New York Jets Finally Take Step in Right Direction with New GM Joe Douglas

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystJune 10, 2019

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 30: Joe Douglas, Vice President of Player Personnel of the Philadelphia Eagles, looks on prior to the game against the New York Jets during the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 30, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Miraculously, the New York Jets bungled Mike Maccagnan's firing so badly that they may be far better off today than they were a month ago. The reason is simple: Joe Douglas' hiring as general manager is the best possible outcome after the organization suffered through such dysfunction. 

The Jets announced Douglas' addition Friday after a three-week search. But the process started much earlier than that—which was part of the problem. 

Jets Chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson is less than two years into his tenure after taking over for his brother, Woody, who serves as the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. In that time, the Jets own a 9-23 record. As a result, Johnson went behind the backs of his previous head coach and general manager before firing both, according to the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta

Mehta reported Johnson reached out to established coaching candidates—including, notably, Michigan's Jim Harbaugh—with the promise of total team control. Yet an oblivious Maccagnan continued with his duties after the Adam Gase hire and led the franchise through free agency and the draft before his dismissal. 

A rift formed between Maccagnan and Gase, per Mehta. The coach's frustration with the previous general manager stemmed from the team's draft approach. 

"Gase badly wanted to share his opinions on what types of players he was looking for in his system during these organizational discussions but remained quiet," sources told Mehta. "Maccagnan didn't ask the coach to share his evaluations during those sessions."

New York Jets head coach Adam Gase and former general manager Mike Maccagnan
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase and former general manager Mike MaccagnanSeth Wenig/Associated Press

Instead of addressing the issue head-on, Gase took a passive-aggressive approach and eventually won a Cold War-like power struggle. 

On the outside, candidates to become the next general managerthe Jets interviewed four in Douglas, the Chicago Bears' Champ Kelly, New Orleans Saints' Terry Fontenot and Seattle Seahawks' Scott Fitterer—saw the portrayal of a meddlesome owner and high-strung head coach. 

Even Douglas reportedly turned down the Jets at first, but the franchise wouldn't relent. Eventually, he agreed to a six-year deal, per ESPN.com's Adam Schefter.

The organization's dogged pursuit, the executive's pedigree and a prior relationship with Gase make Douglas the right man to lead the Jets front office. 

Clearly, Johnson identified his preferred choice, wouldn't take "no" for an answer and made a long-term commitment to Douglas. In doing so, the organizational structure shifted in a positive direction. When the Jets named Gase interim general manager until an official hire was made, the thought of a potential yes-man to rubber-stamp the coach's personnel preferences came to the forefront. The exact opposite happened. 

Johnson's faith in Douglas is represented in both length of contract and price, which is more than $3 million per year, per SNY's Ralph Vacchiano

The Jets aren't built for a quick turnaround. A few pieces are in place—specifically quarterback Sam Darnold, running back Le'Veon Bell, safety Jamal Adams, linebacker C.J. Mosley and defensive linemen Leonard and Quinnen Williams—to ascend in the coming years. But the roster is far from complete and not playoff-caliber, especially in a division with the reigning Super Bowl champions. 

The aforementioned agreement includes a certain understanding between all parties. Johnson provided Douglas with job security and full personnel control, according to NJ.com's Zack Rosenblatt. The new general manager is now free to build the roster based on his vision, which is considered the right course of action. 

"The Jets may have made a mess of things, but they actually came out of this in a better place," an NFL executive told Vacchiano. "Lots of teams were going to want Joe Douglas next year. He's a star."‬

A stellar resume, including working for two of the NFL's most well-run organizations, made Douglas an attractive choice.

Douglas rose from player personnel assistant when the Baltimore Ravens hired him in 2000 to the team's national scout 12 years later, a position he held through the 2014 season. After a one-year layover with the Chicago Bears (where he met Gase) as the director of college scouting, Douglas became the Philadelphia Eaglesvice president of player personnel. Along the way, the first-time general manager learned from one of the league's best talent evaluators of all time in Ozzie Newsome and ran a Super Bowl-winning player personnel department. 

As far as resumes go, very few candidates stack up with Douglas. 

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold
New York Jets quarterback Sam DarnoldMark Brown/Getty Images

"I know he's done a great job with the Eagles so far and every other place he's been," Darnold told reporters. "I'm looking forward to working with him and seeing what he can do for our team.

"You see what he's done and how he's helped an organization out. It's definitely reassuring."

According to ESPN.com's Rich Cimini, Douglas emphasizes production and character more than athletic traits and analytics. His approach veers significantly from Maccagnan's decision-making process.

The previous general manager invested two third-round picks in prospects with character concerns this year. But Jachai Polite and Chuma Edoga weren't outliers. The high-profile selections of linebacker Darron Lee and quarterback Christian Hackenberg didn't fit Douglas' profile, either. 

However, Douglas' evaluation skills will mean next to nothing if he can't form a cohesive relationship with Gase. An organization must share a top-down philosophy with a synergy between the front office and coaching staff to build a consistent winner. 

Obviously, Gase took umbrage with the fact Maccagnan didn't allow his staff to be an active participant in the draft evaluation process. A more collaborative effort is necessary for the Jets to significantly improve. Thus, Douglas and Gase's previous working relationship, albeit only one year, is significant. 

Adam Gase as the Chicago Bears offensive coordinator
Adam Gase as the Chicago Bears offensive coordinatorJeff Haynes/Associated Press/Associated Press

Gase served as offensive coordinator for the Bears during Douglas' lone year in the Windy City. The two also share the same agent, Jimmy Sexton (as does Darnold). While Gase and Douglas don't have a longstanding relationship, the pre-existing familiarity and assumed respect—the coach had a hand in the hiring process—is a good starting point. 

Plus, the 41-year-old head man, who is now with his second team, wants to make this work. 

"I don't think he wants to screw a lot of people over," one Jets employee told Mehta. "Because he feels like he already kind of did that."

An example of a late general manager hire working in an organization's favor can be found right within the AFC East.

The Buffalo Bills fired Doug Whaley shortly after the 2017 NFL draft. Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula hired Brandon Beane as a replacement. Beane came from the Carolina Panthers, where he worked alongside Bills head coach Sean McDermott. That past relationship jumpstarted the Bills' rebuild, and momentum carried into this offseason. Buffalo quietly put together one of the league's best free-agent and draft hauls. 

The Jets have a chance to do the same based on a collective vision shared by a general manager with a sparkling reputation as a talent evaluator and a head coach without too much on his plate.

New York needed to hit rock bottom before it started a climb toward respectability. Douglas will lead the way. 


Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.