Johnston: Distractions will be tough for Jets

The producers, analysts and behind-the-scenes staff of NFL Network gather daily behind closed doors to hash through the topics that will be discussed on “NFL Total Access.” Quite often, we’re talking about what you’re talking about.

One of the focal topics earlier Wednesday, like it has been all week, was the off-field distractions for the New York Jets. Rich Eisen, Daryl Johnston and Rod Woodson led the discussion on whether these distractions — the latest being the situation surrounding reporter Ines Sainz, which prompted a league memo — will catch up with what the Jets do on the field.

The latest — call it a “distraction” if you chose — for the Jets has wide appeal, reaching all the way to news channels and broadcast network morning shows. Bringing it back to football, though … will it impact the Jets?

Johnston spent 11 NFL seasons playing for a high-profile franchise with a high-profile owner, playing for high-profile coaches alongside high-profile players. He’s accustomed to playing through distractions, and we had an interesting chat on the topic. Here are some thoughts from Johnston:

“If you’re a team that is talking about making a championship run, if you’re a team that is going to put a bullseye on your back for everyone else, then one of the things you have to do a great job of is eliminating the things that are within your control that can become a distraction. For the Jets to hit the Kris Jenkins injury and the issue with the female reporter in about a 36-hour period, it’s going to be very tough for them.

“We went through some of it in Dallas. We had things that were within our control that we were letting become distractions within our team as we tried to focus on winning a championship. … I’m interested to see how Rex Ryan works his way through this situation. He can still have that same mentality and the same personality that he’s carried through “Hard Knocks” and what the entire country has been able to see. I like it. It’s refreshing. I wish he’d clean the language up from time to time, but I like his confidence in his team. I think the players respond to it really well.

“This situation, though, is completely different from an injury or some other distraction. Now you’ve got to tone it down and try to control things away from the team that can impact your team. A lot of times, when people talk about Bill Belichick maybe being too much the other way, a situation like this is his biggest fear. He has the one-voice mentality, he rules with an iron fist and has got a thumb on everyone. It’s so hard to win games in the NFL, and when you allow something that was within your control to become an issue, a distraction or a reason why you lost a game, it’s the worst-case scenario.”

The disparities between the Patriots and Jets are compelling, and Tom Brady was actually asked earlier in the day about the two schools of thought.

“Well, how could you not hear it? Of course we hear it,” Brady said of the talk from the Jets. “We just go about our business in a different way, a way that has worked for us. Every coach has his style, and we take on the style of our head coach, who, as you guys know, doesn’t say much. So we typically don’t say much. And when we do, we get yelled at. That doesn’t seem like the program the Jets are on.”

While the Patriots avoid distraction, the Jets embrace notoriety. We’ll see how much of that makes an impact on the field. Catch more of this topic with Eisen, Johnston and Woodson on NFLTA today at 7 p.m. ET.

– Frank Tadych

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