FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — This time, the New York Jets will try something different. Instead of bolstering one side of the ball, which they tried unsuccessfully two years ago with the hiring of the offensive-minded Adam Gase, CEO Christopher Johnson said Monday they will look for a head coach who can galvanize the entire team.
“I don’t much like the term ‘CEO,’ but it does describe what we’re looking for,” Johnson said. “We want a head coach that coaches the entire team and his staff. You don’t have to be offensive, you don’t have to be defensive. This is a coach for the entire team. That’s very important to us looking forward.”
The Jets have sought permission to interview at least five candidates — offensive coordinators Eric Bieniemy (Kansas City Chiefs), Brian Daboll (Buffalo Bills) and Arthur Smith (Tennessee Titans) and defensive coordinators Matt Eberflus (Indianapolis Colts) and Brandon Staley (Los Angeles Rams), sources said. There will be several more requests in the coming days.
Johnson predicted a “broad and deep” search that could take up to a few weeks. This is a departure from 2019, when they focused on offensive coaches who could groom quarterback Sam Darnold. That didn’t work out. The Jets went 9-23 under Gase, whose offense finished 32nd in both seasons. He was fired Sunday night.
Johnson tacitly admitted he didn’t care for the structure under Gase, who gave former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams full autonomy on that side of the ball.
“We’ve seen that in action,” Johnson said. “I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad way of doing things, but in our case, I think we can do better.”
General manager Joe Douglas will lead the search — another departure for the franchise. In past searches, the Jets hired consultants and a head-hunting firm. With the Gase hiring, Johnson took the lead. This time, he will rely on his top football executive even though Douglas, hired in 2019, never has hired a head coach.
“Joe is the GM we’ve been searching for for years,” Johnson said. “I have a lot of faith in him. If we can get this coaching hire right, and I think we will, I think we can be a team that no one is going to want to see on their schedule even next year. And we’ll see where we can go with that.”
Aside from hiring a coach, the Jets’ biggest decision involves the quarterback. Johnson gave incumbent Sam Darnold a vote of confidence, saying he wants Darnold on the team. But he quickly noted he will let Douglas and the new coach make the decision. Johnson once said the same thing about safety Jamal Adams, who wound up getting traded.
“I’m a huge fan of Sam,” Johnson said. “I think he’s a great QB. I think he has really wonderful talent and drive and leadership. … I don’t think the book has been written on Sam. He has a very big future, and I personally hope it’s on this team. That’s what I told him [Sunday] night after the game.”
Darnold, who struggled in his third season, could be replaced by a rookie as the Jets own the second pick in the 2021 NFL draft. On Monday, he reiterated that he wants to finish his career with the Jets.
“I want to turn this thing around,” Darnold said. “I believe that we can.”
On clean-out day, several players harped on the same theme: The team needs to improve its culture. In a team meeting, Johnson and Douglas stressed to players the priority is finding a coach who can accomplish that.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter contributed to this report.