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Woody Johnson says New York Jets lucky to have GM Joe Douglas, coach Robert Saleh

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Because of unusual circumstances, New York Jets chairman Woody Johnson wasn't involved in the hiring of coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas. Essentially, he inherited them, but the longtime owner professed his confidence in the new leadership tandem.

"They've got a tremendous amount of leeway," Johnson said Wednesday, speaking to the football media for the first time in four years. "I'm totally in sync with these guys. Chris [Johnson] made some unbelievable choices, and we're lucky to get both of those gentlemen.

"I couldn't be more excited," he continued. "I'm very optimistic, generally, but I'm particularly optimistic now when I see what happens on the field [in practice]."

Johnson was gone four seasons while serving an ambassadorship to the United Kingdom. He ceded control of the team to his younger brother, Christopher, who changed coaches (twice) and hired a new general manager. In January, Woody Johnson, 74, returned to the team, shortly after Saleh was named to replace Adam Gase.

Johnson has spent the last few months getting to know Saleh and Douglas, who was hired in June 2019. He said Saleh has a "unique ability to communicate" and a "tremendous philosophy. ... I think it's a winning philosophy. He's got the ingredients to be really good."

Johnson noted that Douglas is a disciple of former Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, and "anybody that is related to Ozzie Newsome pretty much has a gold star, right?"

During a 15-minute session with reporters, Johnson expressed optimism and hope, saying there's "great harmony" in the organization. That wasn't always the case during his four-year hiatus. At times, the Jets were dysfunctional. On the field, they were a disaster -- an 18-46 record, tied with the New York Giants for the league's worst mark over that span. The Jets haven't made the playoffs in 10 years, the NFL's longest active drought.

"Why did you have to bring that up?" Johnson joked.

The Jets, coming off a 2-14 season, face a rebuilding year with a rookie quarterback, Zach Wilson. Johnson, who made the playoffs six times in his first decade as the owner (2000-2010), said he wants to win now. He said this team could be "special," but acknowledged it's early.

"We'll do everything in our power to put a winning team on the field this year ... the first game, second game, third game," he said. "Getting the right team in place, I think we've done an incredible job so far. But, yeah, we want to win. We're in the win business. We didn't sign up for this to lose."

Johnson said he will be "pretty involved" in the day-to-day operation of the team, but not in terms of personnel decisions.

He was the subject of controversy in his role as a U.S. ambassador. Last summer, the State Department released a report that said the staff at the U.S. embassy in London was subjected to comments by Johnson that were racially and sexually inappropriate.

Johnson, who denied the allegations in the report, reiterated his stance on Wednesday.

"The office of civil rights conducted an extensive survey [on] the allegations and concluded that none of it was substantiated, none of it," he said. "There's a letter to that effect, and documents, which is what I suspected.

"My wife was absolutely furious when she saw [the initial report]. She said it goes against my history of everything I've done for my entire life. So it was something was really hard on me to listen to all this stuff, but that's done."