Jets Must Now Hire RIGHT People to Win

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New York Jets owner Woody Johnson

On Monday, Woody Johnson made the expected move, which was to fire both Head Coach Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik. Now, after making wrong decision upon wrong decision in his previous hires as team owner since 2000, Johnson has the chance to FINALLY turn the Jets into a winning organization.

What has failed in the past?

Dating back to when Ewbank was replaced in 1976, the Jets have named 12 general managers or Presidents or Directors of Player Personnel, whose job was to draft players and lead the organization. Only ONE of those previous hires ever was hired by another organization after the Jets. Who was he? Bill Parcells. All of the other choices (Al Ward, Jim Kensil, Mike Hickey, Jim Royer, Joe Walton, Dick Steinberg, Dick Haley, Rich Kotite, Terry Bradway, Mike Tannebaum and John Idzik) did so poorly in their job with the Jets that another team never hired them.

Why? Was it because that perhaps these people should have never been hired in the first place? Only Dick Haley, Dick Steinberg and Terry Bradway had previous experience drafting players and being involved in personnel decisions. Steinberg, sadly was stricken with cancer and died four years into his tenure. Leon Hess then perhaps made his worst hire, giving the GM and Head Coaching reins to Rich Kotite claiming “I want to win now”. However, Kotite’s 4-28 record in both positions led Hess to make his best hire, bringing in Parcells.

Looking at the hires the Jets have made as head coach, only Parcells, Kotite and Charlie Winner had a winning record or any NFL head coaching experience, but Kotite’s tenure in Philadelphia (his only previous coaching experience before coming to the Jets) ended after he took a talented roster and turned an 11-5 team into a 7-9 team that ended the 1994 season on a 7-game losing streak. Realizing the mistake he made, Hess fired Kotite and chased after Parcells, who had just led the Patriots to the Super Bowl, becoming the only second coach in NFL history at that time to take two different franchises to the Super Bowl (Don Shula was the other (Colts, Dolphins). Since then Dan Reeves (Broncos, Falcons), Mike Holmgren (Packers, Seahawks) and Dick Vermeil (Eagles, Rams) have also accomplished this.)

Just how poorly have the Jets been in choosing who is going to lead their franchise? The Jets have won just two division titles since the merger. Of the other 25 teams that took part in that merger in 1970, every one of them outside of Detroit has won at least four division titles (the Lions have won three).

Since the merger in 1970, only the Jets, Titans (then Oilers) and Chiefs have failed to host a conference championship game. While the Chiefs (1995 and 1997) and Titans (2000 and 2008) have finished the regular season with home-field advantage in the postseason, the Jets are the only team never to accomplish either feat.

 

NY Jets Head CoachesSince Weeb Ewbank W-L Record after Jets-
Rex Ryan 46-50
   Eric Mangini 23-25 10-22
Herman Edwards 39-41 15-33
Al Groh 9-7 Never coached again
Bill Parcells 29-19 34-30
Rich Kotite 4-28 Never coached again
Pete Carroll 6-10 77-51
Bruce Coslet 26-38 21-39
Joe Walton 53-57-1 Never coached again
Walt Michaels 39-47-1 Never coached again
Lou Holtz 3-10 Never coached again in NFL
Ken Shipp 1-4 Never coached again
Charley Winner 9-14 Never coached again

After failing with his hires for GM and head coach in his tenure as Jets owner, Woody Johnson now has a chance to end the Jets 46-years of failure with finding the right man for both jobs. Who would fit the bill?

Jim Harbaugh would have been perfect to employ as the Jets Head Coach, but Harbaugh has taken the job with Michigan. Harbaugh’s age (51) and success in turning around the 49ers would have been perfect for the Jets, but in true Jets fashion, knowing there was a very limited window to move on Harbaugh, the Jets failed to land a coach that could have solved their problems.

Bill Cowher led the Steelers to a Super Bowl title in 2005 and at age 57 is still young enough to be the face of the Jets for at least a decade. Cowher’s credentials are impeccable, leading the Steelers to a .623 win percentage (149-90-1) while posting NINE seasons of double-digit wins (Jets have only won double-digit games ten times with eight coming after the merger) and winning eight division titles. Cowher led the Steelers to the postseason ten times, while hosting the AFC Championship game five times (was just 1-4 in those games however) and finishing with a 12-9 postseason record. Since retiring from coaching in 2006, Cowher has not shown interest in returning to the sidelines, but for a person who likes a challenge, rebuilding the Jets would be the ultimate accomplishment.

Bill Cowher compared to history of JetsSince AFL-NFL Merger in 1970
Cowher Jets
Division titles 8 2
Double-digit win seasons 9 8
Postseason wins 12 10
Championship Games hosted 5 0
Finished with best conference record 4 0
Super Bowl appearances 2 0

 

While there are other young assistants out there that I’m sure deserve head coaching jobs, the Jets have never succeeded when hiring those kind of candidates, so I’m limiting my head coaching suggestion in this article to just Cowher. The “next guy” theory, while working for teams like Baltimore and Pittsburgh, hasn’t worked for the Jets. Anyone else that the Jets consider (God forbid they hire Doug Marrone) would be a huge mistake.

Since Parcells left the organization, the Jets inability to find and hire no-nonsense football men, who have proven success in evaluating talent, drafting and setting a organizational plan has left them without any identity. Ozzie Newsome, Ted Thompson, Kevin Colbert and John Schneider are all candidates that have led their franchises to sustained success and built their teams around that formula. All of those men should be on Woody Johnson’s radar, but are currently under contract. However, forfeiting draft picks to snatch one of these brilliant people would be well worth it.

[Formula for sustained success in the NFL – Set an organizational plan, hire scouts and talent evaluators who understand and know how to implement that plan, building the team through free agency and the draft]

Once again, just like he did following the 2000, 2003 and 2008 seasons, Woody Johnson has a chance to set his franchise up with people who can lead the Jets back to relevant status and out of the laughing stock they have been for so long. Jets fans can only pray that Johnson has learned from his mistakes and the Jets do what they have only done once in franchise history and that’s hire a proven winner that can set an organizational plan for success.