FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Woody Johnson still has high hopes for Geno Smith.
The New York Jets owner was unhappy about Smith shouting an expletive at a heckler last weekend, but thinks the young quarterback will overcome his recent struggles.
“I have a lot of confidence in Geno,” Johnson said Thursday during practice. “I think Geno can be a franchise quarterback, I really do. I see traits in him, and we all see traits in him, that are extremely positive and (leave) room for a lot of optimism.”
Johnson met with the media for the first time since the offseason and touched on several issues in a wide-ranging interview session. He said he’s not happy with the team’s 1-3 start and would prefer, of course, that the Jets were 4-0.
“You know, we’re in the win business, so winning is what we want to do,” he said.
The Jets are on a three-game skid and take on the Chargers in San Diego on Sunday. After that, New York takes on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos at home and then Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on the road — in a five-game stretch.
There’s a chance the season could start to unravel with a few more losses, but the AFC East appears to be wide open with the Patriots, Dolphins and Bills all just one game ahead of the Jets in the division.
“I think the team and the coaches, they’ve fallen short, that’s for sure,” Johnson said. “But they’ve been in every game. I mean, you can see, you can either (look at it as) half-glass full or half-glass empty. I mean, you can see signs of being a good team and a winning team, except for the one or two mistakes that we make in each game.
“If we eliminate those, I think we’ll be good.”
Smith has come under fire for a shaky start with seven turnovers in four games. After the Jets’ 24-17 loss to the Detroit Lions last Sunday, the quarterback lost his cool and shouted at one fan who was heckling him. Smith, who has apologized, will likely be fined by the NFL for his actions.
“That’s unacceptable,” Johnson said. “Absolutely unacceptable.”
The owner reiterated that it’s something none of his players or coaches should ever do, but doesn’t think it was a sign that Smith could be affected by the pressure of playing in the spotlight.
“I think he’s a very young man,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot on his shoulders, a lot of growing up, a lot of learning how to deal with certain issues. You know, a little practice. He’s made the mistake now and I guarantee — well, I don’t guarantee — I would be surprised if he ever did something like this again.”
While some fans and media are calling for Michael Vick to take over for Smith, Johnson insisted that he stays out of those kinds of personnel decisions. He also wouldn’t rule out the chance that coach Rex Ryan could return next season even if the team misses the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
“Those are the kind of decisions we make at the end of the season,” Johnson said, “and we’ll evaluate everybody and see what the best plan is going forward.”
Johnson said general manager John Idzik has no constraints on using the salary cap — which the Jets are about $20 million under — but added that the team isn’t going to just throw money at players that, in the Jets’ opinion weren’t “worth it” because their focus is on “long-term sustainability.”
Idzik was criticized heavily for not being more aggressive in the offseason in signing free agents, a deliberate approach that Johnson said was a primary reason he hired him last year.
“Some years, you can spend it and some years you can’t, but you can always roll it over,” Johnson said. “So, this money is still in the war chest and to be used. We’re committed to building a winning team. I think you know that.”
Johnson added that the team is going to let the domestic violence case of practice squad player Quincy Enunwa play out in court before making any decision on him. Enunwa is due in court on Oct. 15 on domestic violence charges, possibly to have a trial date set.
The owner was non-committal as to whether his team would keep a player who was found guilty of domestic violence.
“The league is looking at it and we’re looking at it, too,” he said.
Johnson was also mostly complimentary of embattled NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, saying he’s an “honest person” who normally has “very good judgment” and thinks the league’s owners are going to be supportive of him despite some mistakes he made with the Ray Rice case.
“Because of the nature of this one, everybody’s been piqued by this particular incident,” he said. “We’re going to do a hopefully better and more sensitive job going forward as the National Football League, not as society in general. We can only do what we can do.”
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