Jets owner Woody Johnson has never been good at the whole patience thing, it's as big a reason as any as to why the Jets are stuck in a never ending cycle of dysfunction. Sure there's been a couple good seasons here or there sprinkled in among mostly bad seasons since he bought the team in early 2000, but once things turn bad Johnson has a habit of demanding change for the sake of change.
The argument is always that the market that is New York won't stand for patience and continuity, if things start to go wrong then heads need to roll. Ex-GM John Idzik made his share of mistakes, but he did plenty of good too (drafted Sheldon Richardson, Quincy Enunwa, Brian Winters, he signed Eric Decker and traded for Chris Ivory, both on good deals) and he cleared up all types of cap space as he was obviously working on a long-term plan, a plan he never got to see through because he got fired after only two years. Reasonable people can disagree about whether Idzik's plan was working, or would ever work, but no one should be in favor of firing a GM after only two years.
The issue at the time was the head coach, Rex Ryan, had to go. Ryan's time here had run its course, he was working on an agenda of having to win now while his GM was more focused on building long-term. That was never going to work, it was a mess from the moment Johnson hired Idzik but forced him to keep Ryan as his coach. So whether fair to Idzik or not, once Ryan had to go so did Idzik so Johnson could bring in a new coach and GM at the same time, so they could be on the same page and work together instead of against each other.
Still after following up a pleasantly surprising 10-6 season with a disappointing 5-11 season we all started to wonder, would Johnson's impatience come out again. We knew GM Mike Maccagnan would be safe, not even Johnson would be that impulsive, but would he fire Todd Bowles (considering there are multiple justifiable reasons one could point tonto do so)? Once Johnson announced Bowles was safe the immediate reaction was, okay good you shouldn't really fire him after only two years but with the shape of this team, roster and staff, isn't this just delaying the inevitable and he'll be fired after another down year next season?
Well, maybe not. Maybe, just maybe Johnson is actually committed to giving Maccagnan and Bowles the space and time they need to see their plan through. If they get that time and still fail then he can move on, but he needs to prove he's willing to let the football people execute their plan.
"I'm like the fans. I'm not essentially patient," Johnson said. "But I know that planning is the only way you get anything done long-term. You've got to stick to your plan. It's (like) investing or anything else. You've got to have a plan and you've got to have the confidence and courage to stick by the plan and build that way."
That sounds like a changed man, a man you finally recognizes his past errors. A man who now realizes there are no quick fixes in the NFL. It's one thing for Johnson to talk about the importance of building through the draft immediately after hiring a new GM, it means a whole lot more when he says it after a 5-11 season and in response to a question about a possible "long-term rebuild."
"Well, I hope it's not that long-term. We're going to build the team through the draft," Johnson said yesterday. "I think Coach and Mike, know exactly what they're looking for, the kind of players. By definition (when you are building through the draft you are), we'll be getting younger, faster, smarter and so on. We will use the the draft primarily (to build), but we'll also use free agency judiciously, trading, and the rest of it. But mostly through the draft."
That's the winning model, it's been proven over and over again, whether it's by the Patriots, Steelers, Packers, Giants, Seahawks, all those teams have achieved sustained success because they build through the draft. They'll add pieces here and there in free agency or trades to complete their team's, but the bulk of the building comes through the draft. Maybe Johnson has finally learned you can go that way or you can do what the Jets, Bills and Browns do and constantly find yourself starting over again.
Johnson explained that they went through an "exhaustive process" when hiring Maccagnan and Bowles and one bad year hasn't changed the way he feels about their ability to build and lead this team to a championship in the sometime in the future, he says he believes they can "get it done."
What does he mean by 'get it done' you wonder?
"What I mean is, from my standpoint, I have confidence that they have a plan looking into the future that will make the team better and they have a way of judging accountability and judging performance in a way that accurately measures what's going on."
All this sounds great, it sounds like he might actually get it. He might actually be willing to let the football people fully execute their plan then judge whether their plan was a success or failure after they've seen it through. But this is still Woody Johnson, so no one will blame you if you think, 'yeah, sure. I'll believe it when I see it.' That's how you should feel, but it appears their is a sliver of hope that something might've finally clicked and Johnson "gets it" enough to let the football people do the football things and stay out of the way.
If he does that, he believes the combination of Maccagnan and Bowles can bring the Jets a Super Bowl victory.
"I wouldn't have them if I didn't," Johnson said. "I'm not here to come in second place."
Chris Nimbley is the editor-in-chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)