New York Jets owner Woody Johnson slammed backup quarterback Zach Wilson and turned up the heat on coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas in an interview Thursday night at the NFL Honors awards show in Las Vegas.
Johnson, speaking publicly for the first time since the end of the season, said he’s angry because of the team’s disappointing 7-10 finish. He all but issued a playoff mandate for Saleh and Douglas, something the longtime owner never had done before with a coach or a GM.
“The discussions I’ve had in the last couple of months, they’ve seen me about as mad as I can be with what was going on, with the offense particularly,” Johnson said, according to reports. “We have all this talent and we have to deploy talent properly. So I think they all got the message. This is it. This is the time to go. We’ve got to produce this year.”
He added, “We have to do a lot better than seven [wins], definitely.”
The Jets are 18-33 under Saleh, 27-60 under Douglas, who was hired in June 2019. Their playoff drought is 13 seasons, the longest among the major sports leagues in North America.
Speaking to reporters, Johnson listed team needs for the offseason. When it was suggested that a backup quarterback should be on the list, he agreed.
“You need a backup quarterback,” he said. “We didn’t have one last year.”
Wilson, once considered a potential franchise quarterback, struggled mightily after replacing Aaron Rodgers (Achilles) in Week 1. He was unceremoniously benched in favor of career journeyman Tim Boyle before returning to the lineup, finishing 4-7 as the starter.
The Jets are expected to trade Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in 2021. If there was any doubt about the team’s intentions, it was erased with Johnson’s stinging comments.
The team had Super Bowl aspirations, but they were destroyed the night of Rodgers’ injury, which still pains Johnson. Asked to describe that moment, Johnson said, “What does it feel like having your arm chopped off? That’s about it.”
The Jets have been criticized for giving Rodgers too much power within the organization, but Johnson said he values the input.
“He has strong opinions on the way the team is built and we are digesting exactly how to interpret that,” he said. “You need an interpreter a little bit there, but I couldn’t be more impressed.”