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Woody Speaks
By James J. Parziale
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
November 23rd, 2005
The usual mute Jets owner Woody Johnson addressed the media today and gave Head Coach Herm Edwards a vote of confidence. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
The usual mute Jets owner Woody Johnson addressed the media today and gave Head Coach Herm Edwards a vote of confidence. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
With the losses mounting and a deafening silence blaring from Jets management, it was anyone’s guess as to how certain head coach Herm Edwards status with the team truly was. Last week, Edwards openly evaluated his future and, according to reports, had one foot out the door of Weeb Ewbank Hall, with the other planted in Kansas City.

It took Jets owner Woody Johnson a week to get the hint, but better late then never. Johnson, pressured by the media’s prodding, put the kibosh on the swirling buzz around Edwards’ future, giving the Jets’ fifth-year head coach a public pat on the back.

Johnson called an impromptu press conference with reporters at Hofstra, uttering “Herm is going to be here” (or some variation thereof) on five separate occasions during his seven-minute sermon. Johnson was so emphatic, that when asked about Edwards potentially high-tailing out of New York to replace his mentor, Dick Vermeil, in Kansas City, Johnson interjected before the reporter finished the question.

“Herm’s not leaving. He’s doing everything he can to win and I think the team is doing everything it can to win,” Johnson said.

With 10 players on injured reserve, including the top two quarterbacks, the Jets have not have the resources to fire on all cylinders. Johnson’s cognizance about how devastating injuries are in the NFL played into his decision to stand behind Edwards. “It’s one of those things with team sports. You would rather to have never gone through this,” he said.

“It is what it is. I wish we were 8-2 rather than 2-8. And we are going to do everything we can this week against New Orleans,” Johnson continued. “We haven’t lost our focus on winning. We want to win and we’re trying to do everything we can.”

The media brushfire wouldn’t have spread so quickly had Edwards and Johnson not fanned the flames. Last week, Edwards fielded questions about his future with the organization and spoke candidly about the reality of his potential departure.

“In the end, if they feel like I’m not holding up my end of the bargain, they have to do what they have to do,” said Edwards. Realizing the magnitude of his words, Edwards later called media outlets in a last-ditch effort at damage control.

Johnson’s refusal to field questions about Edwards’ returning in 2006 after the Jets 27-0 loss at Denver Sunday only inflated speculation. Hence, 10 years to the day that late Jets owner Leon Hess referred to his then 2-9 team as “a bunch of horses’ asses,’” Johnson squelched the whispers about Edwards.

“You’re going to have bad years like you do in any business,” said Johnson, who also is the CEO and chairman of The Johnson Company. “At the first sight of something going wrong, we’re not going to jump ship. We’re trying to win every game we can, realizing that you might to lose some games.”

That’s a bit of an understatement. The Jets are in the midst of their worst season in a decade, though the injury bug can be leaned on as an excuse. Losing QBs Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler in the span of seven plays against the Jaguars can be passed off as bad luck.

But to lose two starting offensive lineman for the season and have your third (Brooks Bollinger) and fourth string (Vinny Testaverde) quarterbacks go down against the Broncos is enough to make you believe the Jets are at the mercy of a voodoo curse.

It’s no wonder Edwards decided to prod the situation, inadvertently or not. Likely, Edwards was just dipping his toe in the water trying to see if he was still desirable to the Jets. Johnson took the bait.

“What Herm is doing is trying to build a culture of winning,” Johnson said. “We’re having a bad year, but we’re still living the culture. We want the best for the young players on this team.”

Edwards, whose record is 38-39 including playoffs, is signed through 2007 and may be angling for a contract extension, as well. Johnson set a precedent after 2003 by extending Edwards’ contract following a 6-10 campaign; Edwards worst with the Jets. The leap of faith gave Edwards enough time to rebuild an aging defense by brining in coordinator Donnie Henderson and an injection of youth.

With the offense in dire straights and in need of an off season overhaul, will history repeat itself?

“We’re not going to talk about the extension,” Johnson said. “He’s got two years left on his contract. We’re not going to talk about contracts and all that. I can’t make it any clearer that I think Herm is great. I think he’s great for this team.”

Johnson dispelled the possibility of allowing Edwards to talk to other teams once the season was over, saying: “It’s a free world, but I don’t want him to leave. I never wanted him to leave. He doesn’t want to leave. We talk all the time and I’m very happy with Herm.

“Herm is doing a fabulous job,” Johnson said.

Johnson did not address the chatter about Edwards landing in Kansas City after the season and would not “speculate on speculation. I’m just going to tell you that he wants to be here and we want him here,” he said.

Johnson “is happy if Herm is happy” with the remainder of the coaching staff and he has “100 percent confidence in them. I really do.”

With the air cleared in regards to Edwards, Johnson said he was pleased with the jobs general manager Terry Bradway and assistant GM Mike Tannenbaum have done, and all but said there was no impending front office shake up looming once the season ends.

“You don’t want to lose, but losing is inevitable if you’re around this sport if you’re around long enough,” Johnson said. “We’re very happy. We’re not happy losing, but I’m very happy with Herm and he’s a great leader for the team.

“Hopefully, he’ll be a great leader for many, many years to come.”

INSIDER TIDBITS

Where’s Curtis? If anything has been a tell-tale sign off the Jets’ offensive ineptitude, it’s the disappearing act Curtis Martin has done. Hampered by a knee injury from earlier in the season, Martin carried the ball a paltry four time for seven yards against the Broncos.

Take away his 148 yards against the Bills, and Martin’s season-high in rushing yards is 75 in the team’s loss at Carolina. He is averaging a mere 3.4 yards per carry and is on pace to finish with under 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.

Head coach Herman Edwards said Martin’s decrease in production is a result of a knee injury, the offensive line’s troubles and the vast deficits the offense has faced.

Herm on Kliff Kingsbury: “He’s mobile. His whole thing is getting under center.” Kingsbury played in a shotgun offense at Texas Tech.

-Edwards said WR Wayne Chrebet is nursing back to health, but will not attend this week’s game.

-In addition to talking about Edwards, Johnson said the Jets will have a site picked out for their new training facility “sooner rather than later.”

-The Jets offense is averaging a slim 230 yards-per-game, which ranks them 30th. Only San Francisco and Houston have been more futile than the Jets.

-Vinny Testaverde has 12 turnovers this season and no touchdown passes.

INJURY REPORT

Kliff Kingsbury will be the likely No. 2 quarterback behind Brooks Bollinger Sunday night against the Saints. Vinny Testaverde, who is “a little hobbled,” according to Edwards, will be relegated to third string. RB Derrick Blaylock can walk, but is not in game shape, according to Edwards.

-QB Jay Fiedler (shoulder): out
-CB David Barrett (eye): out
-RB Derrick Blaylock (foot): doubtful
-QB Brooks Bollinger (concussion): questionable

On Injured Reserve: QB Chad Pennington, TE Chris Baker, Ts Jason Fabini and Marko Cavka, C Kevin Mawae, LBs Eric Barton, Mondoe Davis and Darrell McClover, WR Wayne Chrebet, and S Andre Maddox.

No holiday for the Jets as they return to practice tomorrow to continue preparation for the Saints. Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com for all the latest NY Jets news. On behalf of the entire JI staff, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!