a group decision -- a public stance that seemed to be undercutting Ryan. I spoke to a former Idzik associate, and he had this to say about the GM's headline-making comments: "I don't think there's anything wrong with saying that. In the end, I'm sure he'll acquiesce to the coaches. If Marty Mornhinweg stands up and says, 'I want [Mark] Sanchez for this, this and this reason,' and Rex backs him up, John won't disagree. He's very bright and very stubborn, but he won't overrule him. Remember, the head coach has the chalk last."
3. Heard around Cortland: One of my Cortland moles [a chatty waitress] said she ran into two Jets players at a nail salon. She said the players were there for pedicures. The players identified themselves as rookies. She didn't get names. What's the NFL coming to? Years ago, players bemoaned the dog days of training camp. Now players pay professionals to pamper their barking dogs.
4. Oh, (Big) Brother: The paranoia level around the team has increased significantly under Idzik. News photogaphers and TV cameras weren't allowed to shoot Saturday night's scrimmage, save for warm ups and stretching, even though it was watched by 6,000 fans and broadcast on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. For all we know, there could've been opposing scouts in the stands. Ridiculous.
5. Twin Bills: Cool gesture by Bill Belichick, taking the time out of his training-camp schedule to attend Bill Parcells' Hall-of-Fame induction Saturday night in Canton. Their relationship has always fascinated me. It wasn't warm and fuzzy, not even when they coached together with the Giants, Jets and Patriots. They had what Parcells once described as a "water-cooler relationship," meaning: They'd bump into each other at the office water cooler, chat briefly and go their separate ways to perform their coaching duties. It was an unusual dynamic, but it worked brilliantly.
Their relationship became strained in the early 2000s. Believe me, I witnessed it first-hand. They reconnected in 2006, about a month before Harry Carson was inducted into the Hall of Fame. They attended a tribute for Carson at Gallagher's steak house in Manhattan. The media were also invited and I remember looking over at a corner table, seeing Parcells, Belichick and Marty Schottenheimer in deep conversation. The two Bills apparently patched it up that day and, from all indications, they've become good friends. It's good to see.
5. Keyshawn's secret deal: I was talking to Keyshawn Johnson the other day about Parcells, and the former Jets receiver revealed that he almost signed a new contract before the 1997 season. Johnson was only one year into his contract after being drafted No. 1 overall in '96, and Parcells had just arrived on the scene. "Bill tried to tear my deal up," Johnson said. "He wanted to tear up my entire deal and make me one of the highest-paid receivers. But the management council turned it down." A source confirmed Johnson's recollection of the events. It was rejected on a technicality, probably because the existing contract was only a year old. But imagine how history might have been altered if Johnson had received a new deal. Maybe that trade to the Bucs in 2000 wouldn't have happened. They didn't try again after the '97 season because they gave an expensive, complex contract to Curtis Martin, which also annoyed the management council.
6. Keyshawn, Part II: Parcells was the Jets' de facto GM when Johnson was dealt. A couple of months after the trade, Parcells left the Jets. To this day, Johnson believes Parcells made the trade thinking they'd reunite in Tampa. "He traded me to Tampa for a reason, knowing he'd wind up coaching there," Johnson said. It almost happened. Sure enough, a year later, Parcells-to-the-Bucs almost happened. Hmm.
7. Bleak for Big 'Bo': Former Jets NT Sione Po'uha, who was released after the season, likely is done with football, according to former teammates. Po'uha still is experiencing complications from a back injury that plagued him last season, they said. Ever the warrior, Po'uha, 34, is trying to get healthy with the hope of prolonging his career, but it won't be easy to get medical clearance. The Jets certainly miss his presence in the locker room.
8. Boo for a cheer: So now, in the post-Firemen Ed era, the Jets are telling their fans how to perform the "J-E-T-S!" cheer --a coordinated, four-sides-of-the-stadium chant. They should concentrate on giving them something to cheer about, not worrying about how to cheer.
9. This Spicoli dude can play: The Jets have a sleeper in WR Ryan Spadola, an undrafted free agent from Lehigh. He has made some eye-catching plays in practice, highlighted by a 47-yard TD grab in the scrimmage. Spadola, nicknamed "Spicoli" by Ryan (see: "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"), is a shade under 6-foot-2 and ran a 4.41 at the combine. His draft stock probably was hurt because of less-than-stellar numbers his senior year -- 57 catches, 851 yards, four TDs. But there was a story behind it: He contracted mononucleosis during the season and missed two games.
Spadola is a Jersey guy (Freehold High School), so: "Everybody says, 'You're the next Wayne Chrebet.' He was a great receiver. It's humbling to be put in the same category." As Spadola talked to reporters after the scrimmage, "Born to Run" -- a song from another Jersey guy, Bruce Springsteen -- blared from the stadium speakers. Fittting because Springsteen also attended high school in Freehold.
10. Youth is served: The Jets could have three rookies in the opening-day lineup -- QB Geno Smith, CB Dee Milliner and DT Sheldon Richardson. The last time they had two was 2006, LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson and C Nick Mangold.