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New York Jets owner ready to find ‘missing piece’ at QB, return to playoffs

Oct 10, 2021; London, England, United Kingdom; New York Jets owner Woody Johnson reacts during an NFL International Series game against the Atlanta Falcons at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Falcons defeated the Jets 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jets head coach Robert Saleh believes purported franchise quarterback Zach Wilson needs a break. The owner of the New York franchise might be more willing to offer a permanent vacation.

Woody Johnson said Thursday that he’s willing to spend big money this offseason to bring in a veteran the owner believes is “kind of the missing piece.”

“We’ve got to get better faster,” Johnson said of the Jets, who fired offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur and could make other changes to reset the offensive side of the roster.

Johnson said “full autonomy” was granted for Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas to make changes. Johnson plans to encourage the team to hold onto Wilson, who was benched after a 10-3 loss to the Patriots sparked the team’s stumble to a 1-7 record in the final eight games.

The Jets were last in the AFC East for the seventh time in nine years. Their last playoff appearance was 2010.

Not developing a quarterback — Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Sam Darnold and Wilson have had multiple seasons at the helm from 2011-22 — continues to concern Johnson.

Johnson said letting Wilson develop behind a veteran starter has been his preference from the time the Jets drafted him No. 2 overall in 2021.

“Zach had a tough year. There’s no denying that,” said Johnson. “I still have confidence that I’ve seen some kernels of real talent there. But the confidence level … whatever it was, went down.”

Wilson had six touchdowns and seven interceptions in his second season as the starter. The Jets averaged 17.4 points and ranked 25th in total offense at 318.2 yards per game.

But New York’s defense — and Saleh’s specialty — brings cause for optimism, Johnson said. The Jets were fourth in total defense and third against the pass in 2022.

Based on the success of the defense, Johnson believes a similar improvement is possible with the right offensive coordinator in place next season. He insisted there was no mandate placed on Douglas or Saleh to be in the playoffs next year, but traced his expectations nonetheless.

“This team is loaded, I think, and ready to go,” Johnson said.

–Field Level Media