The Jets will soon find out about Life Without Woody.
It could be good for both of them. The vibe will be different around the team and he could use a break from all the losing.
Johnson will be on the other side of the Atlantic, so he will be insulated by 3,500 miles of the deep blue sea from listening to Jets fans gripe about what could be the worst season in the 58-year history of the tortured franchise, even more dreadful than Rich Kotite’s 1-15 beauty in 1996.
Then again, Johnson’s boss once he’s confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom will be President Donald Trump, which ultimately could make him melancholy about the long-time listeners and first-time callers.
The issue is whether Johnson’s prolonged absence from the Jets will change the way they do business with his younger brother, Christopher Wold Johnson, taking over as chairman and CEO. Woody is 70. Chris is 12 years younger. Long-suffering members of Jets Nation are hoping a change at the top at least brings a change in fortunes. Johnson’s political appointment can last until the next president is inaugurated, which figures to be in January of 2021.
Quiz: What happens first?
Johnson returning to the Jets, the Jets making the playoffs, Christian Hackenberg completing 50% of his passes in practice or Sheldon Richardson making it through an entire season without getting suspended?
The word around the league from the Jets is that Johnson will divorce himself of team and league business and let little brother run the show while he’s gone. Unless Chris has been a quick study doing his prep work the last few months, he will be wise to defer to team president Neil Glat on the business side — the Jets are making plenty of money even without making the playoffs since 2010 — and support GM Mike Maccagnan’s rebuilding plan on the football side.
Of course, Chris Johnson can also decide this is his one moment in the spotlight and decide to be Jerry Jones.
Woody Johnson’s departure is a big deal. He’s leaving the team to someone who has no experience running a sports franchise. When the late Dan Rooney served as ambassador to Ireland from 2009-12, the Steelers were in the capable hands of his son Art Rooney II, the team president, who had been running the day-to-day operation anyway.
Johnson has often been awkward in his 17 years as the Jets owner. He doesn’t give Jets Nation confidence that he has a plan. But he does very much want to win. He just doesn’t know how. With five coaches and four general managers hired under his watch since he bought the team in 2000, he has yet to find the formula to end the Jets nearly 50-year Super Bowl drought.
It was his call as he went over GM Mike Tannenbaum’s head to fire Eric Mangini after the 2008 season. He decided to fire Tannenbaum after the 2012 season, hired John Idzik as GM but kept Rex Ryan as coach. He fired Ryan and Idzik after the 2014 season and allowed consultants Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf to guide him into hiring Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles. Although Johnson is not considered an overbearing or meddling owner, he is not detached, either.
The main reason the secretive Mangini was fired? He froze out Johnson on the inner workings of the team.
Chris Johnson, listed as a Jets owner as part of the Johnson family, has not been a visible figure around the Jets since the team was purchased for $ 635 million from the estate of Leon Hess. Forbes recently valued the Jets at $ 2.75 billion and Bloomberg listed Woody Johnson’s worth at $ 4.2 billion, which makes him one of the 500 richest people in the world.
Chris Johnson joined his brother at the league meetings in Phoenix in March and recently has been around the Jets offices in Florham Park, just as he’s been in the past, he’s just more noticeable now. He will take over his brother’s office once the Senate confirms Woody’s appointment.
Trump formally nominated him on June 22 after making his intentions public on the eve of his inauguration in January. There is no definitive timetable when the Senate will vote on Johnson, but the U.S. has been without a permanent ambassador to the U.K. since January with Lewis Lukens operating in an interim capacity. Trump has complained that Democrats are taking forever to approve his appointments.
It’s hard to believe Woody Johnson will not be consulted if his brother or Maccagnan want to fire Bowles, whose contract stipulates he reports to Woody Johnson. And you would think it’s Woody who will have to sign off if Maccagnan wants to give Kirk Cousins $ 75 million guaranteed in free agency next year or hand out a huge contract to Leonard Williams. Maccagnan might speak to Woody through Chris, and even if Woody has ceded control to Chris, it doesn’t make much sense that a rookie interim owner will be signing off on franchise-altering decisions.
The misconception about Woody Johnson is he is cheap and not willing to spend to win. Despite his enormous wealth, it wasn’t until the incompetent Idzik decided to challenge the record for most money under the salary cap that the Jets cut corners.
Johnson’s pre-Idzik issue was trying to take a shortcut and buy his way to a championship by bringing in big names like Brett Favre, LaDainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor — all since elected to the Hall of Fame — as well as Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress and Alan Faneca.
In each case, their best football was behind them. He wasted $ 39 million guaranteed two years ago to bring back Darrelle Revis.
From all indications, it was Johnson’s call last month to cut respected leader David Harris to save his $ 6.5 million salary because the Jets were going to stink this season with or without him.
It was poor timing and execution waiting until the June mini-camp. If the Jets were going to cut him, then it should have been done in February or March, giving Harris time to fully test the market. As it turned out, Bill Belichick signed him to two-year, $ 5 million contract in New England, so he has a chance to win a Super Bowl.
There are Jets fans who wish Trump named Johnson ambassador to Australia to keep him even further away. Even so, all that needs to happen for him to be welcomed back is the Jets finally find their franchise quarterback.