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Jets keeping reporting structure as search for coach begins

By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.December 31, 2018
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New York Jets owner Christopher Johnson speaks to reporters in Florham Park, N.J., Monday, Dec. 31, 2018. After firing Todd Bowles on Sunday night, the New York Jets are focused on bringing in someone who will be able to lead a franchise that has missed the playoffs for eight straight seasons but has a promising young quarterback in Sam Darnold and expects to be busy in free agency this offseason. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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New York Jets owner Christopher Johnson speaks to reporters in Florham Park, N.J., Monday, Dec. 31, 2018. After firing Todd Bowles on Sunday night, the New York Jets are focused on bringing in someone who will be able to lead a franchise that has missed the playoffs for eight straight seasons but has a promising young quarterback in Sam Darnold and expects to be busy in free agency this offseason. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Christopher Johnson’s first major decision running the New York Jets didn’t come easily for him.

The next one will shape the future of the franchise.

“Absolutely,” the team’s acting chairman and CEO said Monday. “And it’s not being taken lightly.”

Johnson knew it was time to part ways with coach Todd Bowles, who went 24-40 in four disappointing seasons that included no playoff appearances.

In a short statement before welcoming questions from reporters, Johnson twice praised Bowles for being “a good man,” saying he hopes to continue a friendship with him and appeared genuinely sad that he had to make what became clear was an inevitable decision.

“When I spoke at the beginning of the season I said that I would carefully assess the team’s progress,” he said.

“Concluded, we have not made enough progress this season. I’ve been evaluating the situation for some time, and came to the decision that change was needed.”

Less than 24 hours after firing Bowles, Johnson was focused on finding his replacement.

“My singular goal is to get the best head coach for this team,” Johnson said. “Ultimately, the final decision on who that will be will be mine. Let me say that the buck stops with me. I have to do a better job of getting this organization to a place where we can consistently win — and I will do that. Our goal is to establish a consistently successful football team and winning culture and we will look to do that with this upcoming hire.

“I’m confident that we will find the right person to lead this football team.”

Johnson opted to retain embattled general manager Mike Maccagnan, who will be closely involved with the owner in the process to find Bowles’ replacement, as will Brian Heimerdinger, the team’s vice president of player personnel.

Johnson said he will speak with his brother, Woody — who’s currently serving as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom — but the final decision will ultimately be his own.

“I think this is a great landing spot for a coach to end up,” he said.

Johnson said the team’s reporting structure will remain the same moving forward with the new head coach answering to him directly and not Maccagnan. He believes the current structure is a good one, despite the Jets having not made the playoffs since the 2010 season.

“I think it could work well for us,” Johnson said. “It works well with a lot of organizations and I think it can work well here.”

Johnson wouldn’t comment directly on various published reports that the Jets had requested permission to interview several coaches, including Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Todd Monken and Dallas passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach Kris Richard. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and former Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy have also been mentioned as possibilities.

Arizona, Miami, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Cleveland and Denver are also looking for new head coaches, but Johnson thinks the Jets will be plenty attractive to potential candidates. He cited the fact they have what they believe is a franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold, about $100 million in salary cap space and the bright lights of the New York market.

“If you can make it here, you’re a freakin’ legend,” Johnson said. “That counts for something.”

Johnson indicated that “nobody’s excluded” from the search, but added that any coach who desired total control of personnel would not be the right person for the job. He said previous head coaching experience “can’t hurt,” and thinks it’s a “big plus” if the new coach has experience developing a young quarterback.

Some fans and media thought the Jets should start completely from scratch by not only firing Bowles but also Maccagnan. The two were hired at the same time, but the GM didn’t have say in the decision to hire the coach then.

Maccagnan’s shaky record in the draft and free agency are major strikes, but Johnson is confident he’ll be able to help turn the franchise around.

“I think Mike is a good talent evaluator, period,” Johnson said. “Looking at the plan we have going forward, I’m a believer in Mike.”

After the Jets’ 38-3 loss at New England on Sunday, Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams said the team needs more “big-time” players moving forward.

“I’m not going to sit here and say we have talent. We have a lot of talent on the team, but we don’t have a lot of dogs on this team,” Adams said. “I’ll put it like that. We just don’t.”

That would fall on Maccagnan, who’s responsible for putting together the roster. Both Johnson and Maccagnan met with Adams on Monday to discuss his comments.

“Who wouldn’t want more talent? But I don’t think that’s the entire answer,” Johnson said. “I think we had some real good talent on this team already. We should’ve done better in the win-loss column.”

That’s a spot in which the Jets haven’t done well lately, with a 4-12 finish following consecutive 5-11 seasons.

Meanwhile, New York — and the rest of the AFC East — has had to look up at New England in the division for almost each of the past two decades.

The Patriots have won the division in 10 straight seasons, and Johnson knows that he, Maccagnan and the new coach will be charged with trying to change that.

“It keeps me up at night,” Johnson said.

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