New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, conspicuously quiet during his team's turbulent offseason, broke his silence Thursday, defending quarterback Mark Sanchez's work ethic and claiming he understands the sniping in the locker room.
Johnson, appearing as a guest on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," didn't seem bothered by the unrest. Asked if his team is mired in "turmoil" and "chaos," Johnson didn't try to disagree.
"It should be," he said. "I mean, quite frankly, New Yorkers don't like losers and even if it's an 8-8 record, that's not good enough here. They want a winner and there is frustration and that's what you want."
Johnson tried to dispel the notion that Sanchez, whom one unnamed teammate called "lazy" in an article by the New York Daily News, is a slacker.
"I've never heard that," Johnson said of his $10 million-a-year quarterback. "He's the first guy in the building every morning and the last guy to leave, so lazy is the last thing he is. ... He's an NFL quarterback. I mean, that's what you expect of an NFL quarterback."
Since dropping their final three games and missing the playoffs, the Jets have made news with their dysfunction. It started with Santonio Holmes jawing with teammates and getting benched in the final game. The next day, coach Rex Ryan made a stunning admission, saying he never had the pulse of the team.
Stories emerged of a rift between Sanchez and Holmes, and last week rookie quarterback Greg McElroy said the locker room was filled with selfish players and a "corrupt" mindset.
The controversy escalated Wednesday, when the Daily News published quotes from anonymous players trashing Sanchez.
Johnson said Ryan realizes he made a mistake by the way he handled the locker room.
"I think he does," the owner said. "Now, how do you correct that? That's an interesting ... that's alchemy. Inside the locker room, it's one of those things that, every year, it's a little bit different."
Johnson said team chemistry may have been hurt this season by not having their usual training camp in Cortland, N.Y. Because of the lockout, the Jets stayed at their year-round facility in Florham Park, N.J.
Things have changed dramatically for Johnson. In his previous interview, a sitdown with ESPNNewYork.com a few days before they lost to the New York Giants in Week 16, Johnson said he couldn't even fathom not making the playoffs. He also used the word "brilliant" to describe Ryan's controversial bravado.
Johnson appeared Thursday on MSNBC to discuss Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Johnson is one of Romney's top fundraisers.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.