Jets owner backs Sanchez, doesn’t rule out Manning

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He added that the blame shouldn’t be placed all on Sanchez, despite his lousy finish, but agreed that he might need a backup who could help challenge him.

“He’s got to have somebody breathing on his back, yeah, I think you could argue that,” Johnson said.

Johnson also is “concerned but I’m confident” that the fractured relationship between Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes can be mended.

Holmes was highly critical of the offensive line during the season and clearly had some tension with his quarterback.

It all came to a head in the season finale at Miami when Holmes was benched late in the game after arguing with teammates in the huddle.

“They’ve won a lot of games together and one is good for the other,” Johnson said. “Santonio makes the quarterback a lot better and vice versa. So they have a good reason to iron this thing out and I think they can do it.”

Johnson acknowledged that he might sit down with the two, either individually or together, at some point. While he added that Holmes will definitely be back, the Jets are tied to Holmes financially after they gave him a five-year, $45 million deal last offseason _ something the owner doesn’t regret.

“He may be one of the best players we’ve ever had here,” said Johnson said, who added that he was troubled by the perception that Holmes quit on the team as the season ended.

“I have a good relationship with Santonio,” Johnson said. “He’s going to have a fresh start this year and I think he’ll take advantage of it. He knows it’s important to him, it’s important to us.”

Johnson also disputed LaDainian Tomlinson’s claim on Showtime’s “Inside The NFL” that the Jets had the worst locker room tension he has ever seen, saying the running back might have overstated things.

“I didn’t feel a toxicity in the locker room,” Johnson said, adding that he’ll talk to Tomlinson to clarify his statements.

“I hear what LaDainian (is saying). I respect LaDainian at the highest level, but I don’t think the whole locker room was toxic. I think there were clearly a few players that had conflicts. … Would you love to have total harmony? Maybe. But maybe it’s good to have a little bit of disharmony also. But they have to care about each other.”

Ryan has said that he felt he never really had the pulse of the locker room, and many _ including Tomlinson _ think the coach’s brash approach, along with general manager Mike Tannenbaum, set the tone for what took place. Johnson supported the aggressive style, saying it is more of a positive when building a team.

“The great thing about Rex as opposed to people not like Rex, is that he has a very healthy ego,” Johnson added. “It’s very healthy. He realizes that being a great coach requires admitting mistakes perhaps or changing or altering his style or management style or learning that we don’t all grow up being great managers at age 40 whatever he is. Sometimes, it takes you a little longer and in most cases it does to be a good manager.”

Johnson has spoken to Ryan about how the season unfolded, and believes the coach will keep improving.

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