As the dust settles from the Mike Maccagnan firing, the New York Jets now turn their focus to wrapping up OTAs — and to finalizing their search for a competent General Manager to stabilize the situation in Florham Park.
Woody Johnson bought this franchise in 2000 following the death of oil baron Leon Hess. Twenty years later, the Johnson & Johnson scions still come off like football business neophytes.
Everyone knows that strong leadership stems from the top. Owner Woody lives in London as Trump’s UK Ambassador. His stand-in brother Christopher is a big-time heli-skier, which means he spends most of his time in Alaska, Canada, and Switzerland. Ya think Jerry Jones or Robert Kraft operate this way?
The positive news is, on the field at OTAs, things are off to a great start. The energy is off-the-hook. Jets players haven’t had a fire lit under their butts like this since Rex Ryan blew through town. Plus there are plenty of chippy ballers looking to catch the eye of this new coaching staff.
This multi-page analysis looks at five New York Jets storylines worth following, regarding roster battles, why Magic Mike had to go, and the search for his replacement.
Next: 5. Talent Pool
5. Talent Pool
Judging from OTAs, bright spots abound on this roster. Coach Gase singled out for praise safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, ILB’s CJ Mosley and Avery Williamson, WRs Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson, TE Chris Herndon — and of course, QB Sam Darnold and Le’Veon Bell.
Say what you will about “interim GM” Gase’s brusque style, but he’s already upgraded this roster with minor moves. WR Deonte Thompson is legit; at worst he’s insurance for oft-injured Enunwa, more likely he’ll be another great toll young Sam Darnold.
Avery Williamson’s weakness in pass coverage can be spelled in third-down situations by new ILB James Burgess (his same-named father played five years in the league and got named to the All-XFL team). Gase also said good riddance to 2017 fifth-rounder Jordan Leggett — at best a fourth-string TE, with the Jets and/or his new team in Tampa Bay.
NJ.com‘s Mike Stypulkoski reported that with $72M free-agent bust cornerback Trumaine Johnson AWOL from non-mandatory OTAs, the top CBs have been Darryl Roberts, Derrick Jones, and Brian Poole. But don’t fret Jets fans.
Roberts was not only last season’s best CB — he was this roster’s most versatile and best-tackling defender. Poole offers an upgrade in the nickel over penalty-prone Buster Skrine. Jones Parry Nickerson should battle for a final spot. But don’t sleep on Akron UDFA Kyron Brown.
So whichever GM runs this front office better keep all options on the table — even if that means re-signing a post-surgery-rehab Morris Claiborne. Another logical target could be Lions lockdown corner Darius Slay, in search of a phat new contract.
Next: 4. Good Riddance
4. Good Riddance
George Willis’ excellent OTA report included an aside that resonated — as a microcosm of the entire Mike Maccagnan error. In his description of Leonard Williams’ love of Gregg Williams’ “crazy competitive” defense, the writer mentioned Todd Bowles more-cerebral “read and react” system.
WFAN’s Bart Scott complained the last two seasons about a Jets roster filled with great athletes low on football IQ. Simply put, if you can’t quickly identify formations, you cannot “read and react.”
That muddled situation is a stinging indictment of the fired GM. Maccagnan was either unable or unwilling to provide his coach with the type of players he required. Never mind that Bowles once pounded the table to draft Alvin Kamara — and Magic Mike gave him NFL bust ArDarius Stewart.
Bowles deserved to lose his job — but he never had a chance because he had no weapons. How many times did Maccagnan-regime acquisitions kill games with dumb decisions and dumber penalties — be it Darron Lee, Rashard Robinson, Dylan Donahue, Juston Burris, Lorenzo Mauldin, Chad Hansen or Eric Tomlinson?
And give Bowles credit for taking the high ground and never bashing his GM for wasting a Top 50 pick on AAF flameout Christian Hackenberg — the NFL’s highest-drafted QB to never see the field.
Next: 3. The More Things Change…
3. The More Things Change…
NFL Network’s Peter Schrager believes that these Jets are playoff-worthy.
Take into account that Schrager attended his good friend Christopher Johnson’s wedding last July. In the end, the reporter may have as much final say in this team’s next GM as Charley Casserly had in the hiring of Mike Maccagnan, and the Korn-Ferry consultancy firm had in John Idzik.
Research into Idzik’s disastrous 2013 hiring cites the same “deep state” Jets front office names like Neil Glat and David Askelrod. They are the one common thread during this playoff-less decade of ineptitude. Plus, the bureaucracy at One Jets Drive may be the leakiest CYA culture in sports.
At the turn of the Century, “The Hoodie” quit as “HC of the NYJ” and joined forces with Robert Kraft in New England. Since then, this floundering ownership has been a symbol of football inability and instability — on the verge of hiring their sixth GM in that time. Let that one sink in…
Next: 2. Rudderless Ship
2. Rudderless Ship
Daily News’ Manish Mehta wrote an amazing feature on the Jets’ rudderless ship called “Exclusive Look Inside the Jets Mess: A Secret Meeting, A Reckless Owner and a GM Stabbed in the Back.”
This well-sourced piece paints Chris Johnson as indecisive and way in over his head. The owner’s passive-aggressive mix of indifference and inexperience cruelly left Todd Bowles twisting in the wind until the very end — to the point that the coach demanded to be fired before Black Monday.
Now we learn that somewhere around Week Ten of the season, Johnson — joined by the since-dethroned GM and his VP Brian Heimerdinger — met secretively with Kliff Kingsbury’s agent Erik Burkhardt about Bowles’ impending replacement. And then, when Arizona made an offer, the Jets could not pull the trigger.
Maccagnan then assumed control of the HC search — and botched it worse. He pushed for an “arranged marriage” between Baylor’s Matt Rhule with Gase and Williams as coordinators. Rhule, a local kid who saw the Jets as a dream job, realized the mess he’s stepped into and bolted back to Waco. The rest is infamy.
Next: 1. Wanna Job?
1. Wanna Job?
Why would any prime candidate want this GM position? Yes, it’s true that there are only 32 of these coveted jobs. But history shows that GMs, unlike coaches, rarely get a second shot — especially after a first failed go-round. And the Jets have not proven to be a winning organization.
The longer this process takes, the more muddled the situation becomes. The Jets scheduled five GM interviews. But then Vikings assistant GM George Paton nixed his Jets invitation (for the third time!). One can only imagine the locker room banter between Patton, Kirk Cousins, and Anthony Barr…
Eagles VP Joe Douglas has been tagged as this GM search’s frontrunner. At press time, insider Philly sources called his Jets hiring “inevitable.” Douglas and Gase have worked together and they share similar philosophies. They could comprise this franchise’s most professional upper management since the Parcells daze.
Why would Douglas consider leaving a nice gig in Philly? He will certainly demand big-time pay, long-term security, and full roster control? But are the Johnsons and their front-office yes-men capable of not sabotaging the situation?
Many commentators have said something to the effect of, “if Gase is gonna help choose the GM, maybe he should just be the GM.” And certainly, Gase’s working resume as Miami HC/GM was not outstanding. However, his record was still as good or better than anyone else in Jets history not named Weeb Eubank or Bill Parcells.
Now that’s a depressing though.