The ink had barely dried on the pink slip New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson issued to his now-former general manager, Mike Maccagnan, when rumors swirled that the Jets were eyeing Joe Douglas for the position.
Say it ain’t so, Joe.
Douglas, who has served as the Philadelphia Eagles’ vice president of player personnel for the past three seasons, seemingly enjoys a productive and collaborative relationship with Howie Roseman. The tandem constructed a Super Bowl championship roster in 2017 that nearly played its way into the NFC Championship game in 2018. Despite limited draft assets in 2017 and 2018, the Eagles’ personnel department has built a resilient depth chart that has withstood significant injuries at crucial positions: quarterback, running back, cornerback, linebacker, and left tackle, to name a few.
Heading into 2019, the Eagles’ offense has the pieces in place to evolve into a formidable unit. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert will pose a matchup nightmare any time the Eagles line up in 12 personnel. Wideouts Alshon Jeffery and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside possess the combination of size and catch radius that is difficult to defend, while DeSean Jackson will serve as the deep threat the offense lacked last year. Nelson Agholor, who has caught more than 60 passes in each of the last two seasons, rounds out a strong receiving corps. Newly acquired running back Jordan Howard and Penn State draftee Miles Sanders add talent to an offensive backfield that was hampered last year by injury and ineffectiveness.
The offensive line, the most underappreciated yet essential position group in football, has been stocked as well. The Eagles boast the best right tackle in football in Lane Johnson. Jason Peters anchors the left side of the line, with center Jason Kelce back for another run. The Eagles resigned Stefen Wisniewski while they wait for Brandon Brooks to return from the Achilles tear he sustained in the playoffs. Meanwhile, reserve tackles Halapoulivaati Vaitai and first round pick Andre Dillard provide much-needed insurance in the event Johnson or (more likely) Peters miss time.
Defensively, the Eagles added pass rusher and former Nittany Lion Shareef Miller with their 4th round pick. He joins a unit that includes Derek Barnett, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, and possibly Chris Long. Fletcher Cox captains the interior line, along with Malik Jackson and Timmy Jernigan. The cornerback position, which emerged as a bright spot despite numerous injuries in the postseason, might be the most loaded of all the groups. Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are back, as is Rasul Douglas. Cre’Von LeBlanc and Avonte Maddox, who were pressed into duty at the end of the year, return as well.
All in all, it’s a deep roster, and one that is primed for another run at a Lombardi Trophy. Douglas has played a major role in its formation and development despite the challenges he and Roseman have been forced to confront. The success Douglas has experienced in Philadelphia has earned him an opportunity to lead his own front office.
It seems likely he will get that chance with the Jets. NFL master of whisperers Adam Schefter anointed Douglas a prime candidate almost immediately:
Eagles’ vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas is close to Jets’ HC Adam Gase and has been discussed in league circles for a while now as the potential GM for the NYJ.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 15, 2019
And former Eagles president Joe Banner believes the Jets’ search is a mere formality:
No way Jets do this if they haven’t lined up replacement. Can’t do immediately, need to comply with Rooney rule.
— Joe Banner (@JoeBanner13) May 15, 2019
It’s the logical play for Douglas. It would also be a terrible mistake.
While they aren’t quite as dysfunctional as their MetLife Stadium co-tenants, the Jets sure are trying to give the Giants a run for their money. Gang Green allowed the deposed Maccagnan to execute an offseason plan that included a coaching search, several expensive free agent signings, and a draft before they decided they needed a more “strategic thinker” heading their football operation. It’s fairly common for teams to part ways with scouts at this time in the NFL calendar, but general managers rarely lose their jobs in May.
The Jets will be seeking their third general manager in the last seven years to pair with their third coach in the last five. To say the organization has no long-term vision is like saying water is wet. Sure, they have the look of a team that pretends to have a plan. The roster includes putative franchise quarterback Sam Darnold, and the organization added Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley in free agency. But a team that won just four games in 2018 has a number of holes to fill on its depth chart, and the lack of talent throughout the 53-man roster will rear its ugly head when the Jets run into the Patriot meat grinder during the regular season.
The Jets win a lot of Marches, Aprils, and Mays. They haven’t been able to match their neighbors in New England when it comes to victories in December, January, and February.
A competent general manager who is afforded the luxury of time could fashion the spare parts assembled in New York into a competitive football team. However, given their recent tumultuous history with coaches and football executives, it’s safe to say anyone taking a job with the Jets better win quickly.
Were Douglas to accept the general manager role with the Jets, he would be entering a media environment that makes Philadelphia look like St. Louis. If the miserable, navel-gazing personalities who dominate the New York market aren’t bitching, they aren’t breathing. Just watch Stephen A. Smith, who has slipped the surly bonds of objective reporting to become one of the most famous performance artists of our time, pretend to get upset over the Knicks losing out on Zion Williamson. He should honestly win a Daytime Emmy for this theatrical rant:
The New York sports media revel in drama and dysfunction like a pig in filth. When the town cannot produce teams that regularly win in the same way as the franchises in Boston, the best way to move copy and to attract eyeballs is to sell a soap opera.
That doesn’t mean the media noise machine is always wrong. In fact, the commentaries that have sprung forth in the wake of the Jets’ decision to fire their general manager are right on point. And they should serve as the canary in the coal mine for any potential candidate with better options.
“Just when it appeared the Jets were the stable franchise in town, they reminded everyone no one quite does dysfunction like they do,” declared the New York Post‘s Brian Costello in an article headlined, “Inside Jets Chaos.” Costello’s colleague, Mike Vaccaro, offered the following damning proclamation in his own column on the matter:
“Welcome to Christopher Johnson’s Jets, same as Woody Johnson’s Jets, same as Leon Hess’ Jets, which is to say: a misshapen morass of a franchise that not only can’t get out of its own way but seems to enjoy the bumper-car game that has now lasted a full half-century. And counting.”
The New York Daily News‘ Manish Mehta dismissed Johnson’s assertion that Maccagnan’s firing was not the result of a power struggle between general manager and coach, writing:
“The truth, of course, is blaring in big bright lights: Gase did, indeed, want/endorse/push for Maccagnan’s ouster. Those are facts, not opinions, based on every piece of information that I have now.”
Adam Gase is one of those coaches who benefited greatly from a fortunate set of circumstances. Hailed as an offensive genius because he happened to occupy the same space at the same time as Peyton Manning in Denver, Gase was anointed by the football cognoscenti as one who “deserves a lot of credit” because he helped Tim Tebow win a few games with the Broncos and wrung a decent season out of Jay Cutler in Chicago.
When given the opportunity to lead his own team in Miami, Gase flamed out after three seasons. His tenure with the Dolphins was highlighted by mediocre football and an inability to coexist with talented players. Both Jay Ajayi and Jarvis Landry, for instance, were jettisoned because they didn’t “buy in” to the culture Gase was creating.
Ajayi went on to help the Eagles win their first Super Bowl in franchise history. Meanwhile, Landry occupies an integral role with the Cleveland Browns in one of the most dynamic offenses in football. When a coach actually has a valuable message and runs a functional program, it’s easier to get players to buy what he’s selling.
Yet, Gase has managed to fail upward. He’s taken over as interim GM of the Jets, and will have a say in determining who will take the position on a permanent basis. He’s still up to his old tricks, creating an unnecessarily adversarial relationship with Bell and Mosley by leaking that he was opposed to signing them for the money they required.
For his first act in charge of the front office, Gase sent 2016 first round pick Darron Lee for a sixth round selection in the 2020 draft. Lee was a linebacker without a home in the Jets’ new defensive scheme. He apparently had a place in the previous regime. So it goes when the front office and coaching staffs are ever in flux- formerly valuable pieces are shipped elsewhere and assets are continuously wasted.
In an effort to explain what he was seeking in his next general manager, Johnson issued a statement that aimed to project confidence but betrayed ignorance. Like any man who is in over his head, Johnson reached out for the nearest life preserver. And it happened to be a recycled head coach who will likely be gone in three years when it’s time to rebuild again.
Notwithstanding the bold assertions about wanting a “great strategic thinker” and a “communicator,” the main prerequisite for the job is an ability to co-exist with Gase. Indeed, Schefter’s tweet trumpeting the candidacy of Douglas referenced the Eagles’ personnel chief’s close relationship with the Jets’ head coach.
If Douglas were to leave the Eagles for the Jets opening, he would be inheriting a coaching staff he didn’t select, an offseason plan he did not compile, and an abbreviated time frame in which to find a way to compete with the Patriots.
What happens if and when the Jets inevitably tire of Gase? Will they be inclined to keep the general manager who, fairly or not, will be viewed as tethered to Gase’s hip? Or will they just clean house and start fresh with a new regime?
It’s an unenviable position for any football executive. If Joe Douglas were a wise man, he would avoid miring his promising career in the marshlands of the Meadowlands and stay in Philadelphia.
If you want drama, go see a show on Broadway. There’s no need to get entangled in the New York Jets’ chronic dysfunction when better opportunities will present themselves in the near future.