3:05 PM ET
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Despite a losing record and profound struggles on offense, New York Jets CEO Christopher Johnson gave his full support to coach Adam Gase, calling him a “brilliant offensive mind.”
Speaking to reporters for the first time in 10 months, Johnson declined to issue a playoff mandate, saying Gase will be evaluated on whether the team progresses throughout the season.
“I have full confidence in Adam,” Johnson said Wednesday in his annual early season media session. “I think that he has a lot more in him as a head coach than some of our fans are giving him credit for. And I understand they want to see success. I think that they will.”
The Jets are 7-10 under Gase, who has presided over the league’s lowest-ranked offense over that span. They lost the opener to the Buffalo Bills, 27-17, which Johnson called “a mess.”
Asked why he’s so confident in Gase, Johnson said: “Look, I think he can work with and develop quarterbacks. I do continue to think he’s a brilliant offensive mind especially. He has my every confidence.”
Coach Adam Gase and quarterback Sam Darnold received support from CEO Christopher Johnson on Wednesday despite the team’s rocky performance in Week 1. AP Photo/John Munson
Gase’s project, Sam Darnold, struggled in the opener. The third-year quarterback, drafted third overall in 2018, is 11-16 as a starter. Johnson expressed confidence in Darnold, but he sidestepped a question about whether the organization will commit to him with a contract extension.
Darnold is signed through 2021, with a team option for 2022.
“I have so much confidence in Sam,” Johnson said. “He’s the best player I know at turning the page, the absolute best, and I think he’ll turn the page on this last game, I think you’ll see an extraordinary Sam.”
“I think we’re going to see him turn into that quarterback that we all expected shortly, I really do. I think he’s an absolute sterling quarterback.”
Johnson, commenting for the first time on the Jamal Adams trade in July, said “it’s really sad to see a player like that leave your team, but we were given a deal that I don’t think [GM] Joe [Douglas] could refuse. I think, as that plays out, it will be seen as a good deal for our team and for Seattle and for the player.”
The Jets refused to grant Adams’ wish for a contract extension, instead receiving a package from the Seattle Seahawks that included first-round picks in 2021 and 2022.
The Adams trade, plus a conservative approach in free agency, has fueled the perception that the Jets are more focused on the future than 2020. They have roughly $30 million in cap room, among the league leaders.
“I don’t agree he’s punting on the season,” Johnson said of Douglas, whom he hired as general manager in June 2019. “I think we have the pieces in place to win this season.”
Johnson admitted he made a mistake by not firing Douglas’ predecessor, Mike Maccagnan, immediately after the 2018 season, instead waiting until after free agency and the draft in 2019.
“Do I wish I had made that change earlier? Absolutely,” Johnson said. “I’ve made mistakes, and that’s one of them.”
Johnson defended his older brother Woody, the team owner and U.S ambassador to the United Kingdom. The U.S. State Department investigation concluded that Johnson made racist and sexist comments at the London embassy.
“First of all, he has denied it publicly. He has denied it to me,” said Johnson, who assumed day-to-day control of the team when his brother took the ambassadorship in 2018. “I’ve known him my whole life. We have spent so much time together. I’ve never heard him utter a racist or sexist word or perform an action that was racist or sexist. I believe him.”
Johnson declined to speculate on when his brother will return to the team, adding, “He serves at the pleasure of the president. He could be out of a job tomorrow. If the president is reelected, he could well be there four more years. It’s just unknowable.”
Johnson reiterated he will maintain a prominent role in the organization even when his brother returns.