HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) – After a week of bungled attempts to clear up Herman Edwards’ future with the New York Jets, team owner Woody Johnson finally made an emphatic statement.

“Herm’s not leaving,” Johnson said Wednesday.

Johnson addressed the situation following an embarrassing week of rampant speculation that had Edwards leaving for Kansas City should Dick Vermeil retire when the season ends. Edwards fed the flames last Wednesday when he wondered about his place in the organization, then backpedaled and reiterated he wanted to stay and help the Jets win a Super Bowl.

On Sunday, Johnson was asked to answer questions about Edwards after a horrible 27-0 loss to Denver, but he instead said the team “gave everything they had to give.”

as reporters chased after him and refused to talk about his coach.

Finally, Johnson decided it would be in his best interest to put the speculation to rest and give Edwards a vote of confidence despite the way the season has gone for the Jets (2-8). Johnson was at practice and addressed the team afterward, giving players some relief, too.

“I think he’s performing fabulously,” Johnson said. “We’re not winning, but he’s doing everything he can to win and I think the team is doing everything they can to win. When I’m down at league meetings and I talk to my colleagues down there, they say, Woody, this happens, unfortunately.”‘

The Jets have been hit with one injury after another, with 10 players on injured reserve and 10 players on this week’s injury report. They were forced to use their fifth quarterback of the season against Denver after Brooks Bollinger and Vinny Testaverde got hurt.

Several players said it was good to hear from the owner after practice.

“Once you hear it from the horses mouth, there’s nothing else to talk about,” running back Curtis Martin said.

Center Pete Kendall agreed.

“I think it’s great. I think it’s the right call,” he said. “I think Herm is a great football coach. I think so much of what has been going on here can’t be laid at his feet.”

Nonetheless, there are question marks for next season. It appears the Jets need to totally overhaul their aging offense. Edwards has two years left on his contract, and it is believed he wants an extension because he is faced with another rebuilding effort. When asked about the prospects of giving Edwards an extension, Johnson declined comment.

“The answer of the question is that he wants to be here and I want him here,” Johnson said. “We’re not going to talk about contracts and so on, but I can’t make it any clearer: I think Herm’s great. He’s great for this team.”

A similar situation played out in 2003, when Edwards lobbied through the media for an extension despite a 6-10 record, blaming much of the season on the struggles of the defense and coordinator Ted Cottrell. In the offseason, Cottrell was fired and Edwards got the extension he wanted.

Edwards is a valued member of the organization not only because he gets along so well with his players. He has helped put a positive face on the Jets and became the first coach in team history to lead the team to the playoffs in three of his first four seasons.

“What Herm is doing is trying to build a culture here, a culture of winning,” Johnson said. “If we have a bad year, we’re still building the culture. We want the best for our young players on this team. We feel we have a responsibility to build a winning environment.”

Edwards appreciated seeing Johnson at practice and wants to put the last week behind him.

“He didn’t have to do that because I know our stand with Mr. Johnson, we’ve had a relationship for five years, a very good working relationship,” Edwards said. “Our relationship was formed on one thing and one thing only: trust. We both trust each other, we both understand what we’re trying to do here.”

AP-ES-11-23-05 1742EST

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