There has even been some criticism from Apple retail employees that Johnson coming back to Apple wouldn't be the right answer. There are concerns that Johnson is too old, and not the young, hip answer Apple needs.

This message that Johnson shouldn't be brought back to Apple misses the forest for the trees. In every crisis, there is an opportunity. Johnson's crisis at J.C. Penney could be his opportunity to re-emerge at Apple, allowing the tech titan to continue in its battle with Samsung, Google ( GOOG) and others. Johnson, despite his age, is still full of fresh ideas. The idea of turning J.C. Penney into a mall was something that had never been tried before, and has been lauded publicly. Former J.C. Penney CEO Allen Questrom was quoted recently as saying the new shops "are very creative, very well done," but concerns over whether consumers wanted the shops were another story.

New ideas don't happen often in retail, and Johnson is someone that has had a track record of new ideas in a stodgy industry. Critics shouldn't be so quick to dismiss a Johnson return to Apple just yet. At Apple, he would be out of the spotlight, and have ample ammunition (namely Apple's incredibly strong balance sheet) to put his vision to work.

Apple Stores are still the most profitable retail operations per square footage in the world, surpassing even Tiffany ( TIF). Johnson is responsible for a large part of that. Apple was built on innovation, and if Johnson still has any left in him Apple would be wise to at least look his way.

Window shopping never hurt anyone's wallets.

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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