Christopher Johnson knows there are doubters. He knows there are plenty of Jets fans who see new coach Adam Gase and view him as an uninspired choice who had a losing record with the Dolphins.
The Jets CEO and chairman believes the fans will soon change their minds.
“I get it,” Johnson said of the fan reaction. “Part of it is based on I have to earn their trust. We just had a couple of down years. I have to earn their trust. I think that they will see this, if not right now then pretty soon, they’ll see this as a great hire.
“I’m not trying to win Twitter. I’m trying to win football games. I think we’re going to win some football games here.”
Gase, 40, is the man Johnson is putting in charge of winning those games. The Jets formally introduced the new coach on Monday as the 19th head coach in the history of the franchise. He will now try to end an eight-year playoff drought and a run of three straight losing seasons. He will try to become the first head coach to have a winning record with the Jets since Al Groh escaped in 2000 at 9-7.
For Gase, who was fired after three seasons with the Dolphins on Dec. 31, the Jets job was attractive because of the chance to work with quarterback Sam Darnold, who is entering his second year.
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“The number one thing for me was a young quarterback,” Gase said. “I also think the knowledge of playing these guys over the last three years. That was interesting for me to stay in the division, knowing your opponents right out of the gate. You’ve been on one of the other teams that you’re going to end up playing. To me, that was very intriguing. Like I said, I’ve worked with older [quarterbacks], guys in the middle of their career and I never really had the opportunity to work with someone who is fresh out of the draft basically and does have a year of experience.”
The Jets see Gase as an offensive innovator who can get the most out of Darnold.
“Adam’s vision synched well with what [general manager] Mike [Maccagnan] and I have talked about quite extensively when we started the process,” Johnson said. “He is intelligent, forward-thinking, progressive. To paraphrase Wayne Gretzky, he’s coaching to where football is going. That really appealed to me.”
Gase is taking over a team that went 4-12 last season under Todd Bowles. The team has resources to improve this offseason, though, with about $100 million in salary-cap space and the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft.
“My expectations for this team under Adam are very high,” Johnson said. “In short, I chose him to win, to win for our players, to win for this organization and most importantly, to win for our fans.”
However, Johnson would not say the coach has a mandate to make the playoffs.
“The fans do deserve better, no question about it,” Johnson said. “I do have high expectations, but there will be no playoff mandate, absolutely not. I will never do that.”
While Gase has a good reputation around the NFL for his work with quarterbacks and on offense, his Dolphins teams were not great offensively. Gase, who went 23-25 in Miami, said they had to adjust how they played after injuries to key players, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and that resulted in some poor statistics. Gase was fired in Miami after losing his final three games to finish this season at 7-9.
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“We sacrificed statistics to try to get wins,” Gase said. “That’s what we did. We focused on making sure we had great ball security and that we were getting turnovers on the other end. We were able to do that and stay in games and make plays at the end of the game that put us in position that when there were three games left, we were still alive in the playoff hunt. We just couldn’t finish it off.”
As for those who see him as nothing more than a below-.500 coach?
“We’re going to look to go better than .500,” Gase said. “We’re going to work to do that. That’s part of this process. Right now, we’re 0-0. That’s how we’re going to start the season. It’s a fresh start for everybody.”