After two disappointing seasons, there are two distinctly different tacts taking place in the front offices of the two local football teams right now.
The Giants — after going 11-5 and making the playoffs last season and six years removed from their most recent of four Super Bowl titles — have torn apart their front office and begun rebuilding it with a general manager who made it clear from the moment he burst through the door that he’s here to kick ass and take names.
The Jets — coming off a second consecutive 5-11 season, having not been to the playoffs for the last seven seasons and 48 years removed from their one and only Super Bowl title — have taken a kinder, gentler approach, opting for the status quo and giving Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan two-year contract extensions.
Franchise stability was among the strongest pulls for Jets acting owner Christopher Johnson when he decided to dole out those extensions to his coach and general manager.
So, too, was what Johnson on Tuesday termed “something special happening’’ with this Jets team in terms of its young core of players and locker room chemistry.
Johnson stayed true to the words he delivered before the 2017 season when he promised Bowles and Maccagnan would be judged not on wins and losses but progress.
But those Pollyanna standards must shift, effectively immediately.
Winning more games than the preseason prognosticators predicted and playing good teams tough before ultimately succumbing no longer can be tolerated. Mediocrity must no longer be celebrated.
Now, with some $100 million in salary-cap space with which to spend on free agents this offseason, the sixth pick in the draft and the roster of young developing players Johnson, Maccagnan and Bowles speak about, wins and losses must be the primary measuring stick.
Once the Jets use that salary-cap money to build on the decent core roster they have in place, they no longer should be viewed as the little train that could as they were this season.
Legitimate pursuit of a first playoff berth in eight years must be the standard now.
“I have no mandate,’’ Johnson said Tuesday. “Believe me, I want to get to the playoffs. I want to build a team with Mike and Todd that can compete for the playoffs every year. That can’t happen fast enough, but there’s no mandate.’’
But there should be. A fourth consecutive season without a playoff berth with this regime will be met with understandable unrest by the Jets fan base.
“We’re a 5-11 team [and] I’m not happy about that,’’ Johnson said. “[But] there’s so much to look forward to on this team with this core we have and we have a chance to build on that. We’ve got some great draft picks. We’ve got a lot of money to play with and we’re going to be active in free agency. I think there’s a lot of reason to believe we’re going to be a better team this year.’’
Christopher Johnson is a sincere, soft-spoken, humble, genuine man who’s new to this owner thing, having watched from afar while his brother, Woody, has tried in vain to bring a consistent winner to Jets fans since he bought the team in 2000.
With Woody in England as the U.S. ambassador to the UK under the Trump administration and removed from the Jets day-to-day operation, Christopher has the keys to the rig. On Tuesday, he waxed poetic about how much he’s loved the job, calling it “the world’s greatest gig.’’
“Despite a five-win season, I’m having the time of my life,’’ he said.
You sense a hint of naïvete in Johnson and you hope it doesn’t cloud his judgment when the time comes to get tougher.
It was the right thing to do to bring Bowles and Maccagnan back to maintain stability. But it, too, will be the right thing to do to make a change next season if the Jets aren’t at least in the hunt for a playoff berth in Week 17.
Jets fans deserve that, and Johnson, in his heart, knows it.
The same way his brother made it a cool habit before home games, Christopher roams the MetLife Stadium parking lots and mingles with Jets fans at their tailgates, joking that the fans “try to ply me with shots of bourbon and kielbasa.’’
He called that exercise “one of the joys of this season for me.’’
Then, turning more serious, Johnson added, “I know that we have given [the fans] a lot more pain than glory recently. It’s been a long time since we’ve had proper glory. I think that they understand that I’m trying to set this team up for glory. I think we’ll get there, I really do.’’