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Jets’ 2014 analysis: Owner must make right choices

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets owner Woody Johnson got rid of the obvious scapegoats Monday, when he fired head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik.

What Johnson does next will determine if the Jets’ problems were rooted in a head coach who could only coach one side of the ball and an incompetent general manager — or if the problems lie in the owner’s box.

Johnson provided the team’s fans reasons for both optimism and pessimism Monday morning when he made a rare appearance in the Jets’ media room to discuss the firings that came about as a result of a 4-12 regular season.

Johnson took accountability for the mess he helped create following the 2012 season, when he fired general manager Mike Tannenbaum but told prospective replacements they would have to keep Ryan.

Whether coincidental or not, Johnson and his business advisers — all heeding the advice of the corporate search firm hired by Johnson — interviewed 10 candidates before settling on Idzik, who didn’t strike anybody as a potential general manager while serving as a salary-cap guru with the Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks.

If he had to do it again, Johnson said he wouldn’t have foisted Ryan upon Idzik. He also hinted at a disconnect between the two men, which only makes sense given their arranged marriage.

“Ultimately, I get all the blame,” Johnson said. “To the extent of who’s to blame, sure, I have to get a lot better.”

Johnson took a step toward that goal by retaining former Super Bowl-winning general managers Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf as consultants in the search for a new GM and new coach. The trio already was in touch with seven potential general manager candidates and six head coaching candidates — the first of whom, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, will be interviewed Friday.

Johnson said the new general manager would have to work as one with the head coach, whom he wants to have mastery of all three phases of the game. That was certainly a nod to the fact that Ryan was hands-off to a fault about anything other than his defense.

Later in the press conference, though, Johnson said he would have the final say on a head coach, whom he hopes to hire after finding a general manager. Yet he also left open the possibility the Jets would hire a coach first, which would put the Jets at risk of alienating executives who didn’t want to inherit a head coach.

There also were instances in which Johnson’s frankness undermined his best intentions. Asked about Idzik leaving the Jets $21 million under the salary cap, Johnson said, “Maybe we should’ve spent some more,” which is an awfully odd thing to say for an owner who has the capability to tell his general manager to spend more money.

Johnson also may have gotten himself in some hot water with the NFL when he admitted he would like to have Darrelle Revis back in a Jets uniform. Revis, the former Jets cornerback who partook in numerous contract squabbles with Johnson, reportedly wanted to return to the Jets when he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March but quickly signed with the rival New England Patriots when the Jets expressed no interest.

Revis is signed through next season, though the Patriots likely will renegotiate his contract or cut him in March. Still, even accidentally tampering with Revis piqued the interest of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who doesn’t need a reason to go after the Jets.

“I would think that the league would look into those comments,” Belichick told WEEI in Boston later Monday.

Johnson was also too truthful for his own good when admitting that he didn’t think he could sign Revis because of his experience with the cornerback’s agents.

“It would’ve been very hard,” Johnson said.

Everything about the NFL — including the search for a new head coach and a new general manager — is a cutthroat business. Does Johnson have the stomach for the rebuilding job and difficult decisions that lie ahead? The answer will prove whether or not Johnson got rid of the issues that dragged down the Jets on Monday, or if he merely exacerbated them.


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