If the New York Jets had decided to clean house following the 2018 season, firing general manager Mike Maccagnan along with coach Todd Bowles, it would not have registered a high number on the shock meter. After all, it was the Jets’ third straight losing season.
But no, they opted to keep Maccagnan. They let him play a significant role in the hiring of coach Adam Gase. They let him spend more than $125 million in guarantees on free agents. They let him run the 2019 NFL draft, which included selecting a prospect with the No. 3 overall pick. They let him be the football boss.
“I think he’s terrific at his job,” Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said in late March at the annual NFL owners meetings. “He has a plan that I believe in. It’s really key that he’s working well with Adam.”
On Wednesday morning, Johnson fired Maccagnan.
It’s amateur hour in Florham Park, New Jersey, folks.
Conjuring up memories of their many infamous moments from a star-crossed past (remember Bill Belichick resigning as “HC of the NYJ”?), the Jets dusted off their old dunce cap and shocked the NFL with a move that raises serious questions about the leadership of the franchise.
Johnson, who has been in charge for only two years, just dumped a guy — Maccagnan — whom he empowered to make franchise-altering decisions. We’re talking about the signings of Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley and the drafting of Quinnen Williams. It reeks of inexperience on the part of Johnson, the affable younger brother of owner Woody Johnson who appears to have been swallowed up by the responsibility of the job.
The Jets turned their organization into a “Game of Thrones” episode, a classic power struggle in which Gase prevailed over Maccagnan. Gase, a losing coach with the Miami Dolphins, has ascended to the iron throne. Imagine that. No one other than the Jets wanted to hire him off the scrap heap, and now he’s the king at One Jets Drive.
All hail Adam Gase, King of the North (Jersey), whisperer to quarterbacks, loser of many games, friend of Peyton Manning.
Oh, the Jets will hire a new general manager — Philadelphia Eagles executive Joe Douglas, a Gase crony, is the favorite — but is there any doubt who is running the show? Only the Jets could turn a 23-25 coach into a leader of an organization. This emperor has no playoff victories.
Reports of friction between Gase and Maccagnan emerged during the draft. There were rumors of Maccagnan’s looming demise, which the Jets privately refuted. In fact, the discord between Gase and Maccagnan was real, as ESPN reported at the time. Johnson was so concerned that he started spending more time at the facility to monitor their working relationship, sources said. People in the organization felt Gase and Maccagnan would work through it, and they would get a one-year honeymoon before ownership re-evaluated after the season.
For the record, the Gase-Maccagnan marriage lasted only four months. Very Kardashian.
It doesn’t matter who is in charge; the Jets stink at matchmaking. The Rex Ryan-John Idzik pairing blew up in spectacular fashion, but at least that lasted two years. Maccagnan and Bowles, too, had their issues, but they managed to survive four years.
Now, this. If the Johnson brothers owned eHarmony, it would go out of business in no time.
The Gase-Maccagnan dynamic has occupied Christopher Johnson’s thoughts for a couple of months. At one point, before the draft, he considered a change, sources said. He decided to ride it out and, after taking some time after the draft to reassess the situation, he opted to make the change for “the best long-term interests” of the organization, he said in Wednesday’s statement. Ultimately, this could turn out to be a wise move because Gase will have a comfort level with his new partner. Clearly, he didn’t have that with Maccagnan. As much as the two men denied it, they clashed over personnel decisions in free agency.
The problem is, why did it have to get to this point? Why did Johnson believe they could coexist? Did he know Gase was power hungry when he hired him? Do you really trust Johnson to get it right?
The Jets are a mess, a bumbling organization that makes the New York Knicks look like the pillars of stability. It’s no wonder they haven’t reached a Super Bowl in 50 years.