FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Eight days ago, New York Jets CEO Christopher Johnson gathered the team off the practice field. It got quiet. Some players wondered, “Why is the owner talking to us?” Johnson isn’t a spotlight guy, not a big talker, so his impromptu meeting caught many by surprise.
In his understated style, Johnson told the players to ignore the outside noise about Adam Gase, that he was committed to his coach. He also happened to mention that he would love to beat the New York Giants because of the New York-New York thing. (They did, 34-27).
On Wednesday, Johnson went public, telling the world what he said behind closed doors. He delivered a strong endorsement of Gase, saying he won’t make a coaching change — not now, not after this season.
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Bold move, Cotton.
Johnson, still kind of new to the ownership thing, should have gone to the old “we’ll-evaluate-everything-after-the-season” line. Yes, that would have put Gase on the hot seat in his first season, but there’s nothing wrong with turning up the temperature under a coach’s derriere. Coaches do it to players all the time. If nothing else, it would have sent a message to the paying customers that accountability is paramount.
By declaring Gase will return in 2020, Johnson not only sent his fan base into a frenzy, but he boxed himself in. What if the Jets finish 2-14 or 3-13? What if Sam Darnold remains on the quarterback roller coaster? What if the offense continues to, you know, stink?
Johnson is so convinced that Gase, 41, is the right guy that he informed the entire team he’s standing by his man, no matter what. This declaration came last Wednesday, three days after the humiliating loss to the Miami Dolphins, when the Jets were a leaguewide laughingstock. Weird timing, huh? Johnson is doubling down on the commitment he made last January, essentially telling everyone to ignore the record (2-7) and the horrible offense (32nd in total yards) and all the penalties (25th).
The message was clear: Trust me.
This will be Johnson’s defining moment. If his coach succeeds, he will be hailed as a visionary who was able to see through the smoke. If his coach flops, he will be ripped for staying married too long, setting back the entire franchise.
If you’re a long-suffering fan, you can only hope Johnson’s faith in Gase is sincere (and well-founded), not something born from stubbornness. Gase was Johnson’s first big hire, and he desperately wants it to work. He was vilified for firing general manager Mike Maccagnan after the draft — two months after singing his praises — and a quick hook with Gase would dredge up those same questions about his leadership ability.
On the flip side, two wrongs don’t make a right. The Jets learned that lesson in 2017. They didn’t draft a quarterback, in part, because they refused to acknowledge the obvious: Christian Hackenberg, drafted in 2016, never was going to be a starter. They kept alive the charade and missed out on Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. If Gase turns into Hackenberg, the Jets are screwed.
In explaining his endorsement for Gase, Johnson repeatedly used the word “trust.” As in: The team trusts him. GM Joe Douglas trusts him. (Of course, he does; he wouldn’t have the job if it weren’t for Gase.) Darnold trusts him. (Side note: Gase, Douglas and Darnold are represented by the same agent, Jimmy Sexton. Read into that what you will.) Something tells me Maccagnan, if polled, would have gone the other way.
In fairness to Gase, he inherited a mediocre roster — a seven-win team (my prediction) if the key players stayed healthy. They didn’t stay healthy, and the lack of depth — a byproduct of years of lousy drafting — has crippled them. Johnson’s hope is that Douglas — an unproven GM — can rebuild the talent base. His other hope is that Gase, an unproven winner, will succeed with better players and a one-year foundation for his program.
“It’s said that you are what your record says you are,” said Johnson, whose record is 11-30 as the Jets’ acting owner. “That’s not very impressive. But looking forward, I think this is going to be a good team. I have so much faith in Adam and Joe to put together a great future for us.”
He said the same thing about Maccagnan and former coach Todd Bowles — until he fired them. Now Johnson is going all-in with Gase, whose career record is 25-32.
Jerry Jones questioning lack of success after 3rd consecutive loss
CHICAGO — Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones did not make any proclamations about changes to Jason Garrett’s job status after Thursday’s 31-24 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, but he did question why the roster is not producing results.
“These guys are mentally OK for me and all these guys are talented enough for me, so that’s good,” Jones said. “I’m questioning how to put together a coordinated one that complements each other, how to put together a team that can win a football game. … We’re not collectively getting together as a team and doing the things it takes to win ballgames.”
Instead, at 6-7, the Cowboys are mired in their second three-game losing streak of the season, despite a mostly healthy roster.
“It’s leveled out here. It’s losing, losing, losing. I’m not trying to be funny here but the point is we’ve got to win a football game,” Jones said. “I don’t care what the standings are, what the numbers are. We had thought that we could come up here and play a good team, play a fine football game and get our act to where we’re starting to look like a team that could — if we by the slim chance get in the playoffs — where we could win. We can’t do that until we play and start winning the football games and we’ve got three more to play. When we do that, we can go.”
Thursday’s loss was a disillusionment. After driving 75 yards on 17 play on their first drive for a touchdown, the offense stalled until the fourth quarter when the game was out of hand. The defense forced a takeaway for the first time in four games on the opening possession, but gave up scores on the next four possessions in the first half.
The Cowboys scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to close the gap but that did not impress Jones.
“We know that the score didn’t indicate how bad they beat us tonight,” Jones said.
Garrett’s job security has been an issue since the opening of training camp since he does not have a contract past 2019 and will continue to be a bigger topic in the final three weeks.
Garrett said he believes the players are still buying in.
“I just see how they come to work every day,” Garrett said. “I see how they practice and unfortunately we didn’t carry the practice work to the game.”
Nor did Garrett see any players quit.
“I don’t believe that,” the coach said.
The Cowboys will remain in first place in the NFC East even if Philadelphia beats the New York Giants on Monday based off their October win against their division rival, but this was a season that was supposed to be about more than making the playoffs.
Now Jones does not care if the Cowboys finish 7-9 or 8-8 and make the postseason.
“Are you asking me if I would take the division and go to the playoffs, if we got in on any basis? The answer is yes. Absolutely yes,” Jones said. “Acceptable? I don’t know. Not if we’re not playing good but if we’re playing a lot better than we played tonight, I’ll take getting in. (Are) you talking about getting in the playoffs? Well, yes, I would on any basis. I realize if we don’t play better in the last (three games) than we looked tonight than that’s tough to thinking about having success in the playoffs, but your goal, the first goal is to get to the playoffs.”
Bears fear linebacker Roquan Smith has significant pectoral injury
Smith, Chicago’s leading tackler, suffered what is believed to be a significant pectoral injury in the first quarter of the Bears’ 31-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night.
“We’ll get more details in the next couple of days, [but] it doesn’t look real good for him,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said after the game.
Smith made contact with Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott as he crossed the goal line to cap Dallas’ opening 17-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Kevin Pierre-Louis replaced Smith on defense for the remainder of the game.
Chicago’s first-round pick in 2018 (eighth overall), Smith had a career-best 15 total tackles last week. The Bears are already without another starting inside linebacker, Danny Trevathan (elbow), who was replaced in the starting lineup by Nick Kwiatkoski.
Smith entered Thursday’s game with 99 tackles, two sacks and one interception on the season. As a rookie last season, he played in all 16 games and posted 122 tackles, five sacks and an interception.
“It could be a big loss,” Nagy said. “The way that Roquan has been playing the last couple of weeks, he’s been flying around and making plays. You just love that confidence that he’s bringing to the defense.
“The depth that [the front office] has created on their roster allows guys like Kevin Pierre-Louis to step up and make plays. You feel bad for Roquan but we know we have guys that can fill in. It’s a good thing to have that depth.”
Pierre-Louis finished the Cowboys game with five tackles, two pass breakups and one tackle for loss.
The Bears (7-6) next travel to Green Bay for an important showdown with the Packers in Week 15.
Cowboys fall to Bears for 3rd consecutive loss, 6-7 record on season
CHICAGO — Jerry Jones might not be in a position to keep Jason Garrett as Dallas Cowboys head coach anymore.
Thursday’s 31-24 loss to the Chicago Bears was the latest disappointment in a Cowboys’ season that has gone wrong but still has the potential to lead to a playoff appearance.
Jones has made only one in-season coaching change in his tenure as owner and general manager and, at times, Thursday’s game was reminiscent of Wade Phillips’ final game on Nov. 7, 2010, a 45-7 defeat to the Green Bay Packers.
The day after that loss Garrett was installed as interim head coach and has had the job ever since.
Thursday’s loss was the Cowboys’ third straight and as disheartening as any they have had because of what was on the line.
After the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Buffalo Bills, Jones said he would not make a coaching change and professed faith that Garrett was the right coach to change the team’s fortunes. Jones was envisioning the Cowboys running the table, winning the NFC East and becoming a threat to compete for a Super Bowl.
Given the performance Thursday, even Jones’ confidence has to be shaken with his team 6-7 with three games to play.
For the second straight game, the Cowboys’ offense opened with a first-possession touchdown. For the second straight game, things went downhill after that.
Like the loss to the Bills in which the defense allowed 26 straight points, they were scorched again, giving up 24 unanswered points to the Bears.
The Cowboys’ defense had a first-possession interception, its first takeaway in 263 snaps, but then gave up touchdowns on three of the next four possessions to close out the first half. The defense contributed mightily as well with three third-down penalties that kept Chicago’s touchdown drives alive.
The offense wasn’t much better. After opening with a season-long 17-play drive that covered 75 yards and ended on an Ezekiel Elliott touchdown run, the offense went six straight possessions without a score and gained just 57 yards.
Jones has remained more patient with Garrett than he has with any other coach. Chan Gailey was fired after making the playoffs in 1998 and ’99. Dave Campo was finally let go after three straight 5-11 finishes in 2002. Phillips made the playoffs in 2007 and ’09 but was doomed by a 1-7 start to the 2010 season.
Garrett is the second-winningest coach in Cowboys’ history to Tom Landry with an 83-66 record, but he has not gotten past the divisional round of the playoffs in three postseason appearances. He entered this season with a must-win mandate since he does not have a contract past this season.
A potential issue for Jones is who to make the interim coach even if he wanted to make the switch. In 2010, Garrett was the clear choice. In 2019, passing game coordinator Kris Richard, who calls the defense, and coordinator Rod Marinelli have presided over a group that has disappointed.
Despite entering Thursday with the top-ranked offense in terms of yards per game, with first-year coordinator Kellen Moore, the offense has bogged down in recent weeks.
If there is any optimistic bent to the Cowboys’ playoff chances, which might save Garrett’s job, it’s this: According to ESPN’s FPI, the loss dropped the Cowboys’ chances of making it to the postseason to just 70 percent. Had they won, their chances would have improved to 77%.
But is there any sense of confidence that the Cowboys can right all their wrongs before they play the Los Angeles Rams at AT&T Stadium on Dec. 15 even if Jones makes a change at head coach?
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