Woody Johnson returns to Jets: ‘All about winning’

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Jets owner Woody Johnson is back after four years away from the team and promises his struggling franchise is going to turn it around.

“We’ll do everything in our power to put a winning team on the field this year, this game, the first game, the second game, the third game,” Johnson said Wednesday. “It’s all about winning. We’re in the win business. We didn’t sign up for this to lose. None of our players want to lose. They’re not used to losing, and we don’t want to get them used to losing.”

Johnson spoke to reporters for the first time since returning to the team in January. He spent the past four years as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Johnson, 74, said he has been encouraged since returning by the feeling inside the organization and what he has seen from general manager Joe Douglas and new coach Robert Saleh — two men hired by Johnson’s brother Christopher, who ran the team during Woody’s absence.

“They’ve got a tremendous amount of leeway,” Woody Johnson said. “I’m in total sync with these guys. I think Chris made some unbelievable choices, and we’re lucky to get both of those gentlemen.”

New York Jets owner and chairman Woody Johnson speaks to reporters
Woody Johnson is back to helm the Jets after four years away.
AP Photo

Johnson spoke highly of Saleh and his “unique ability communicate.” He also said Saleh has the “ingredients to be really good.”

As for Douglas, Johnson pointed out that he learned under former Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome.

“Anybody that is related to Ozzie Newsome pretty much has got a gold star, right?” Johnson said.

The Jets had plenty of turmoil while Johnson was overseas. The team went 18-46 during his four years away, tied for the worst mark in the NFL with the Giants over that span. Johnson’s first decade owning the team was marked by six trips to the playoffs and two AFC Championship appearances. But the Jets have not made it back to the playoffs since losing the 2010 AFC title game to the Steelers. The Jets have the longest active playoff drought in the NFL at 10 years.

“Why did you have to bring that up?” Johnson said with a laugh.

Johnson said he hoped the fans had faith in the team to get things right. He feels that they are heading in the right direction under the current leadership.

“I really see a tremendous vibe in the building and on the field and in the classrooms that gives me a lot of hope,” Johnson said. “I think the building feels really united now.”

The Jets have a new quarterback in Zach Wilson, the No. 2-overall draft pick. Johnson stopped short of proclaiming him the savior of the franchise but said his talent is obvious.

New York Jets QB Zach Wilson runs a drill during OTA’s
Zach Wilson’s arrival is just one of the many changes Jets owner Woody Johnson comes back to.
Corey Sipkin

“You never know. Now we’re in shorts. How is he going to look in pads and when we get to the preseason?” Johnson said. “Then you’re going to get a much better idea, but I think everybody is hopeful about his learning curve. They like his quick release and they like a lot of elements, and that’s why they drafted him No. 2. I don’t think they’ve seen anything to discourage us.”

As ambassador, Johnson was accused of making sexist and racist remarks. The U.S. State Department investigated the allegations and Johnson said he was exonerated.

“The office of civil rights conducted an extensive survey on all of the allegations and concluded that none of it was substantiated, none of it,” he said. “There’s a letter to that effect, and documents, which is what I suspected.

“My wife was absolutely furious when she saw [the allegations]. She said it goes against my history of everything I’ve done for my entire life. So, it was something was really hard on me to listen to all this stuff, but that’s done.”

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