Lichtenstein: Chris Johnson Owns Up to One Mistake, but Now Must Rectify Another


Christopher Johnson owned up to one of his biggest mistakes in a press conference with Jets reporters on Wednesday, saying he regretted delaying the firing of prior general manager Mike Maccagnan until after last offseason’s early free agency signing period and the 2019 NFL Draft.

Johnson could now do us all a favor by admitting his biggest failure: maintaining the idiotic organizational structure that calls for both general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Adam Gase to each report directly to him.

It has been the proximate cause for this franchise’s dysfunction over the last decade. Rarely have the two co-producers of the team, GM and head coach, been on the same page. Even now, with Douglas and Gase reportedly close personally, it has become obvious to anyone with unbiased eyes that one (Gase) is in over his head.

If Johnson, who has been filling in for brother Woody after he was appointed Ambassador to the United Kingdom in 2017, had even the slightest knowledge of football, this set-up might work. Unfortunately, Clueless Christopher has overseen an operation that has gone 16-33 on his watch, with no hope of sunnier days in the near future.

The theory goes that he didn’t want to fire both Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles simultaneously after the 2018 season because he didn’t feel comfortable making both new hires by himself.

“Do I wish I made that change (from Maccagnan to Douglas) earlier? Absolutely,” Johnson told reporters. “I have made mistakes, and that’s one of them.”

Even worse, Johnson kept compounding the mistake. With Maccagnan at his side and an alleged phone call recommendation from legendary quarterback Peyton Manning, Johnson was bamboozled into hiring Gase, eschewing others more qualified than the coach with a 23-25 career record who was canned by Miami less than two weeks prior.

Gase and Maccagnan were set up to be partners in crime. Yeah, like Peter Stormare and Steve Buscemi in the film “Fargo,” only Maccagnan didn’t end up in a wood chipper after backstabbing Gase’s manipulations.

Gang Green’s rebound from a 1-7 start last season bought Gase a mulligan from Johnson, despite the 6-2 finish built mostly on the backs of opponents with lousy quarterbacks. However, Gase’s preparedness, or lack thereof, in last Sunday’s 27-17 loss that was far less competitive than the score suggested, did not inspire confidence from anyone – other than Johnson, that is.

Most concerning about the Buffalo defeat was the apparent regression in Sam Darnold, who looked more like a rookie than a quarterback with 26 NFL games under his belt. Darnold’s reads, decision-making, footwork and accuracy were all way off for much of the day, and he had folks in town already musing about the Jets tanking this season to select Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence in the 2021 Draft.

Johnson, though, still, at least publicly, swears by Gase’s mostly self-proclaimed hype that he’s a quarterback guru, actually telling the media that he has “a brilliant offensive mind.” If only the stats that show the Jets continuing to rank among the league’s worst offenses would just cooperate.

Yes, Gase served in Denver as elder statesman Manning broke records, and yes, he coaxed a decent year out of veteran Jay Cutler in Chicago, but as for molding a young QB, where has there been any evidence of that? It would be criminal for the Jets to allow Gase to wreck another franchise QB, if that’s the route they take after the season, after what he’s done to, and hasn’t done for, Darnold.

Now, I wasn’t expecting Johnson to thrash anyone in a press conference, though a little bit of displayed anger at the overall situation would have been nice to see, since it would have at least put him in the same galaxy as the Jets fanbase. The last thing we want to hear from Johnson is that he’s fine with this being another year, the tenth in a row, with no playoff mandate for this team.

Given what we know about Johnson, it’s unlikely, barring a long oh-fer out of the gate, that Gase is shown the door mid-season. Still, Johnson could end this nonsensical hierarchy at any time. He gave Douglas a six-year contract to be in charge of everything related to football, so let him do it without having to treat Gase as his equal.

Learn the lessons from the mistakes in this franchise’s woebegone history, so he can stop repeating it.

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils and Jets, follow Steve on Twitter: @SteveLichtenst1

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