Jets’ turbulence: One big job opening, so many questions

NFL

The New York Jets‘ bombshell decision to fire general manager Mike Maccagnan has cast the franchise in an unflattering light, to put it kindly. A dynamic offseason, complete with big-name additions, a coaching change and a new uniform (can’t forget the new threads!), lost its shine with Wednesday’s announcement — tacit confirmation that the Maccagnan-Adam Gase marriage was dysfunctional. Their relationship eroded faster than a diet fad.

The Jets face many questions in the coming days, weeks and months, ranging from ownership to the roster. With an eye on the future, let’s try to tackle some of the key issues:

Will the new GM be Gase’s yes man?

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Stephen A. Smith goes off on the Jets after the team fired GM Mike Maccagnan and replaced him with Adam Gase on an interim basis.

The Jets will have to fight that perception because, let’s face it, they empowered Gase by naming him the interim GM and saying he will assist in the search for Maccagnan’s replacement. CEO Christopher Johnson saw an untenable situation and he sided with Gase over Maccagnan, essentially increasing Gase’s power within the organization.

For the record, Johnson said they would employ the same power structure they have used since 2015, meaning Gase and the new GM will report directly to him. (Oh, yeah, because that setup has worked so well.) Technically, the new guy will have final say and control of the roster, but you’d have to be naive to think Gase won’t be heavily involved. If he’s picking the GM, he will have a big say in the football operation. Essentially, Johnson is entrusting a coach with a 23-25 career record to lead his organization, which is a bold move, Cotton.

Are there any qualified candidates who would actually take this job?

The pool is smaller than it would have been if the Jets had made this move after the season, when many fans were screaming for Maccagnan’s head. That said, the job still has some appeal because the Jets have a promising quarterback in Sam Darnold, a star running back in Le’Veon Bell, a solid core on defense and a workable cap situation for the foreseeable future.

Aside from the roster and cap, the job might scare away potential candidates because of the organizational dysfunction and instability. Did you know Gase is the sixth GM since 2000, when Bill Belichick famously bolted for the New England Patriots? The Jets can be career killers for executives and coaches.

“No, I actually think this is going to be a really attractive job,” Johnson said. “I don’t think we’re going to have any trouble finding a good GM here. I think this is an excellent spot.”

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Adam Schefter reports that Eagles VP of player personnel Joe Douglas is a likely candidate to take over for Mike Maccagnan.

The favorite is Philadelphia Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas, who has a close relationship with Gase. They were together for the 2015 season in Chicago and have remained close. Douglas, who cut his teeth under former Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, has a solid track record in personnel. Insiders say he played an integral role in the Eagles’ Super Bowl championship. By rule, the Eagles’ can’t block him from taking the Jets’ job as long as he is given authority over personnel. The question is, would he jump at this position or wait until after the season when there will be more openings?

The Jets won’t rush into a decision because why should they? There’s no competition because they’re the only team looking for a GM. The heavy lifting is done, with the draft and free agency over, so they can get by with Gase as the interim GM. Other names to watch are Minnesota Vikings assistant GM George Paton and Chicago Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly. The Jets must interview a minority candidate to comply with the Rooney Rule.

Does the next GM have to be from the super-scout mold?

Well, yeah, that would help because the talent base is lacking due to poor drafting, but Johnson emphasized he wants someone who is “more than a talent-evaluation guy. I want a great strategic thinker, a great manager, a communicator, someone who can collaborate well with the building.”

Oh, the irony. The Jets hired Maccagnan because of his scouting acumen. After two years of John Idzik, a cap expert/bean counter, they wanted a true scout in the big chair. Now it seems as if they want a CEO-type GM with a football background. Which is it? The lack of a clear vision is one of the reasons the franchise has suffered in mediocrity.

Some people felt Maccagnan wasn’t a dynamic leader. He was a methodical decision-maker, and that chafed Gase, sources said. It was an odd-couple marriage, a tightly wound coach and a laid-back GM. Maccagnan had no issues with the arrangement, which he told the media, but Gase wasn’t comfortable and staged a power play.

“Gase is a shark, and he got bit in Miami,” a longtime NFL personnel man said Thursday, alluding to the coach’s divorce from the Dolphins. “I’m sure he said to himself, ‘If I don’t get it right now, I’m going to drown later.'”

Can the Jets wipe the egg off their face and emerge from this mess in a better place?

Believe it or not, yes.

It has happened before (not with the Jets, mind you). The Kansas City Chiefs waited more than a month after the 2017 draft before firing GM John Dorsey, and they have won two division titles since. (Dorsey left behind a pretty good quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, whom he drafted in one of his last acts as GM.) The Buffalo Bills fired Doug Waley after the 2017 draft and they wound up snapping a 17-year playoff drought.

So, yes, it can happen. The key is finding the right replacement, someone who can coexist with the head coach.

“If they’re not getting along, you have no chance,” the personnel man said. “That’s why I think this was the best thing to happen to the Jets. How it ended looks bad, but they’ll be better in the long run because the coach and GM will have loyalty to one another. Maccagnan is a nice guy, but he wasn’t good at his job. Once they get over the negative PR, they should be OK.”

Does Gase need to smooth things over with Bell?

Absolutely.

Gase didn’t want to pay top dollar for a free-agent running back, sources said, and his preference was leaked to the media. Bell is aware of the reports, and he tweeted about it, saying, “Even if reports are true, that won’t stop me from doing what I came here to do … everyone has a job to do, and I’m gonna do mine whether people ‘like’ me or not. I’m here to win football games.”

That’s an admirable stance, but Bell needs to hear the truth from his coach. Gase has some fixing to do, because it would be unwise to lose the trust of the biggest star on the team. This happened to Gase in Miami, resulting in the ouster of several big-name players.

How does this affect Darnold?

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Dan Orlovsky says that the Jets’ firing of GM Mike Maccagnan could lead to Sam Darnold and other players not being able to trust Adam Gase.

The outside noise shouldn’t have an impact on Darnold unless, as ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky claimed Thursday morning on Get Up, Darnold perceives Gase as a phony. Why would he think that? Gase came across as disingenuous last week in a news conference, insisting he was “pissed off” by the perception that he wasn’t getting along with Maccagnan.

Frankly, I don’t think players pay attention to news conferences. The Darnold-Gase dynamic, critical to the team’s success, will be just fine as long as the coach does what he was hired to do — be a quarterback mentor. Darnold and Gase are represented by the same agent, Jimmy Sexton, who won’t allow the relationship to fray.

Can Johnson regain his credibility?

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Jets CEO Christopher Johnson expresses how tough of a decision it was to fire GM Mike Maccagnan on Wednesday.

The Jets’ CEO has discovered that running a team involves more than luxury suites, private jets and VIP access. On the job for only two years, Johnson showed his inexperience by botching the Maccagnan ouster. Ultimately, it might turn out to be the right move, but his indecisiveness and lack of vision raise questions about his ability to lead the franchise. He needed a “deep dive” into the inner workings of the organization to figure out his GM and new coach were butting heads? Come on.

“I was pretty deep [in the past], but I went a lot deeper,” he said. “This is a learning process for me, too. I’m going to get some things right, I’m going to get some things wrong, but I think I’m getting this right.”

If not, he’ll set back the organization another few years.

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