NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Woody Johnson is pleased with the progress the New York Jets made under a new coach and general manager. The team’s owner is far from satisfied, though.
The franchise’s only Super Bowl trophy, on display a few feet away, served as a shiny, silver reminder that there’s plenty more winning that needs to happen.
“That’s the Super Bowl right out there,” Johnson said Friday night. “We haven’t won one now — this is Super Bowl 50 and that was Super Bowl 3 — so, it’s been a while. Until we get there, we’re going to work as hard as we can. And then after we get there, we’re going to work doubly hard after that.”
Johnson made an appearance at Jets House, a Manhattan restaurant that the team converts for two days into a meeting place for fans and current and former players. It was filled with Jets-themed items, and several flat-screen TVs replayed team highlights while green lights shined throughout.
But upon entering The Ainsworth restaurant, fans got an immediate glimpse of the Lombardi Trophy that Joe Namath helped deliver — after guaranteeing it — in 1969. The franchise has been chasing another one ever since.
Under coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan, the Jets finished 10-6 but missed the playoffs after losing at Buffalo in the regular-season finale. It was a bounce-back season after a 4-12 campaign under then-coach Rex Ryan.
“So far, so good,” Johnson said of whether he made the right choices in hiring both Bowles and Maccagnan just over a year ago.
After four straight seasons without a playoff appearance under Ryan, Johnson reluctantly made the decision to start over. He also fired general manager John Idzik after just two seasons.
“Year 1, I would say good,” Johnson said. “It’s not where we want to be. I like them. This is a refreshing start.”
Career years for several players, including quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, wide receiver Brandon Marshall, running back Chris Ivory and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson helped push the Jets back to respectability.
“We were in every single game and we were playing every game to the end,” Johnson said. “That’s a sign of something good happening.”
New York’s playoff plans were ruined by a second loss this season to Ryan and his Bills, something Johnson said still stings. It was the type of defeat the owner said stays with him like “indelible ink.”
That’s now the past, though. He’s focused on the future.
“My job as the custodian of the team, really, is to provide hope, and that includes me,” Johnson said. “I’m working every day to build up hope, build up the team so it’s more capable of winning.”
Maccagnan is facing a busy offseason with several major — and difficult — decisions over the next few months. Fitzpatrick, Wilkerson and Ivory are among a handful of key players scheduled to be free agents. Johnson, as expected, was noncommittal when addressing whether he was confident deals would be reached with Fitzpatrick and Wilkerson, in particular.
Wilkerson set a career high with 12 sacks this season but has been seeking a long-term deal for the last two years. Fitzpatrick set a franchise mark with a career-best 31 touchdown passes this season after taking over as the Jets’ starting quarterback when Geno Smith had his jaw broken by then-teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali during training camp.
Bowles immediately cut Enemkpali and gave the QB job to Fitzpatrick while Smith healed. The 33-year-old Fitzpatrick established himself as a leader on and off the field, and could now be in line for a contract worth at least $10 million a year.
“Todd’s instincts were correct,” Johnson said.
Johnson is not ready to shut the door on Smith being a franchise-type quarterback, saying the team’s 2013 second-round pick showed marked improvement after the incident during the summer.
“He has all the skills,” he said. “It’s a question of what his desire is, and from what the coaches told me and what I’ve seen myself, I think he’s matured a lot. He’s working on his game. He knows he’s a professional. He has the ability to do it, if he sticks with it.”
The Jets have the 20th pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. NFL.com reports the team’s top need is at outside linebacker.
NOTES: Johnson, the national finance chairman for Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, wouldn’t reveal whether he would back Donald Trump if he wins the Republican presidential nomination. “I’m not going to go there yet,” Johnson said. “I’m supporting Jeb Bush and I’m hoping that he’s going to make it. I think he’s the right answer for the country.” … Johnson on CB Darrelle Revis, who made the Pro Bowl but was criticized by some for having a down season after signing a huge contract that included $39 million guaranteed: “It’s always great to have a Hall of Famer-type player like Darrelle. We’re very happy to have him. He played pretty well last year. If he’s not (No.) 1, he’s 1 or 2 in the league.”
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