For the second time in three years, the New York Jets took their annual Town Hall back to Long Island. Hundreds of season ticket holders attended the Modell's sponsored event at NYCB Theatre at Westbury, which featured a lively Q&A session with GM Mike Maccagnan, head coach Todd Bowles and president Neil Glat.
"This is a fan base that identifies generation-by-generation with this team," said Bob Wischusen, the Voice of the Jets who emceed the festivities. "So at an event like tonight, there will be grandparents with their kids, those kids with their sons and daughters. It's a fan base that obviously is very thirsty for a championship, but has identified with this team as their team for a very long time."
Glat, who is entering his fifth season as the team's president, was pleased that fans had the opportunity to hear Bowles and Maccagnan discuss the team in an intimate setting.
"We really pride ourselves on being accessible whether it's our Jets House or our Jets Cruise or our draft parties," Glat said. "This one's a little bit different because there aren't a lot of players here. But this is really more about finding out what's going on behind the scenes with the team. Most of the interest will obviously be with Coach Bowles and Mike Maccagnan, and what's going on with the team and how they're getting ready for the season. But we'll also answer any of the questions they have about the overall fan experience."
Fans Hear from Woody Johnson, Neil Glat, Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles on Long Island
After a Flight Crew presentation, a few words from Glat and a trivia segment, the football questions came fast and furious. Wischusen broke the ice with Maccagnan, asking the general manager to break down the Jets' latest offer to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick incentive-by-incentive.
"We feel Ryan is a very good fit for us and we have a very good situation for him, so we think we're attracted to each other," Maccagnan said. "But it's a process we're going through and we want to work that out."
Later a fan wearing a Jets' Fitzpatrick jersey asked if he should should keep his shirt.
"I think you hold onto the jersey," Bowles said. "If we sign him back, you have a good one. If not, you have a collector's item."
There were additional quarterback questions including one from social media on the benefits of virtual reality. The technology assisted Bryce Petty as a rookie and it should help Christian Hackenberg as he enters the league as well.
"It's a lot easier mentoring the younger quarterbacks or the backups because they don't get the reps as a starter. So after practice, they can put on the virtual reality and simulate going through the practice, just like the starter taking all the reps," Bowles said. "I think it's more beneficial for the backups. The starter can see what he did wrong, but the backups that are being groomed can see the whole practice and go through the whole practice in their heads. So yes, it's beneficial that way."
The Jets have a new special teams coordinator in Brant Boyer and there will be competition at both the KR and PR spots. Bowles said free agent signees Jeremy Ross and Chandler Worthy as well as rookies Jalin Marshall (Ohio State) and Robby Anderson (Temple) will all get opportunities to handle returns in the summer.
"We're going to let them battle it out in camp," he said. "But we do think we have a couple of good guys back there."
The Jets were back in Long Island just eight miles from where they called home for decades at Weeb Ewbank Hall at Hofstra University. It was Jets talk on the Island, a place that will always be a special part of team history.
"It's something that has been well-received and we like doing it because of the opportunity to hear from the fans, what they like and what they don't like and how we get better," Glat said of the Town Hall. "We've had fans come up to us and say, 'This is the best event of the season.' The chance for them to get this close to the action, to have their questions asked and to have their points of view heard. The feedback has always been tremendous, so when you get that kind of feedback from fans, we're always looking to do more of those types of things."
"I think there are a lot of Jets fans who understand how unique an opportunity this is," added Wischusen. "There are not a lot of pro sports organizations — even in the smallest of markets — who offer this kind of an event for the fans to really have contact with the decision makers. And I don't know how many pro sports organizations put you in a theater where you get to walk up to a microphone and directly ask the general manager or ask the coach a question. This is unique."