Woody Johnson turns up heat on Rex Ryan
March, 23, 2014
By Rich Cimini | ESPN.com
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesJets ownership expects Rex Ryan to improve on last season's 8-8 record.If Rex Ryan didn't feel playoffs-or-bust pressure for 2014, he does now.
New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, who only 10 months ago pleaded for "patience" from the fans, unwittingly turned up the heat on his coach Sunday at the NFL meetings in Orlando, saying it's a win-now mentality.
"I’m not going to use the word ‘patient’ anymore,” Johnson told reporters. “We want to do it now."
For older Jets fans, Johnson's candid remarks may stir memories of the late Leon Hess, in 1995, growling, "I'm 80 years old. I want results now." He made those comments at Rich Kotite's introductory news conference. Hess had to wait a few years for those results, and they didn't happen until Bill Parcells came to town.
Ryan doesn't have that much time. If he misses the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year, it would be difficult to see him keeping his job. Yes, he received a contract extension after a better-than-expected season, but all that did was give him an extra year of security, with guaranteed salaries through 2015.
Clearly, Johnson expects better than 8-8 this season, and he has a right to feel that way. Patience was the way to go last season because it was the first year of John Idzik's rebuilding project. He tore the roster apart, handing Ryan a five- or six-win roster. Ryan squeezed out eight wins, a terrific coaching job. But now his boss has become impatient with being patient, revealing a greater sense of urgency than his top football man, Idzik.
Idzik keeps talking about building a team that has sustainable success, avoiding quick fixes and working from a long-term plan. Now there's a mixed message, with Johnson suggesting the league is so parity-driven that championships should always be the goal. It's a departure from last May, when he implored the fans, "Yes, be patient. Be patient and trust that we’re doing the right thing for your team."
Demonstrating his win-now approach, Johnson confirmed the team's interest in Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who reportedly is on the trading block. It was stunning because of tampering rules -- team officials aren't supposed to comment on opposing players -- and because of the Jets' secretive ways.
I say, "Good for him." Finally, a straight answer from a Jets official.
Mario Tama/Getty ImagesWoody Johnson expects the New York Jets to have a winning season in 2014.
That Johnson went public tells me the Jets are very interested in Jackson. He said they'd rather not surrender a draft pick -- meaning Jackson would be more attractive if he gets released -- but that could mean they're not willing to give up the exact pick the Eagles are demanding. It's called posturing.
Jackson doesn't seem like an Idzik kind of guy, with his enormous contract and his diva behavior. But Jackson would give the Jets a much-improved offense. With Jackson and Eric Decker, you're talking about a legit receiving corps. Johnson loves offense. Most owners do. It puts rear ends in the seats.
Meanwhile, Ryan must be thinking, "How 'bout a cornerback?" He has the right to be concerned about the giant hole in his defense. If the owner is making this a win-now season, the least he could do is give his defensive-minded coach a couple of proven corners. Right now, they have Dee Milliner and a lot of questions. You could argue that Milliner is a question, too.
The Jets have acquired three new players in free agency, all on offense -- Decker, quarterback Michael Vick and right tackle Breno Giacomini. The defense is worse than it was at the end of last season. The Jets still have the draft, and still have time to plug holes. But the expectations are higher than 2013. They got even higher Sunday, when Johnson opened his mouth.
"Look at the difference between last year and this year,” Johnson said. “The team can turn very fast in the NFL. You saw Seattle. I’ve seen a lot of teams that came from the bottom ... that weren’t doing that well, to winning Super Bowls. So, it’s there. I think we’re trying to put ourselves in position to accomplish those objectives."