Woody Johnson to resume principal owner duties with New York Jets

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets have a new coach and a new way of doing business.

On the day they introduced Robert Saleh as head coach, the Jets announced a reorganization of their power structure. It will be headed by chairman Woody Johnson, who flew back to the United States on Thursday after a completing a three-year term as U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Johnson will resume his duties as the principal owner "quite soon," according Christopher Johnson, who ran the franchise during his older brother's absence. Christopher will become the vice chairman and will maintain a prominent role in the day-to-day operations.

Instead of reporting directly to ownership, as the two previous coaches did, Saleh will work directly under general manager Joe Douglas. This means greater power for Douglas, who spearheaded the coaching search and still will report to ownership.

Christopher Johnson said the new setup is "a clean and simple way to do things." One aspect of the dynamic is unusual in that Saleh hasn't met Woody Johnson, who has owned the team since 2000. Woody Johnson, who lived in London, wasn't directly involved in the coaching search.

"I haven't had a conversation with Woody yet," Saleh said during a virtual news conference. "[I'm] really excited to get the opportunity in the near future."

Saleh said he's "not concerned at all" about his lack of familiarity with his boss, adding that he expects it to be "a collaborative effort."

Woody Johnson will have the final say on all decisions, according to Christopher Johnson, who expects "a fair amount of continuity" because of a strong working relationship with his brother.

While serving overseas, Woody Johnson was the subject of U.S. government investigation that concluded he made racist and sexist remarks. Johnson issued a denial.

In four seasons with Christopher Johnson as the acting owner, the Jets went 18-46, finishing in last place in the division three times.

Clearly, Saleh is walking into a massive challenge, but he was upbeat and confident during his introduction to the media.

"Get used to the mantra: All gas, no brake," said Saleh, who signed a five-year contract.

Saleh, who spent the past four seasons as the San Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator, said he won't call the defensive plays. That will allow him to be a CEO-type coach, a departure from the previous staff -- a welcome change from the organization's point of view. Former coach Adam Gase called the offensive plays and focused mainly on that side of the ball.

Saleh will entrust the defensive playcalling to newly hired coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, mostly recently the Atlanta Falcons' interim defensive coordinator.

Former 49ers passing-game coach Mike LaFleur will be the offensive coordinator, Saleh confirmed.

The biggest question facing Saleh is the future of quarterback Sam Darnold. Repeating Douglas' public stance on Darnold, Saleh praised the former first-round draft pick, but he stopped short of committing to him as the starter.

Saleh said he's still evaluating the roster. With the second pick in this April's draft, the Jets could opt for a quarterback. He wasn't about to tip their hand.

"He's got unbelievable arm talent," Saleh said of Darnold, the NFL's lowest-rated passer in 2020. "There's a reason why he was the No. 3 pick in the [2018] draft. He's fearless in the pocket. He's got a natural throwing motion. He's mobile. He's extremely intelligent. He's tough as nails. His reputation in the locker room is unquestioned.

"You can see all those qualities on tape and around the building by the way people speak about him."

Ultimately, the decision belongs to Douglas, who has the final say on the roster.

The prevailing theme in the news conference was Saleh's leadership and ability to connect with players, something the Jets felt was lacking under Gase.

"When we met him," Christopher Johnson said of Saleh, "we knew we had our coach."

Saleh, trying to rebuild the culture, already has reached out to every player via text. He said there's "a lot of talent on this roster" -- he gushed about defensive tackle Quinnen Williams -- yet he acknowledged there's a lot of work to be done.

"It will take time," he said, "but everything we do will be designed to win championships in the future."