FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets unveiled their new boss Wednesday, trotting out Christopher Johnson to the media. This was his first moment in the spotlight, his first chance to discuss his role and vision for the franchise -- and, perhaps most importantly, his first opportunity to assuage a fan base that has lost confidence in his older brother, Woody Johnson, the owner-turned-ambassador.
It wasn't a large-scale, Tebow-esque news conference, only a small, no-cameras-allowed gathering in a conference room at One Jets Drive, but Johnson still impressed. He was realistic about the present state of the team and hopeful about the future. He exuded confidence, indicating that he will be his own man, not a puppet for his older brother. He joked that he wants to make the Super Bowl one day and leave two tickets for Woody at will call because "every little brother wants to show up his big brother."
Brilliant. Where has this guy been hiding?
Johnson struck the right chords in a 20-minute session with reporters, yet it was something he did behind the scenes that resonated the most with the men he employs. Johnson visited the team cafeteria and sat down for lunch with the players. On this day, he ate with running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. Other players noticed, including tackle Kelvin Beachum, whose first NFL owner -- the late Dan Rooney -- did that on a daily basis with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"That stuff goes a long way," Beachum said. "I know this is a business, and these owners run $2 billion corporations, but it's still a people business. It's cool when an owner does that. That's big for me because it shows they care."
Johnson looks like his older brother and sounds like him at times, but their personalities and approaches are different. Christopher won't be an every-day-at-the-office owner like John Mara and Robert Kraft, but he's planning to be around as much as possible. Woody was so involved in the 2016 presidential campaign -- first for Jeb Bush, then for Donald Trump -- that it took him away from his football team for nearly two years. He attended games and kept in touch with his top football people, but his absence was noticed in the locker room.
Now it's Christopher Johnson's show. Big Brother is watching, but he isn't meddling, according to Christopher.
After 17 years in a background role -- rarely seen and never heard -- Christopher Johnson said he is in charge of the Jets and will make all the decisions. There will be some big ones in the coming months, namely regarding the futures of general manager Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles. Johnson said he won't be dialing his big bro in London for input on those or any other issues confronting the franchise.
"We are not discussing football," Johnson said of his brother, the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. "He's out of it."
It's hard to believe Woody Johnson, still the majority owner, will have no say in the direction of his $2.75 billion franchise. But, hey, call me cynical. It was important for Christopher Johnson to convey authority because the last thing the Jets need is the perception that Woody is calling the shots from Winfield House, the London mansion that will be his home. A two-headed owner, coupled with a two-headed power structure in football ops (Maccagnan and Bowles), would be too many heads for a team that figures to get its tail kicked.
If Christopher truly is in charge -- he's the chairman and CEO -- that's good news for the Jets. It's time for a fresh perspective. Let's be honest: One of the reasons the Jets are where they are is because of Woody, who has presided over 17 years of mediocrity. When he handed the team to Christopher, he told him, "It's your team. Don't mess it up."
Too late, it already is. Christopher's job is to clean it up. The plan is for Woody to resume control when his overseas gig is up.
It's certainly fair to wonder about Christopher's qualifications -- he didn't play football or grow up in football -- so there's no guarantee they'll be better off with him than his brother. But I can tell you this: He isn't a "neophyte" (his word) when it comes to the Jets. A minority owner since Woody bought the team in 2000, Christopher has been involved in a behind-the-scenes capacity, serving as a sounding board for his brother. The first big decision on his watch was the Sheldon Richardson trade. So far, that looks like a win for the Jets.
Johnson said he won't judge Maccagnan and Bowles on the win-loss record, claiming that the GM and coach will be evaluated on how the team progresses through the season. He sounded a bit Pollyanna-ish when he said the answer "will be obvious." Decisions such as that usually aren't black and white. His praise for Maccagnan and Bowles seemed a bit over the top, considering they've lost 14 of their past 19 games, but he wanted to show support.
For the most part, the new boss said all the right things and avoided the usual PR spin. It was straight talk, and it was a breath of fresh air, right down to his appeal to the fan base: "My biggest challenge is to earn the trust of the fans, to have them know I care about this team deeply, and I'm going to do everything I can to make it a great team again."