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Jets Epilogue and Note to Owner Woody Johnson: Control Your Message in 2013

BY EVAN WEINER
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COMjetslogo_opt_copy
COMMENTARY

There really isn't much of an autopsy report on the 2012 New York Jets football team's season. The Jets franchise is mediocre but not any worse than a good number of NFL teams such as Kansas City, Tennessee, Arizona, and Buffalo among others. There was no murder-suicide on the Jets Florham Park, New Jersey campus, no player was arrested for driving under the Influence and then charged with manslaughter. The head coach didn't lose a son to drug abuse. The maligned quarterback never spent any time in jail for staging dog fights.

Jets owner Woody Johnson’s team was at best mediocre and at worst bad.

Johnson's Jets franchise made a fatal flaw in allowing the tabloid local newspapers and the murder, mayhem, weather, sports and entertainment local news along with the Walt Disney Company's ESPN to control the team's message and in the NFL that is a major mistake.

Bringing in Tim Tebow brought the media vultures looking for something to get eyes in front of a television set or people to buy newspapers. What they reported upon was Tim Tebow's perceived perception, whatever that is to the football fan and the casual observer who normally would have no interest in football. Disney’s WABC TV news thought Tebow’s arrival warranted coverage beyond the two or so minutes allotted to sports. The so-called "circus" should have been controlled by the Jets public relations office.

It wasn't.

If you want to know how to control the message, look no further than the Johnson Jets partner in the Meadowlands stadium, the Mara-Tisch Giants. In 2011, the Giants organization basically neutered the team's radio partner, WFAN. It was a simple emasculation. WFAN officials went to the Giants front office asking for relief from paying an enormous sum to the team for radio rights. The Giants organization agreed to take the radio broadcasts fees off of the CBS stations hands in exchange for total control of the Giants broadcast. That meant producers could not tell Giants employees to make Tom Coughlin as example of what was in November 2011 of a mediocre team and start a chat of firing Coughlin as the team's coach.

The Giants franchise controlled the message. The radio station was reduced to a conduit which gave three to five hours a Sunday to the Giants organization. The team caught fire and went onto win the Super Bowl. The fire Coughlin thread was gone.

Franchises need to be intimidating not sympathetic to the media in this day and age.

Back in the early 1990s during the Vince Coleman-Bret Saberhagen New York Mets bleach throwing days, a WFAN radio host said there was no reason to pay money and watch those Mets. That host ran into the Mets General Manager Joe McIlvaine under the stands at Shea Stadium and was read the riot act. McIlvaine reminded the host that the Mets and WFAN were partners and that a partner does not run down the product.

When George Young assumed control of the Giants on field product as general manager in 1979, he ignored the New York tabloids. As that as going on, New York Jets coach Walt Michaels was throwing his Super Bowl III ring at the New York Daily News reporter Bill Verigan in 1981 and yelling do you have one of these? Shortly thereafter Jets quarterback Richard Todd stuffed New York Post reporter Steve Serby into a locker.

Young had control of his message. In 1981 and 1982, Leon Hess's Jets did not.

In 2011, Rex Ryan's "act" had worn thin with people in a dying industry - sportswriters.

Of course Ryan's team wasn't as good as it was in 2009 and 2010. So the scribes decided that Woody Johnson went out and got Tim Tebow in an effort to sell tickets as if that is a crime.

Getting special attractions to sell tickets took place in the heyday of the Roman Colosseum in 82 AD and in the Polo Grounds in 1925 AD. Tim Mara's New York Giants franchise was ready to go under financially and was "saved" by a stop of the Chicago Bears and Red Grange in a post-1925 season barnstorming tour. The game drew over 70,000 customers and provided Mara with the wherewithal to carry on.

Grange for his part tried to get a franchise in the NFL in 1926 and was denied. The typical NFL thank you for help even back then but did form a team in the American Football League called the New York Yankees. That team was absorbed by the NFL in 1927 after the AFL folded.

Selling tickets isn't a bad thing; it is a necessary lifeblood for a team.

Perhaps Woody Johnson lost the media when he said getting Mitt Romney elected as the President of the United States was more important than football.

Perhaps Woody Johnson needs lessons from other NFL owners in bulldozing the media.

He can hire a coach like Bill Parcells or Bobby Knight to terrify the media with intimidation the specialty. Or he can start his own little media empire like the Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder who controls his message through his website, which didn't please the money losing arm of the Kaplan SAT people's business, the Washington Post.

Snyder decided to announce Redskins news through his website and on his Washington area radio stations and the Washington Post cried foul. They were scooped by the Redskins owner.

The most fascinating part of the Jets "circus" is the tabloid battle between Rupert Murdoch's New York Post and Mort Zuckerman's New York Daily News which employs Murdoch's former editor at the disgraced and defunct News of the World London, England newspaper. The Daily News is sticking by the beat writer's source for all of the malcontented feeling that is emanating from Florham Park while the Post is debunking.

Meanwhile WFAN's Mike Francesa has outed the source as the defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. In a business such as the NFL, Pettine might not be able to get a job on another staff in a coordinator role if he is indeed the source.

Loose lips sink ships and the NFL is all about paranoia.

It appears the Tim Tebow Jets days are over and that may mean the end of the "circus" that local TV news, made up of the theory that murder, mayhem, entertainment, sports and weather is best for ratings, ESPN (Tebow drives numbers) and the tabloids created. If Johnson is lucky, the new publishing business that Murdoch was forced to start after splitting his News Corp in two because of legal problems in England will result in the New York Post ceasing to publish. The New York Times is no longer a player in sports.

ESPN will go chase other stories and put up putrid programming featuring sports journalists arguing about topics that underage and underpaid producers think push the viewing needle. They can chase Tebow in this next city or find something else.

Johnson needs to get control of his message just like New England's Robert Kraft (who has a coach in who broke a contract to coach Johnson's Jets, had two children arrested for underage alcohol and marijuana possession, allegedly broke up a marriage, a quarterback who dumped his girlfriend while she was late in her pregnancy, threatened to move to Hartford and hired a player who missed a season because of DUI manslaughter - as John Madden once said, winning is a great deodorant) or the Mara-Tisch group or even Jerry Jones in Dallas.

Johnson's Jets team is a mediocre team nothing more and nothing less. Losing control of the message was his biggest mistake in 2012.

*** *** ***

Evan Weiner can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . His e-book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition" is available at www.bickley.com and Amazon.com and another e-book, America's Passion: How a Coal Miner's Game Became the NFL in the 20th Century is available at www.smashwords.com

 
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