Jets owner Woody Johnson is delighted with the direction of his team under the leadership of general manager Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles, who enter their second season after replacing John Idzik and Rex Ryan.
But in an interesting postscript to last year’s exhaustive search for a new general manager and coach, during which Johnson met with more than half a dozen prospective coaches, the owner also reached out to a Super Bowl-winning coach to gauge his interest in coming back to the sidelines.
Former Packers and Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, who has coached in three Super Bowls and has one championship on his resume, was a consideration for Johnson before Holmgren ultimately declined the chance to coach in New York.
“We were being as creative as we could, and we were looking for talent,” Johnson told Newsday at this week’s NFL owners meetings in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Mike has a Super Bowl record, and we wanted to see what he thought about our process, how football had changed, how it had stayed the same, whether he had any advice for us, that kind of thing.”
But Johnson was interested to see if Holmgren, who was 66 at the time he spoke to the Jets’ owner, would consider a return to coaching. Holmgren last coached with Seattle in 2008, having gotten the Seahawks to the Super Bowl after the 2005 season. He led the Packers to consecutive Super Bowl appearances in the mid-1990’s, winning a championship after the 1996 season with Brett Favre as his quarterback.
Holmgren declined to comment about Johnson’s inquiry. He reportedly expressed an interest in coaching the 49ers before the team hired Chip Kelly earlier this year. Holmgren last worked in the NFL as the Browns’ president from 2010-12. He has a 174-122 overall record as a coach, including a 13-11 mark in the playoffs.
Former Packers general manager Ron Wolf, who hired Holmgren as Green Bay’s coach in 1992, served as an adviser to Johnson during the Jets’ coach/general manager search last year. But Wolf said Thursday he was not involved in any discussions with Holmgren, signaling that Johnson had reached out to the coach before working with Wolf. Former NFL general manager Charley Casserly was Johnson’s other adviser during last year’s search.
“This was for coaching, just coaching,” Johnson said of any consideration for Holmgren. “It wasn’t for general manager or anything else. That setup doesn’t work normally. You get too many jobs for one person. But I was flattered he took the call. It’s Mike Holmgren we’re talking about. He’s a legendary figure, a great coach. I enjoyed talking to him.”
In the end, though, Johnson is convinced he came away with a terrific tandem and a long-term partnership with Maccagnan and Bowles. In their first season together, the Jets went 10-6 and got to within a game of reaching the playoffs. Maccagnan had been the Texans’ director of college scouting and Bowles was the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator before they came to the Jets. Maccagnan was selected as the Pro Football Writers of America’s Executive of the Year in 2015.
“I’m delighted we ended up the way we did,” Johnson said. “The search was very thorough. We had Charley and Ron, two legendary general managers, help us with this. I couldn’t be happier with Todd and Mike.”